Friday, February 6, 2009

My view: The gaps we can close

Richard Day flagged a report on a California superintendent saying:
It's just not possible for the average kid who comes to this country in seventh or eighth grade, or even third grade, without a word of English and parents with little formal education, to match the achievement levels of kids whose mom has a Ph.D. in English from Stanford and can afford to stay home and spend time supplementing the education of her kid. [Original article here.]
True, we can't move all kids to the same level. That isn't, actually, the important goal.

The important goal is to move very nearly all kids to a good level, and the remaining few much closer than they are now. We can equip them, consistently, to be effective citizens. We can close the gap between current performance and systematically sturdy results.

What our teachers do matters. How we support our teachers matters. What we do together, in this generation, matters for the future we will all share.


  1. Susan,

    I am glad to see you picked up on this very real problem that the California superintendent outlines so nicely. Let’s tie that back to one of your earlier posts.

    Shifting demographics in places like California are a major issue, so it’s no surprise that the comments you quote come from an educator in that state. For example, the percentages of Whites and Hispanics in California NAEP samples have basically flip-flopped since the early 1990s. In comparison Kentucky’s student demographics have remained far more stable over time than almost any other state in the nation. Even across the entire nation, the demographic changes are much larger than what has happened in Kentucky.

    Those sharp demographic differences complicate simple analysis of Kentucky’s performance on NAEP to performance elsewhere, including the analysis you undertook in your blog item here:

    When over one in five California students is still learning English, while in Kentucky English language learner numbers are so small that the NAEP won’t even report scores for them, clearly there are problems with simply comparing overall scores averaged together for all students. You have to dig deeper. I’m sure that California superintendent would agree.

    By the way, I asked a couple of questions in my comment on your earlier blog item. I’m still waiting for answers, but I am glad you seem sensitive to the demographic issue I raised.

  2. I certainly did not mean to sympathize with the passage I quoted.

    It's perfectly possible to educate the children of immigrants to strong standards. The methods may vary a bit based on student backgrounds, but the end goals are the same.

    Identical results are a silly expectation, a straw man who pops up occasionally and needs to be knocked down.

    Strong results are fully attainable if we make the effort.

  3. I agree Susan. As a person who has spent the past 10 years mentoring children "in the gap", getting all children to be effective citizens and profient learners must be the goal and it can be accomplished by providing a rigorous curriculum with necessary supports and services. No one should accept any less.
    Confusing this goal with others is what keeps the real converstion from happening. Thanks for your continued attempts to focus the converstaion.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!