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September 22, 2011


Everybody is a big fan of a longer school day.
You must PAY for it. You cannot, as in Chicago, rescind a 4% raise for teachers three weeks before mandating 90 more minutes of classroom time. OK? The Chicago School Board canceled raises. Canceled!
Rick Hess has no idea how much more money it takes for teachers to keep their own children in latch-key programs so that they can teach longer every day.
Pay them. Pay the teachers!

Great overview, really important topic. Thanks for reporting on this. A couple thoughts:

Your points about integration and supporting gifted students are well taken. Clearly, there's a potential conflict there, and it has unfortunate consequences in many schools serving economically diverse populations. What's important to keep in mind and may not be obvious to those who don't work in schools is that instructional methods have a huge impact on this issue. Direct, top-down instructional models of the kind favored in many inner-city schools these days, lend themselves to ability grouping, because anyone who's a bit ahead will be bored to tears, and anyone who's a bit behind will be lost. Instructional models that rely more on student collaboration, investigation, independent problem-solving, etc. are often better suited to mixed ability groups.

Of course, as is always the case in education, it all depends on how these instructional models are implemented, how capable the teacher is, how strong the school culture is, etc. Yet, as a teacher, I've worked in a wide variety of contexts, and I've found some instructional styles far more effective than others for dealing with variations in ability.

I also found Hess's points about the dangers of our excessive focus on low-performing and low-income students compelling. I posted recently on the degree to which the America's under-achievement (as compared to other industrialized nations) persists among our higher performing students. To summarize, the heart of the problem is indeed our lowest-performing quartile, but our middle quartiles are none too impressive, and, in math and science, even into our top quartile is frighteningly weak.

Back in January, I wrote about the same phenomenon with respect to socioeconomic class (SEC). It turns out that, considering their level of socioeconomic privilege (or lack thereof), our lower-middle SEC quartile is actually doing considerably worse than our bottom quartile.

Awesome feedback, thank you Max!

Yes, Max you made great points, as you do in your blog. I also see posts like Hess' as being positive indicators of a possible breakup of the unholy alliance that is data-driven reform.

I always respect Hess and frequently agree with him. Being a liberal, and a former lobbyist for Planned Parenthood and a state ACLU board and litagation committee member, I agree with his discussion of the Ed Trust and Marian Wright Edelman, who otherwise is a hero of mine. They took the 70s vintage of civil rights litigation and used its approach to data as proof of discriminatory intent and applied it to schools. (Even then, I had doubts about affirmative action, in terms of helping poor children of color as opposed to women and middle class minorities, that I kept to myself. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop my doubts about "Comparable Worth.")

Once liberal "reformers" adopted these litigious methods, then litigious attitudes were bound to follow. Frustrated "reformers" in the Ed Trust, for instance made the extraordinary claim that schools were functioning as they were "designed" to function. It then became inevitable that the tactic of treating schools and teachers as the architects of an intentional plan to keep poor kids of color down was bound to create the bitter fight we have today.

Dana -
Thanks for a great post - comments are good too.
We posted another POV on the Hess post


Dana- thanks for your thoughts. There is a way to have choice and not leave anyone behind. Choice disrupts the system because, as its set up now, "choice" schools appear to be desirable roses in a field of weeds. As long as there are only generic 'plants' in the field, everything is hunky-dory. But plant a rose and everything changes. Even if only one choice school exists in the field, its mere existence makes all the other schools appear to be weeds or 'not choice' or just dull 'plants'. Anyone stuck in them is 'left behind'. The solution is simple. Do what nature does. Grow variety. Lose the pedagogical monoculture.When choice is the only choice then choice becomes the norm and inherently fair.

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