Thursday, December 1, 2016

Government Schools Are No Place for Bright Kids

We all know that what we have is  unacceptable.  Our first clue should be that it is driven by tradition in terms of been age specific and subjected to uniform standards poorly related to age and ability.  That the mere fact that a January birthday is naturally superior on average to a December birthday is merely proof of a structural flaw.

I do think that it all needs to be objective oriented and skills oriented independent generally of time.  That does mean defining skills properly and objectives as well.  The truth is that there are a number of skills to be addressed and attended to.  Some are obviously learned outside the class room but all can be polished in the class room.

Take reading.  This skill needs initial instruction but then progresses on the basis of repetitive use regardless how bright a light you happen to be.  It means ensuring that appropriate reading takes place and is continuously encouraged.  Eventually individual interests sill polish those skills.  This effort leads naturally to many other aspects of language that then fold in as the reader matures.

The same approach hold true for many actual skills.  Others though demand progressive training and that particularly includes mathematics and critical thinking which needs to be established as an education tool that can be applied to history and the sciences generally.  If we reoriented those classes around a program in critical thinking we would do far better.  

Thus we have a natural daily language program, a natural math program and a natural critical thinking program through which students pass at their own pace.  The ability to step it up needs to be on offer for all by the simple expedient of shifting ahead by doing the next level simultaneously through possible swapping days.  Monday Wednesday and Friday you join next years class and Tuesday and Thursday you attend on your own year. This fully engages the student with twice the homework and much more effort.  Better yet there is no chance of developing an unrecognized weakness.

Better yet the brighter students will engage and motivate those in their normal class by the example of their hard work.

Government Schools Are No Place for Bright Kids

Daniel Lattier 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sometimes, something that’s right in front of you can escape your attention.

Over the past five years I’ve looked at countless student performance numbers, and almost always, my attention goes to the large percentages of students who are performing below grade level in reading, math, history, etc. I see these numbers as evidence of the failure of the current education system.The high performers are suffering in this system, too.

But a recent policy brief (titled “How Can So Many Students Be Invisible?) has brought something else to my attention—something equally, if not more, damning of the education system. It’s the fact that large percentages of American students are performing ABOVE grade level.

After looking at data from five different, nationally-respected assessments of student performance, the researchers found that “20-40% of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, with 11-30% scoring at least one grade level above in math.”

Most would read that and think it’s evidence to the contrary: that it means that our education system is doing a good job. But not me, and not the professors who put together the brief.

You see, because the system arbitrarily separates students by age, students of varying academic abilities get put on the same track. The low performers remain consistently behind, in a constant struggle to play catch-up. And they’re the ones who get the majority of the attention of today’s schools and education reformers.

But the high performers are suffering in this system, too. They’re forced to sit in a classroom for seven hours a day going over simple material and concepts at a snail’s pace. Eventually, intellectual atrophy sets in.

This education system doesn’t need to be reformed; it needs to be destroyed.

That’s what happened to me. I was bored for almost the entirety of my elementary and middle-school career because I already knew, or quickly understood, most of what was being rehashed over and over again. And it wasn’t because I’m a genius; I consider myself merely “average bright”. Over time, I went from being an intellectually curious child to apathetic and lazy about learning. I’m sure many others have had a similar experience.

In their recommendations, the professors who wrote the brief concluded that “the U.S. K-12 context, which is organized primarily around age-based grade levels, needs serious rethinking.”

I think that’s putting it too mildly.

Honestly, I’m starting to think that this education system doesn’t need to be reformed; it needs to be destroyed.

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