"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How Much Should/Can the Government Do to Shrink the Achievement Gap?

How many more governmental programs can address/solve the achievement gap? Can they make a difference?

Madison WI government officials have met and have some ideas on how to address the achievement gap present in the school district. I've linked two articles not only to read for the plans by these officials, but for the comments by the readers.  They seem skeptical and underwhelmed by instituting policies that are unfunded or underfunded and create more governmental support and/or control of children and families. 

The Wisconsin State Journal wrote Achievement gap in Madison School District under scrutiny:

Closing the achievement gap in the Madison School District will require a strong core curriculum in school and more support from outside of school, leaders of the district, city and county said Wednesday.
Madison School District Superintendent Jane Belmore, Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi met Wednesday before the city’s Education Committee to discuss collaborative ways to help struggling students.

The three were in agreement about needs to improve student attendance, foster parent involvement and increase access to after-school programs. Other issues, such as increasing the amount of summer programming, received less attention.

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding. In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them," Soglin said.

Ann Althouse, based in Madison, picked up on the article and wrote in her blog:

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding."

"In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them."

The quote is from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and the issue is "the achievement gap" in Madison schools. Soglin has suggested "expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments."

Increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments sounds like a polite way of saying keep them away from their parents as much as possible.

Both articles spurred interesting discussions via the comment section on why readers are skeptical of the government leaders' ideas on how to improve achievement gaps.  Most apparently believe many of educational problems are out of the hands of government officials.

Snippets from the Journal's comment section:

Whazzat - December 13, 2012 8:04 am
MagnusP - you are spot on. There is another major issue responsible for the failure of minorities in the school system. Children should not be having children. We cannot expect good parenting skills from 16-17-18-19-20 year olds. The underachievement problem will not go away until leaders in the minority community address the issue. Kaleem doesn't want to talk about it because there is no money to be made tackling the real problem.

MagnusP - December 13, 2012 7:38 am

It is very simple. Parents do not demand that their kids stay in school, do their homework and get  passing grades. Until that happens don't worry about enhancing the educational experience.

wipolitics - December 13, 2012 7:23 am
"You cannot fail to parent your children at home, then expect teachers to work miracles with them in the classroom."

EnuMPowers - December 13, 2012 7:03 am
Is that an elephant in the room? Shhhhh, nobody mention it.
Hint - This isn't a school problem.

Althouse readers had comments about parenting (or lack thereof) and delved into other issues about fiduciary responsibility, testing for these gaps (and why) and the groups behind this push for increased governmental involvement:
bpm4532 said...
Sounds like a guy who is opposed to open enrollment.

If he believes his stuff he should start with one school and all those things should be funded by the education funds available to that school. Unfortunately, these big thinkers who have access to other people's money, dream this stuff up and impose it like a blanket. A hot, stifling blanket, underwhich you suffocate.

When it doesn't work, they want to expand it, coerce students from leaving and insisting that just a little/lot more money is required to achieve the goal.
Dave said...
"expanding access to nutritious food outside of school"

Um, isn't feeding kids the parents' responsibility? And now nutritious the food that parents feed the kids is isn't a matter of money. It's a matter mostly of convenience/laziness - nutritious food generally requires a bit more work than just throwing it in the microwave.

But even if you're on food stamps (and use only food stamps to buy food) for a family of 3, it's over $6000/year. That's over $500/month, which is more than I spend to feed my family of 6.

Nevermind the redundancy of food stamps and the school lunch program.

Or is he advocating universal boarding school, so the State can have full, interrupted access to kids, without parental influence, to turn them into good unthinking drones?
Dust Bunny Queen said...
"expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments."

Expanding access to nutritious food outside of school? How is he going to do that. Come into the kitchen, raid the fridge and pantry and throw out the junk food. Supervise the cooking or non cooking of meals? He's gonna need a bigger army.

Transportation. YES. Chevy Volts for everyone.

Learning environment? What does he mean by that? Just sitting in a classroom for longer hours and having an incompetent teacher drone on at you and spouting politically correct talking points at you is NOT a learning environment.

No wonder our schools are failures at education. The people at the top levels can only spout meaningless claptrap and think mushy thoughts.
ricpic said...
Gaps are bad? Only to mad, as in crazy, egalitarians who refuse REFUSE to acknowledge that everything is hierarchical. Everything.
Shouting Thomas said...
You've inadvertently entered into Steve Sailer territory here.

He's written often about the "nice white lady" educational initiative.

I.e., taking black and hispanic kids out of their dysfunctional homes and passing them off to the nice white ladies for proper rearing. Pre-school and after-school programs, enrichment programs, school lunches, etc.

He's also noted that long, term, this will backfire, and he points to the "Lost Child" controversy in Australia. Literally, aborigine children were taken from their parents to be raised by "nice white ladies." This is now viewed as almost a form of cultural genocide.
Is the "elephant in the room" comment (from a State Journal writer) connected with this Althouse reader's thoughts?  

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...
All those proposals are doomed to failure.

I'm 5'8". You can bring in the best coach in the world, and I can be as motivated as can be, but the coach will never succeed in getting me to dunk a basketball.

All he/she will be able to do is get me to vertical jump the highest that I can, given my height, muscle characteristics, and proper technique.

With other people of different starting-gate potential and attributes, he/she will succeed - easily in some cases.

But as long as the coache's metrics are "# of persons able to dunk", rather than "each person jumping as high as THEY can", results will be disappointing, and (oh my) you may even see racial disparate impact in results, which will also be correlated with racial difference is average height.

All that to say that - the 10000lb elephant in the room is that students come in with widely varying IQ, and so achievement metrics that can only be achieved by persons of certain IQs (like dunks for tall people), will be under-achieved by those without those IQs, despite the best coaching, the smallest class size, the longest hours, the best study habits, etc.

If you're 4'l1", you can't dunk. If you're 70 IQ, you can't reach some academic metrics.

And it is wrong to punish coaches and teachers for anything other than "getting the best, given the limits of the starting materials".

And also, grouping results by Race is NOT a good idea. You will always be disappointed at the disparate impact, because like many other attributes that have a strong genetic component, it is not evenly distributed across all the Races of Man.

Reality's a serious bitch, but there it is. Ignoring it never works.

Now, let the un-informed charges of "racism" , begin.
Reread the first paragraph and this sentence:  

They seem skeptical and underwhelmed by instituting policies that are unfunded or underfunded and create more governmental support and/or control of children and families. 

So why do governmental bodies insist they have the answer by implementing more programs and regulations? 

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