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12 Aug 2005 - 22:57 Jenny D. has a post up saying that our schools 'serve rich white kids well.'
Best example is TIMMS data. The highest scoring kids in the U.S. score as well as the highest scoring kids anywhere in the world. Our best and brightest are as good as the best and brightest anywhere. We are indeed producing scholars. They tend to be white and affluent, according to the statistics. They go to public and private schools.
I distinctly recall reading, in more than one place, that in fact our best and brightest are not as best & bright as the best and brightest in, say, Singapore. However, since I can't recall my source, I'm going to take Jenny D's word for it. It does strike me that the various scare stories we read about drastic declines in science & math majors frequently don't spell out what is meant by 'decline.' Do we have an absolute decline in numbers, or a relative decline? Are there fewer American students in graduate programs because there are fewer American students in grad school math & science period, or are there the same number of American students as always, but lots more foreign students? I would like someone to nail this down. Assuming that our best and brightest are just as best and bright as everyone else's (and just as numerous) I wouldn't take this to mean that our schools serve rich white kids well. Not unless we're talking about the big rich, and even then I'd have to see data. (Back when we were moving to NY, I read an article saying New Yorkers had begun distinguishing between the big rich and the little rich. When I told my friend Debra, she said, 'What does that make us, the big poor?) Having spent my day cruising Dept of Ed data on high school graduates, I'm pretty sure we can't conclude that the schools are doing a bang-up job with the little rich, the big poor, the little poor, or any other slice of the pie you care to name.
UPDATE 9-17-2006 I now definitively disagree that our public schools serve rich white kids well. Our best schools have parents who are reteaching content and spending a fortune on tutors. Even then rich suburban schools are letting kids down. From the AFT, here is the story on our rich white kids compared to rich white kids in other advanced nations:
ADVANCED MATH TIMSS also tested students who are classified as “advanced.” (A different test was used from that given to the General Knowledge population.) Only 16 countries took part in this portion of the test. The TIMSS rule was that countries had to include between 10 and 20% of students in their last year of school. The U.S. included 14% of its students who were identified as those who had taken four years of high school mathematics. 34% of this group had taken AP calculus, 15% had taken non-AP calculus, and 51% had taken pre-calculus. In other countries the advanced students amounted to an average of 19% of the population and all those students had taken calculus. When scores were broken out for all the calculus-taking students, U.S. performance rose to 11tth among the 16 countries with 6 nations significantly outscoring the U.S. The U.S. average score for calculus students was 492 compared to a mean of 505 for all TIMSS Advanced Math students. When scores for only AP Calculus students were extrapolated, the U.S. scored similarly to most other countries (tied for 8th out of 16) with only France scoring significantly better. The average for AP Calculus students rose above the mean of 505 to 513. The advanced math test consisted of 17 items in the numbers (functions) and equations category, 23 in geometry, and 13 calculus-related items. source:
other data points: Twelve percent of high school students take calculus; 6.7 percent take AP calculus. A large number of these students haven't learned calculus well enough to be prepared for college math courses:
Only about 14 percent earn math or science credit in Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. And while the level of AP coursetaking is rising, many AP students still aren't fully prepared—only about 60 percent of students who take AP tests in Biology, Chemistry, and AB Calculus get a score of "3" or better, generally the minimum score needed for college credit.
Families earning more than $84,000 per year are 20% of the population. John Saxon estimates that we should have the top 30% of our students taking calculus in high school.
The only U.S. math students who are fully competitive with their peers in other developed nations are the 6.7% of our students who take advanced calculus in high school (or, possibly, the 4% who take AP calculus and pass the AP test). Seeing as how rich white kids — kids whose families earn more than $84,000 a year — make up 20% of the population it's a fair bet that there are a significant number of rich white kids whose schools have failed them.
Survey of U.S. ManufacturersThen, there's this:
Small Businesses Seek 20th Century Skills for 21st Century Workforcesource: Preparing America's Future: High School Initiative Hans K. Meeder, Deputy Assistant Secretary Office of Vocational and Adult Education United States Department of Education February 29, 2004 PowerPoint presentation There's plenty more where that came from (and eventually I'll get to it....) Given what we know about the demographics of people who do and do not go to college--i.e., there are more than a few rich kids who don't go to college, and more than a few poor kids who do--I think it's safe to say we need improvements all around, no matter how much money a student's folks make. But I seriously want to see the nitty-gritty on the high-end TIMSS scores.....
how can you tell whether A caused B?
low birth weight paradox
best performing students, part 2
a word problem only the top 10% of 9 year olds solve
England vs America vs Singapore
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Jenyy D to the contrary notwithstanding, the quality of a school depends on the quality of the teachers, curriculum and instruction AND the quality of the the students. It's misleading to say schools serve such and such well. There is also the student quality component without which schools cannot "serve" anyone well. Well-behaved, motivated students with parents who care about education are a necessary condition for a "good" school. Instructivist -- KtmGuest - 13 Aug 2005
Temple and I are FINALLY finishing our op-ed, and I've put in a line about student & parent obligations.... Did you try to register again?? Still no luck? Also, what do you know about our top students? Do they coincide with everyone else's students??? I'm going to have to take some statistics courses and start doing my own data-mining..... -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Aug 2005
I don't have any comparative figures on top students but it is safe to say -- based on many accounts -- that for the most part the school environment is hostile to bright students due to a strong egalitarian impulse. See this major study: http://nationdeceived.org/ and http://www.encounterbooks.com/books/clwa/clwa_chapone.html I managed to register. It was a smooth operation this time. I wanted to make my site URL appear but don't know how. -- KtmGuest - 13 Aug 2005
I've just been reading ED Hirsch... he makes it quite clear; the schools are serving NO ONE well at all. The difference between school performance of advantaged and disadvantaged families is that advantaged kids have a second source of information and learning; their homes. They don't have to depend completely on the schools for the knowledge and training they take into the world with them. Lucky them. I would be surprised if our top students match up with the top students of other countries, not because of our egalitarian impulses but because our methods and ideas just aren't up to snuff, and to some degree this will also take its toll on privileged kids. -- CarolynJohnston - 13 Aug 2005
"Temple and I are FINALLY finishing our op-ed, and I've put in a line about student & parent obligations.... " You may want to take note of Paul Zoch's extraordinary book on the forces and ideas that militate against student effort. I referenced Diane Ravitch's review of the book at my site: http://instructivist.blogspot.com/2005/02/pupils-should-play-role-in-education.html -- KtmGuest - 13 Aug 2005
It's been very helpful readikng the sites included in the Carnival this week. I realized I had left out 'student and parent responsibility' as a category; I had also left out administrative bloat. Op-eds can be only 1000 words (I've got 2000) and I had said that the public, in supporting schools to get their act together, would be asked to spend more money. (If it's possible to have a 100% prediction, that would be it.) I had then said that the public would decide what forms of extra support they were willing to provide (also true)--but I had forgotten that one option the public has is to say to schools: fire a couple dozen administrators & you'll have plenty of money to hire more teachers. -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Aug 2005
Oh--yes, you do need to make your site URL appear. What you might want to do is just type it in, the way we do. It's actually very easy: Instructivist The way to type this is: [[ http://instructivist.blogspot.com/][ Instructivist ]] BUT: you have to type this with no spaces at all. I put in the spaces because otherwise it wouldn't show up on the screen. btw, if you make sure to sign your name to Comments, I can drop in your site URL. -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Aug 2005
Thanks for the instructions. You qualify as an instructivist
I see that it works now. Wow! Success! -- CharlesH - 13 Aug 2005
One more thing: For some reason I ended up living in Canada (like some of those unhappy with Bush's election), when that is not at all the case. I am in the U.S. but Edit won't let me fix it. -- CharlesH - 13 Aug 2005
"I would be surprised if our top students match up with the top students of other countries, not because of our egalitarian impulses but because our methods and ideas just aren't up to snuff, and to some degree this will also take its toll on privileged kids." There is no question that the anti-knowledge constructivist ed cult is a huge hindrance, but the egalitarian impulse is also a powerful force. Among other things, it manifests itself with the dread word "elitist". This accusation is often hurled at advocates of moderate to high standards (as I know from my own experience). "Elitism" is one of the terms that needs to be deconstructed. -- CharlesH - 13 Aug 2005
CharlesH, I fixed your Canada problem. That whole subweb (where the user pages are) is write-protected because of some global settings pages there. If you give your login and password once, you will automatically keep it as long as the browser stays up. If you've been commenting as KtmGuest and then register as CharlesH, you'll have to close and reopen the browser to get a new crack at commenting. -- CarolynJohnston - 13 Aug 2005
Well-behaved, motivated students with parents who care about education are a necessary condition for a "good" school. I respectfully disagree, and more so having read E.D. Hirsch's book. Bad-enough conditions at home can, of course, derail a kid completely. But kids can start out unmotivated, with parents that care little or nothing about education, and as long as their home environments aren't actively hostile, a good school can and will do a respectable job of giving them basic skills. It's just hard to get past the notion that the flaws of the American educational system lie in the students and their homes. But most civilized countries do a better job of educating their children, from top to bottom, than we do. Is there anything really so special about Americans? Are the homes of the majority of our immigrant and minority children really so much worse than those of immigrant and minority kids in other countries that we should be throwing up our hands the way we do? My grandfather was a moderately poor trolley car driver in Brooklyn, with no educational aspirations at all for his son and daughter. My Dad went to good schools in Brooklyn, got free tuition at Brooklyn College, and became a pharmaceutical researcher, against the will of his father. Is there any reason this should have happened in his time and in his place, but could not be expected to happen in the families of Mexican immigrants today? -- CarolynJohnston - 13 Aug 2005
I also like to believe that dedicated schools can overcome a lot of adversity and make up for severe deficiencies at home. And often that is the case. You do have situations -- at least here in the big city -- where the severely behavior disordered form a critical mass that leads to total chaos and breakdown. Your Dad may have had a father without educational aspirations, but I am sure he subscribed to civilized values. -- CharlesH - 14 Aug 2005
I agree that in a severely dysfunctional society, all bets are off. But I don't think that's where the bulk of the current educational problem lies. -- CarolynJohnston - 14 Aug 2005
You do have situations -- at least here in the big city -- where the severely behavior disordered form a critical mass that leads to total chaos and breakdown. Charles--I haven't read the whole thread yet--but here's my first question: if you gave teachers & principals full authority to pull kids out of class, enforce rules, etc., would that make a difference? -- CatherineJohnson - 15 Aug 2005
Maybe there is a way to decipher where the cream of the crop comes from, and how our cream compares to that of other countries, but it won't be easy. So many of the newspaper accounts of this type of stuff are drawn from press releases from interested parties with agendas that are drawing from the executive summaries of reports issued by researchers that may have agendas...I think it may be hopeless. Further, I think a lot of issues get mixed together by people in the world of education. Some people will cite how hard it is to meet NCLB; others will talk about high school grads' lack of preparedness for college; others will say our students can't compete in math and science. I think that to a large extent, these are disjoint sets of students. There is some room for a rising tide of school quality to lift all of these student achievement boats, but getting third graders to read is not the same solution that will get high schoolers through calculus. I would like to mention one other point that might affect our best and brightest. I don't know, however, whether it affects the top 1% or the top 5%. That is that really bright kids can find opportunities to excel outside the classroom. I'm thinking of summer camps run for brainy kids by schools like Johns-Hopkins and Northwestern. I'm also thinking of MATHCOUNTS teams that--I imagine--go well beyond the math taught in their middle school classrooms. Some of the extra comes from classrooms of sorts, too. Here in Illinois, I've read about widely attended summer school enrichment courses at high schools like New Trier. There is also the Illinois Math and Science Academy, which draws kids from around the state. So, at least some of the kids that are the real cream of the crop got a great start in their regular classrooms, but they may become world class by what they do outside those classrooms. So, when you compare the cream of our crop to the rest of the world, you are not simply looking at the product of their middle school and high school math classes. -- DanK - 16 Aug 2005
apcalculus -- CatherineJohnson - 17 Sep 2006
So, when you compare the cream of our crop to the rest of the world, you are not simply looking at the product of their middle school and high school math classes. So what you are saying is that the top American students, the top 1% or 5%, need summer camps in maths, MATHSCOUNTS teams, summer school enrichment courses, etc, to be competitive with the top students in the rest of the world? Have I got that right? Does anyone know what sort of enrichment is offered to the top students in other countries in the study? (I know in NZ any enrichment is seriously haphazard, and I've never heard of someone doing summer camps in maths. I have heard of some students who managed to get themselves fast-tracked to university at a young age, but there's not enough of them to make a dent in numbers). -- TracyW - 17 Sep 2006
In order to make sense of the statistics, you'd need to know what per cent of the total population of a given age cohort the students represent. "The TIMSS rule was that countries had to include between 10 and 20% of students in their last year of school." This is not the same as 10-20% of the age cohort. If the US has a smaller dropout rate than other countries, then 20% of those left reaches farther down into the ability pool. Let's say you have 100 kids and the bottom 50 dropped out or go to trade schools where they aren't counted. Then 20% of the 50 left is the top 10 kids out of the orginal 100. However, if none dropped out, then 20% is the top 20 kids out of 100. I think this issue is too complex to pursue. -- SusanJ - 18 Sep 2006
It probably is too complex to pursue, but I am going to carry on rejecting the idea that our schools are serving rich white kids well! I'm watching rich white kids who are perfectly capable of learning far more serious material than they're currently learning get dumped out of the "accelerated" math track, which is the average math track everywhere else. ("everywhere" meaning other advanced nations) -- CatherineJohnson - 18 Sep 2006