Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Standards, High and Low

The premise of this first story sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true weight loss diets, just take this pill and you'll look and feel great!
I don’t know anyone who cares more or knows more about Montgomery County public schools then Joseph Hawkins, a senior study director at the Westat research company.

He tried in 2000 to start a charter school in the county to challenge low-income minority kids. The Board of Education said no, concerned, among other things, that the charter’s plan to have all students in the International Baccalaureate diploma program was too strenuous.

Hawkins still wants more rigorous classes for the students least likely to be in them. In a recent post on the Rockville Patch blog, he suggested the following: At the eight county schools that offer IB classes, black students must go for the full IB diploma, which requires six three-to-five-hour exams and a 4,000-word research paper. His reasons are interesting...

“Now I know it sounds simple,” he wrote, “but to close gaps, schools must make the students who are behind (e.g., black students) run faster. And if they do not, then gaps remain.” He said he italicized the word “make” because “it does come down to a requirement. There is no negotiating excellence and better outcomes.”
It seems to me counter-intuitive to believe that putting kids in the IB program will "work" when too many of them--supposedly the best of them--can't succeed in college.
Hawkins and the other charter school backers said making the IB diploma the ultimate goal would transform the usual easy-going, let’s-get-everybody-graduated atmosphere of the typical U.S. high school. With the IB diploma as the goal, “you might need five years of high school to make that happen for some, and that might include going to school six days a week and not five,” Hawkins said. 
Oh, I definitely see the teachers unions getting on board with that.  Not.  It would have to be a charter school. 

How do we address the racial discrimination that would be inherent in such a school setup?

If we want to find something positive in that story, though, at least we can see that someone wants to set and enforce high standards.  What happens when dumb people want to become teachers?  I wrote a harshly-worded post on the subject almost 5 years ago, and now we face the issue again:
Is arithmetic racist? Are English and science and art?

These might seem like stupid questions, but — speaking of stupid — a federal judge says the answer is yes, they are, and slapped New York City with a judgment that could cost the school system hundreds of millions.

The case involves a 16-year-old lawsuit, a handful of unqualified teachers who tried to cast their own failures as a civil-rights violation — and the lefty lawyers who have abetted their cause...

As a former city teacher told The Post, the exam is “high-school level, so anyone with a high-school [diploma] should be able to pass it, regardless of race.”

But that hasn’t been the case. Back in the 1990s, whites passed at far higher rates than blacks and Hispanics.

And when the test was first rolled out, some folks who had been teaching for years were required to take it — but failed.

They were clearly unfit for full-time teaching and were demoted to substitutes, losing salary and seniority.

And they didn’t like that.

So in 1996, some of them turned to activist lawyers and sued the city to have their jobs and pay restored. The case has been kicking around the courts ever since.

Their claim: Since black and Hispanic applicants failed the tests more often than whites, the tests were ipso facto racist.

It’s an embarrassing thing to believe.

The questions on the exam are race-blind and measure basic academic skills. Passing the test doesn’t prove someone will make a brilliant teacher — but no one who fails should be within a mile of a city classroom...

There’s nothing racist about the LAST.

And that fact can’t be sued away.

Yet last week, in the latest twist in this 16-year-old case, Judge Kimba Wood found that the LAST had a “disparate impact” on black and Hispanic applicants and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Kimba Wood? Where have we heard of this genius jurist before?

Who's more stupid, Kimba Wood or the college-educated adults that can't pass a junior-high level test?

I'm curious what Randi Weingarten, she of the "teacher bar exam",  thinks of this.

1 comment:

momof4 said...

I wouldn't recommend started kids who are already behind in a HS IB program, since their level of preparation is likely to be more like 5th-6th grade. I'd start as a k-1 with a really strong curriculum (Singapore Math and Core Knowledge or equivalent), direct instruction and homogeneous grouping and extend it every year as the kids age, until it's k-8 (moving to Glencoe pre-algebra and algebra for all kids ready). Then, that cohort would be ready for IB. As far as I can tell, k-5 is a complete wasteland; the fundamentals are not taught and the kids can't move to more complex work without them.