Sink or Skim in Digital World

The Digital Pandemic, Part Two

I wrote The Digital Pandemic in 2010, warning about drowning in the digital ocean that now covers us all. What has happened over the past six years? Some have coined the term Cyber Native to describe how our youth function on a day-to-day basis. When kids have over 1000 friends on Facebook and are exposed to almost 12 hours per day of media, not including school work on their computers or media exposure at school, I prefer the term Skimmers. Yes, they must skim just to stay afloat. They must sink or skim!

And electronic games are an additional concern. They do nothing to develop the all-important frontal lobes of the brain. Rather, the brain is being rewired to master narrow visual and fine motor skills. Meanwhile, we see an increase in concentration problems and less imagination and creativity in our classrooms.

While many of us have doubts about the push for educational technology, billions are spent each year in our public schools.  One public middle school in my hometown claims “a powered up magnet (school) sees gains in achievement and behavior.” Yes, the 88 sixth-graders enrolled in an inaugural class for innovation and digital learning did well on their achievement tests, but when I reviewed applications to this public magnet school I discovered that only 31% of applicants were admitted to the program. Colleen Wright, Tampa Bay Times, Jan. 31, 2016.

As I tried to make clear in my book, The Elephant in the Classroom, high test scores often result from “creaming” off the best students. With a carefully selected student body, we can be certain they will do well whether they use white boards, smart phones, or quill pens! We need to pay more attention to the student population when analyzing school reform claims. Thirty to forty percent of students have sufficient motivation and ability to continue to college, and career education needs to be offered to all students.

to be continued . . . .

Our Kids are Walking the Plank?

“Once upon a time, a long time ago –– a large, prosperous, nation, determined that all of its children should be formally educated. This would strengthen the country economically and give every citizen an opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Uniformity was also a goal. If the government operated the schools, everyone would receive an equal education and an equal opportunity. This would help to eliminate social class elitism.”

But a sizable number of parents decided to put their children into private schools. Some of their motivation was religious, and some was the recognition that not all children are the same. Parents realized that their child couldn’t keep up with other children academically, or was more advanced, resulting in boredom and frustration for their child.

The private alternative had not caused a great disruption to the government agenda because the tuition for private education limited the number of students who could attend. But then something happened that had a direct impact on the government’s plan for an equal education for all. Critics complained that the government system of public schools was not efficient and that America was not competing academically with foreign countries. It was also noted that the quality of schools varied dramatically. Children in upscale neighborhoods received an education far superior to children in poor areas.

These concerns led to the introduction of government sponsored vouchers, which would help parents pay for private-school tuition, along with public schools that would be managed by private companies (Charters). Now, more children could leave the public system –– and they did. This desertion alarmed public school administrators. They decided to offer more competitive services. They devised exceptional programs that would specialize in dozens of attractive career paths, (for example, aeronautics, entrepreneurship, and gifted studies). These programs became highly popular. And, in fact, in one state, 50 to 60% of all K – 12 students enjoyed educational choice, either within the public system or privately.

Problem solved? No, not at all. These many options resulted in fights over the best students to fill the selective schools –– those with high ability, motivation, concentration, and self-control.

Getting into these attractive programs was sometimes daunting, because it required the ability to navigate a rather complex application system and to enter early lotteries for admission. In one elementary school, only 60 of 550 applicants were accepted. In another middle school, 60 students were accepted from a pool of 468 applications. In one high school, 162 students were accepted from 462 applicants who wanted to study health-related professions. But on average, 30 to 40% of applicants were accepted into dozens of attractive schools.

The problem was that a good number of non-selected students were left behind in neighborhood schools. Politicians and school administrators insisted that the kids left behind were the same as those who were selected for better options, and they believed that these children should be on an academic track for college. Reforms, such as high-stakes testing, the grading of schools, and a uniform curriculum, were imposed on these neighborhood kids, the ones who were the least able and/or the least motivated to excel in academics. The teachers of these children were unfairly measured against teachers in the selective programs and those in public schools in wealthy areas.

For thirty years, reformers tried everything. Most reforms seemed logical and worth trying, but they didn’t work all that well. The effort was to leave no child behind, but children from less wealthy neighborhoods were indeed left behind. Actually, they were unintentionally pushed down, because parents with good resources went elsewhere with their kids. Unfortunately, authorities didn’t seem to recognize differences in children or were politically restrained from acknowledging differences in the students’ environments and/or ability levels.

Here’s a relevant analogy: The unselected student is forced to leave the mother ship and walk a narrow, unsteady plank over black waters not infested with sharks, but rather filled with drugs, idleness, and unemployment, in order to enter an impregnable castle on a tiny island named college town.

 Solutions:

  •  We don’t have to offer reform programs for the top 50%, the students already enjoying educational choice, because they and their parents have secured a place in exceptional academic and career programs.
  • It is the non-selected kids who need the most help. They should be given an opportunity for career education beginning in middle school and extending through high school. And it is critical that no daunting enrollment procedures or transportation should be required. This career education would be designed for the non-selected students who have been left behind; in other words, all of the students who have not been siphoned off to a “better world.”
  • Non-selected, full-time career students would not be subjected to high-stakes academic testing or end of high school testing for graduation. Instructors who follow national certification guidelines would determine their success in their career education.
  • Today, graduation rates are as low as 65% in non-selective schools. With the introduction of career educations programs, that rate could climb to as high as 95%.
  • Good-sized communities would have public Career Colleges. This would make a truism out of the myth that all students should attend college.
  • Unselected neighborhood kids who were truly motivated for academic work would be helped and encouraged to enter a college-prep track, even though this would encompass only a small percentage of students from that unselected, left-behind group.

Implementation:

  •  Form a parent group advocating the above approach.
  • Go online and google the state legislature to find members who sit on the education and finance committees representing your area.
  • Call, write, and visit these elected officials.
  • Visit school board members and school administrators.
  • Talk to the local teachers’ union.

Our country prides itself on a federal social security system that provides a safety net for those who have financial difficulties, especially during retirement years. It recognizes that many individuals do not have the ability, motivation, health, self-control, or in some cases good luck, to provide for themselves financially. In this financial security area, we Americans are realistic in acknowledging that not everyone is the same. But when it comes to educational security, we seem afraid to acknowledge that not everyone has the ability, motivation, self-control, and concentration to succeed at high levels in academic or career skills.

Acknowledging that not everyone can be in the top 50% in terms of mental ability and family environmental opportunities allows us to focus on realistic school reform. Most would agree that we have a responsibility to provide a safety net for our citizens. Helping those who are not elite academic students is also in our own best interest and will result in happy citizens who are taxpayers and workers. This will come closer to the original public school agenda of providing an opportunity for all our citizens to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

101_0126Good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have The Kids Gone?

Where did they go?

Most have gone to choice schools. Where are these choice schools? Some 10% percent of school-aged students are not in the neighborhood school because they are in private-religious, private-secular, or home-based schools. These students may not all be above average in academic ability, but they often have at least three of the elephant’s legs: ability to focus, motivation, and self-control.

Another 8% of all students are not in this school because they are in private voucher-supported schools or charter schools. A voucher program gives vouchers to parents to use to pay for private school tuition. Charter schools are part of the public system, but are operated privately. (A charter school is much like one large voucher, but that voucher goes to an entire school rather than to individual parents). Attendance at these private-voucher and private-public charter schools requires vigilance on the part of parents. They need to know which schools are available and need to be motivated to find the best programs for their children. This leads to selected students and typically more cooperative parents.

Public schools oppose these programs and even oppose their own public charter schools, because they suspect these programs cream off the “best” parents and kids. (Local public schools are less opposed to learning-disabled students finding their way to charters or private schools, however, because these children are poor test-takers who lower public school test scores).

Another 7% are not in their neighborhood school because they are in public, magnet schools. These schools were developed in part to compete with private schools and offer specialty programs such as the arts and technology. Included in this group are the highly structured, so-called fundamental schools that require parents to sign a contract agreeing to a standard dress uniform and compliance with explicit rules.

General open enrollment that includes Advanced International Certificates (AICE), virtual instruction, International Baccalaureate, Lab Schools, etc., make up another 13%.

Meanwhile, back in the elephant jungle, something extraordinary is happening. We should have as many as 80% of the remaining neighborhood school students in career and technical training. What do you think that percentage is in the state of Florida? Five percent! Yep, this group makes up only 161,000 students (State of Florida figures) or less than 5% of the 3.5 million students in Florida in 2012-13!

While some public schools and teachers’ unions decry voucher and charter schools, their own increasing use of fundamental schools and magnet schools could be subject to the same criticism. Similar to a magnet, these schools attract high achieving kids and families from higher socio-economic levels, leaving the “regular,” neighborhood school with fewer academically capable kids and fewer motivated parents. So this is the creaming I constantly refer to. Coffee, anyone?

elephant 003

Get a copy of the Elephant In the Classroom and find out what’s really going on in our schools.

Cowboys Knew More

Rejecting Test, “Massachusetts Shifts Its Model” by Kate Zernike (Nov. 22) New York Times.
No where in this article is there any mention of the students. It’s about time we started looking at the students who are being affected by school reform. These experts are obviously operating under the assumption that all students are exactly the same. This is a Great American myth and so is the belief that all students should go to college. The truth is that no two students are the same in every respect. Even cowboys in the “Old West” knew more about their cattle than these folks know about kids.
High-stakes testing and Common Core may benefit students who are motivated for college and who have the intellectual resources to succeed. These reforms hurt students who lack the motivation for academics or do not have high academic ability. Career education students should have an opportunity to participate in career courses rather than wasting their time retaking academic tests.
I believe these experts need to check some of their basic assumptions and realize that there are real people out there and not just abstractions that can be manipulated by politically-driven agendas. 102_0296

 

Uncovering a Hidden Factor in School Reform

Uncovering a Hidden Factor in School Reform  Vietnam Oceania 127

School reform. Is it really about teacher training, curriculum materials, and achievement tests? Maybe not. Let’s look at an original and quite different approach to school reform.

In a previous report, I highlighted a great American myth. That myth is IQ. We want to think that everyone has the same mental ability, but it just isn’t true, and one hundred years of research back up this conclusion. I refer to this in my book, The Elephant in the Classroom. IQ, along with self-control, motivation, and the ability to focus, make up the four legs of “the elephant in the room” that are critical for legitimate college-level academic success.

But there is another factor that is even more secreted and veiled, and even more profound and objectionable, especially to those of us who peer through rose-colored glasses and wish everyone could achieve equally in school and in the workplace. Social scientists refer to this concept as socio-economic class. What’s scary about this phenomenon is that it appears to be highly resistant to change and even those with higher mental abilities may not be able to break through its ceiling to achieve higher levels.

Sociologists divide people into three general classes: the upper class is comprised of the richest people in society. They are often born into wealth and this wealth passes from generation to generation. The middle class is made up of people who fall socioeconomically between the lower and upper classes. Middle-class workers are sometimes called white-collar workers and in the United States most hold employment positions that require a college degree.

People falling in the lower socio-economic class are usually employed in low-paying jobs with little economic security. Some of these people are long-term unemployed and/or homeless, especially those receiving government welfare.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the “Economic Mobility Project” of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. “Harder for Americans to Rise from Lower Rungs,” Jason DeParle, New York Times, Jan. 4, 2012.

 I believe we fear the concept of socio-economic class even more than IQ and perhaps this is why research in this area seems to have waned. When we Americans make up our minds to champion a project or goal such as fairness and equality, we tend not to accept or even acknowledge contradictory scientific findings.

In reviewing research over the past 40 years, it is evident that nothing is more resistant to change than socio-economic class. It rears its head in every kind of social and psychological research, and one additional thing that makes it resistant to change is that people of a designated social class may prefer to remain in their own social-class culture. There may be fear of an unknown environment or loyalty to one’s culture.

I’m reminded of a movie that clearly dates me: From Here to Eternity. In that movie, an upper-middle-class woman, the wife of a captain, was in love with a sergeant played by Burt Lancaster, and she wanted him to attend Officers Candidate School. This master sergeant was intellectually capable of the academics involved in such a move, but he expressed feelings of disloyalty to his social class and didn’t want to “let down the side.” Is this why many lower class blacks refuse to surrender their distinctive grammar and dialect? Do they want to defend at least part of their own culture? And some may perceive their own culture to be more desirable than the culture of the white middle-class.

As pointed out in a previous report, “School Reform: a Crisis of Expectations,” ignoring IQ results in pressure on all students to succeed in academics regardless of ability. This frustrates those who do not have high academic ability and negatively impacts those with high academic ability from having exceptional preparation for college.

Ignorance of social class is even more disturbing. In fact, our school system is inadvertently re-segregating students not by color, but by social class. When private schools, charters, and special public magnet schools “cream off” children from the middle and upper-middle class, they leave a nucleus of lower social class children in neighborhood schools, especially schools in poor neighborhoods.

And who are the teachers of these lower social class children? They are middle-class educators, some of whom are working their own way to a status in society. Do they understand the mores of the lower-class? Do they want to deal with kids who are different from themselves? In most cases, the answer is no. This is why experienced, top-flight teachers end up in elite public schools and magnets and charters. Inexperienced teachers are more likely to be assigned to a lower-class population of students.

This explains why teachers complain that in schools in poverty areas they see many students who are not clean, whose clothes are not washed, and who are not motivated to achieve academically. They also face a good number of parents who don’t have the time, or in some cases don’t understand their role in helping their children succeed in school.

A large percentage of these children are not prepared for college-prep academics and are not greatly motivated for higher academic work. I believe, if given a choice, most would prefer career education where they could show off their nonverbal intelligence and succeed in meaningful tasks and financially successful careers.

Instead, our political and educational leaders insist that everyone can be successful academically and that all can or should go to college. This is why heavy-duty testing and a number of other quick fixes have not worked. Socio- economic class is resistant to these innovative and well-meaning interventions.

There may be a silver lining in our school system’s inadvertent segregation by social class, however. It does help identify these students for special, extraordinary intervention, which may include assignment of superior teachers, first-class materials, and tutoring in the early grades. And guidance can be provided to get many of these kids into magnet and charter schools.

Recognition of social class variables can never relieve us of our obligation to give every student an opportunity to progress to higher levels of functioning, but neither can we shy away from any factor that has a profound effect on school reform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncovering a Hidden Factor in School Reform

School reform. Is it really about teacher training, curriculum materials, and achievement tests? Maybe not. Let’s look at an original and quite different approach to school reform.

In a previous report, I highlighted a great American myth. That myth is IQ. We want to think that everyone has the same mental ability, but it just isn’t true, and one hundred years of research back up this conclusion. I refer to this in my book, The Elephant in the Classroom. IQ, along with self-control, motivation, and the ability to focus, make up the four legs of “the elephant in the room” that are critical for legitimate college-level academic success.

But there is another factor that is even more secreted and veiled, and even more profound and objectionable, especially to those of us who peer through rose-colored glasses and wish everyone could achieve equally in school and in the workplace. Social scientists refer to this concept as socio-economic class. What’s scary about this phenomenon is that it appears to be highly resistant to change and even those with higher mental abilities may not be able to break through its ceiling to achieve higher levels.

Sociologists divide people into three general classes: the upper class is comprised of the richest people in society. They are often born into wealth and this wealth passes from generation to generation. The middle class is made up of people who fall socioeconomically between the lower and upper classes. Middle-class workers are sometimes called white-collar workers and in the United States most hold employment positions that require a college degree.

People falling in the lower socio-economic class are usually employed in low-paying jobs with little economic security. Some of these people are long-term unemployed and/or homeless, especially those receiving government welfare.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the “Economic Mobility Project” of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. “Harder for Americans to Rise from Lower Rungs,” Jason DeParle, New York Times, Jan. 4, 2012.

 I believe we fear the concept of socio-economic class even more than IQ and perhaps this is why research in this area seems to have waned. When we Americans make up our minds to champion a project or goal such as fairness and equality, we tend not to accept or even acknowledge contradictory scientific findings.

To be continued. . . . . . . .Vietnam Oceania 127

School Reform: A Crisis of Expectations: the whole story

cuba 121CONTINUED:

Do we really have a school crisis in America, or is it a “crisis” of unrealistic expectations? What are these expectations? That all kids can achieve at the highest levels, that all kids can be successful in school and in life, and that all kids can go to college if they really try. And isn’t it the school system’s job to make sure our expectations are fulfilled? A pretty tall order, wouldn’t you say?

In some school districts, parents who can provide transportation are able to get their kids into schools of their choice, such as Magnet Schools or Charter Schools. The kids who are left behind remain there because their parents don’t have the resources, the education, or the foresight to get them into a better situation. As a result, most kids who are left behind are not average achievers. They tend to be low achievers, yet we still rate our teachers based on these students’ achievement test scores. How colossally unfair to teachers.

Let’s consider an analogous situation. Nurses who work exclusively with the critically ill are respected for their professional knowledge and efforts, but a good percentage of their patients die! Would we compare their patient outcomes with nurses in a general hospital? No, of course not. That’s because we have altered our expectations to a rational level based on our correct supposition that not all patients will live forever and that nurses and doctors can’t cure all of their patients.

How did we develop such unrealistic expectations about our educational system? I believe one of the culprits is IQ. Despite scientific studies of IQ that have continued over the past 100 years, we are in denial about the fact that some people have higher mental abilities than others (for whatever reasons). Do we look the other way because IQ does not fit our self-concept as a nation? After all, we were founded on the principles that all men (and women) are created equal, and all have a right to happiness –– or at least the pursuit thereof.

This fear of differences leads to unrealistic school policies. There is pressure for all students to succeed in academics, regardless of their ability, motivation, or lack of early support and stimulation in the home. This pressure for all to succeed translates to everyone needing to attend college, which in turn means pressure for all students to prepare for college. This in turn means everyone should graduate from high school and that American schools have failed because some students are below grade level in reading or math. There is also a denial of the fact that a high academic mental ability is necessary to achieve in academics. Critics of our school system say: “surely everyone can at least learn to comprehend reading and math at grade level.” But they can’t.

When we pull back and get some distance from these school policies, we can be more objective and accept voluminous research showing that about 35% of our students are capable of a true college education, and that a good number of students are not capable of completing an academic high school. If all students can complete high school, then what is high about high school? Wouldn’t it more correctly be called middle school? And if the bottom 25% ability-wise can graduate from middle school, then what is middle about middle school? Perhaps we should call it lower school.

In the 1940s, about half of students graduated from public high schools. Today, the graduation rate reaches 70%, and in some schools even 80%. (Of course, schools for the gifted or other selective magnet schools may have a 100% graduation rate). These changes in graduation rates may have more to do with how one defines high school and the “dumbing down,” social promotions, and clever statistical analyses employed to achieve these rates. These higher, unrealistic rates are then used to push and coerce our kids to fulfill our unreasonable expectations.

Critics often say that everyone can read at an advanced level if they receive enough help, even if they don’t have average mental ability. But that’s not true. High-level reading requires comprehension, and comprehension is based on mental ability (reading comprehension should not be confused with simple, repetitive, “word-calling,” that some people refer to as reading, in the early grades).

What is the result of this misperception and fear of human differences? Kids who do not have the ability or motivation for academics are bludgeoned with heavy-duty tests and restricted from career education because their grades are too low, or there isn’t enough time because they are retaking required academic tests (for the third or fourth time) –– or there is the myth that career education is for losers. Career education is the education that the majority of students would find relevant and that would result in real-work success in the marketplace. This bludgeoning by well-meaning folks on the political left and right leads to low self-esteem, depression, and failure. Not just failure in school, but failure in life, sometimes leading to criminal activity.

Please don’t think I’m pushing for a “soft” approach to education or giving up on kids. Career education can be rigorous and draws on aspects of intelligence that are not tapped by academics. By accepting the fact that students have different interests and abilities, we would also be in a position to offer more rigorous courses for those who are college-bound and reduce the behavior problems and distractions that affect all students.

So perhaps we do have a school crisis, but we may need to take a hard look in the mirror, because much of it is a crisis of our own making. As Pogo used to say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginning

MORE ON EXPECTATIONS:Vietnam Oceania 122

How did we develop such unrealistic expectations about our educational system? I believe one of the culprits is IQ. Despite scientific studies of IQ that have continued over the past 100 years, we are in denial about the fact that some people have higher mental abilities than others (for whatever reasons). Do we look the other way because IQ does not fit our self-concept as a nation? After all, we were founded on the principles that all men (and women) are created equal, and all have a right to happiness –– or at least the pursuit thereof.

This fear of differences leads to unrealistic school policies. There is pressure for all students to succeed in academics, regardless of their ability, motivation, or lack of early support and stimulation in the home. This pressure for all to succeed translates to everyone needing to attend college, which in turn means pressure for all students to prepare for college. This in turn means everyone should graduate from high school and that American schools have failed because some students are below grade level in reading or math. There is also a denial of the fact that a high academic mental ability is necessary to achieve in academics. Critics of our school system say: “surely everyone can at least learn to comprehend reading and math at grade level.” But they can’t.

When we pull back and get some distance from these school policies, we can be more objective and accept voluminous research showing that about 35% of our students are capable of a true college education, and that a good number of students are not capable of completing an academic high school. If all students can complete high school, then what is high about high school? Wouldn’t it more correctly be called middle school? And if the bottom 25% ability-wise can graduate from middle school, then what is middle about middle school? Perhaps we should call it lower school.

TO BE CONTINUED . . . . . .

 

School Reform: A Crisis of Expectations

Do we really have a school crisis in America, or is it a “crisis” of unrealistic expectations? What are these expectations? That all kids can achieve at the highest levels, that all kids can be successful in school and in life, and that all kids can go to college if they really try. And isn’t it the school system’s job to make sure our expectations are fulfilled? A pretty tall order, wouldn’t you say?

In some school districts, parents who can provide transportation are able to get their kids into schools of their choice, such as Magnet Schools or Charter Schools. The kids who are left behind remain there because their parents don’t have the resources, the education, or the foresight to get them into a better situation. As a result, most kids who are left behind are not average achievers. They tend to be low achievers, yet we still rate our teachers based on these students’ achievement test scores. How colossally unfair to teachers.

Let’s consider an analogous situation. Nurses who work exclusively with the critically ill are respected for their professional knowledge and efforts, but a good percentage of their patients die! Would we compare their patient outcomes with nurses in a general hospital? No, of course not. That’s because we have altered our expectations to a rational level based on our correct supposition that not all patients will live forever and that nurses and doctors can’t cure all of their patients.

Next: How did this get started?101_0126

School reform in 112 words?

Taking off the rose-colored glasses: How to reform American education in one paragraph –– (112 words):

Reduce the academic high school graduate expectation to 65% so that high school becomes a true academic high school and not a glorified middle or elementary school. Allow 40% to 60% of interested students to elect career education on a voluntary basis beginning in middle school. This will raise the overall high school graduation expectation to 97%. The top 35% in scholastic ability and motivation will take advanced academic courses and graduate; most other students will take simple to highly sophisticated career education courses that count toward graduation –– along with a very small number of academic courses that support their vocational education –– mostly reading and math, along with U.S. History and technology.

Cloisters(The academic high school graduates will complete an authentic college program in four years without remedial assistance and the career high school graduates will make a good living, avoid dependency and crime –– and over time, and in some cases over generations, move themselves and their children to a higher socio-economic level –– much as immigrants do.)