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March Madness (It's Not Just For Basketball) Links

Here's a survey of the zany news, wacky ideas, and near meltdowns that are floating around in today's blogosphere:

1) A Must Read for New Yorkers: The NYC Progress Report discussion is picking up again, so check out this post. In How effective is your kid's school? , the Dallas ISD Blog shows how effectiveness scores in Dallas can vary wildly from year to year. Kent Fischer quips, "Will the real Sequoyah Elementary School please stand up?"

2) One Flew Over the Ed Prof's Nest: Over at Rate Your Students, an ed prof loses it. He leads with, "I've been marking your essays all weekend, and gotta say: You are making me lose my faith in humanity."

3) Merit Pay for Prison Wardens?: I kid you not. The legal eagles at PrawfsBlawg propose to pay wardens based on inmates' recidivism rates. Blogger Rick Hills draws the analogy to education in the comments:

Wardens have far more control over their prisoners than principals have over their students: Children go home to households that are largely outside the power of the school entirely. Surely, teachers are right to complain that parents' influence dwarfs that of the school. For prisoners, the prison is home - a total environment that can be manipulated by the warden for good or ill.

4) Speaking of Bad Ideas: Jay Mathews shares Michael Goldstein's idea for dealing with dropouts (Let Them Drop Out, Then Get Them Back):

What if a 16-year-old could drop out but bank the money that the school district spends per pupil ($15,000 here in Boston, but I'm sure it's more in D.C.), the amount that otherwise would have been spent junior and senior year, like a medical savings account or an IRA? Then it can't be touched for at least two years -- force-feed kids the feeling of the dead-end life they're embarking on....After a few months, you realize you're a loser, other people are going places but not you. You maybe get a job and it's a boring security job at $8/hour. And, maybe by age 20, or 26, or whatever, some maturity. THEN a [student] can start over.

Perhaps we can combine this item with #3, and hold the wardens accountable for watching over the kids who would have stuck around in high school for a few more years otherwise.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that I'm not sure Michael Goldstein's idea is all that bad. Putting aside the financing formula for the moment, a lot of mischief has been done in education in service of the idea that graduating from high school equips and enables holders of a diploma to make their way in the world effectively. I know the economic data quite well, but the confusion of causes and effects (high school grads earn more so therefore we're going to push everyone ahead until they graduate) is really the soul of social promotion.

How many empty diplomas and ill-equipped graduates do we need to churn out before we acknowledge the fundamentally coercive relationship we have with some of our students? There is a nugget of wisdom in the idea that education is wasted on those who see no use for it. If a few years pass and the scales fall from the students' eyes and they see the value of their education, might they not return more motivated? Ready to truly prepare themselves in a way they might not at 16 or 17?

Remember when you told your mom you wanted to run away from home and she packed your bag for you? She wasn't being cruel. She knew that once you started to think about what comes next, you'd be back before the streetlights came on. The principle applies here. Mom was no dummy.

It's an intriguing concept. I'd like to hear more.

Mr. Goldstein's comment isn't so wacky when you consider that his school is infamous for pitching kids out if they don't measure up.

Sure am happy we're spending so many taxpayer dollars in MA on new charter schools with such stellar innovations!

In a perfect world, we'd cut the number of tests in two, and spend the money (along with charter subsidies) on laptop programs and other curricula proven to engage kids.

Robert P: To your good points I'd add that I'm not opposed to coercion.

Any struggler in our school is required to get an ADDITIONAL 10 hours per week (Mon, Tue, Wed 5 to 7.30pm, plus Saturday) of tutoring, on top of the "normal" 8 hrs/week of tutoring that all our kids get. It's coercion with a lot of love and parent communication!

I realize, though, that this sort of mega-dosage support is unlikely to take hold at scale. So that leads me to 3 questions:

1. Isn't this how Pell Grants already work? Ie, if you go to college for a year, stop for 2 years, then return with perhaps more focus and maturity, aren't you still eligible?

2. Isn't there a win-win scenario for likely dropouts and teachers, where the teacher instructs the exact same kid at age 20 instead of 16, and the kid learns a lot more?

3. Isn't there a better way to handle this very real exodus than the kid simply ceasing to show up anymore, with more dignity for all involved, and greater long-term chance of the kids earning a diploma?

Robert and Mike,

If we could be confident that kids would make their way back to school, I'm with you on the potential upsides of teaching kids who want to be there.

But when kids who otherwise would have stuck around for an extra year or two (even if they never got a diploma) are cut loose early, might some of them get themselves into more trouble than they would have had they left school two years later (if only because they are two years older and more mature)? Put differently, are the odds of a 14 year old dropout getting into trouble greater than the odds of the same kid getting into trouble at 16?

I'm not opposed to coercion either. What I'm opposed to, however, is making it my full-time job and reason for showing up at school every morning. No one likes to say so, but every moment I as a classroom teacher had to spend essentially selling reluctant learners on the benefits of education is a moment spent not teaching. Add the time lost to disruption from students who were only there because they were required to be, and you start to see a large, unspoken element of the achievement gap in action. Meanwhile, there is a critical mass of students who are ready to learn and achieve at a high level already in the room. We function, in essence, like a restaurant owner whose customers go hungry while the wait staff spends all its time on the sidewalk trying to entice more customers inside. Eventually, we lose even those sitting inside waiting for a meal.

Under Michael's scenario, we take care of the customers we have, give them a great meal. The others will come inside and sit down once word of mouth from the exiting diners gets around.

And while I'm sympathetic to your point, EW, about won't the kids who leave get in more trouble than they would have if they'd stayed, I think we need to start asking ourselves if we want to run schools or day care centers. I'm sorry to sound so harsh, and put it in such stark terms, but when you look at how badly our high school graduates struggle in college, it's clear they're not leaving high school prepared. Michael's plan gives us a potential way out. And every family headed by someone with a good (not merely adequate) education tomorrow means his or her kids are less likely to grow up in poverty and struggle. That's the way we're going to solve this problem, I believe.

Requiring students to attend high school is a relatively new concept. In 1920 only about one-quarter of teens were in high school, rising to about two-thirds by 1936. This just happened to coincide with the Great Depression, during which schools effectively prevented young adults from competing with older adults during a time of high unemployment. While I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments of educators who don't want to view schools as day care for young adults, I wonder how the possibility of recession and rising unemployment might affect this debate. I also wonder if we might be able to determine a core of knowledge and skills that we think all citizens should possess, and instead of requiring students to remain in school until a certain age, we intead require them to remain until they've mastered them.

I can't compete with Robert for experience on the drop out issue.

But my panel for the hypothetical president debate on Education:

Sol Stern
Diane Ravitch
Rik Hanushek
Alan Kruger
Tom Kane
Ted Sizer
and, of course, EduWonkette (appearing behind a screen, with a voice scrambler to protect her identity)

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Matthew: I can't compete with Robert for experience on the drop read more
  • Gideon: Requiring students to attend high school is a relatively new read more
  • Robert Pondiscio: I'm not opposed to coercion either. What I'm opposed to, read more
  • eduwonkette: Robert and Mike, If we could be confident that kids read more
  • Mike Goldstein: Robert P: To your good points I'd add that I'm read more




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