Class Matters, Plus Nutmeg Action Just In Time For The Holidays!

Be sure to take a look at Peter Meyer’s Ed Next blog about the recent NYT op-ed on poverty and education. I had much the same reaction, people keep saying and writing that other people want to ignore poverty but who are these people?  There is a pretty obvious distinction between saying schools can do better, or saying demographics need not be destiny, and saying that poverty doesn’t matter.  It’s also instructive to flip the question – and in this case the title of the op-ed – around.  “Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?” OK, why won’t we admit it and do what? If the answer is double-down on improving schools as well as addressing various community issues then I don’t know anyone in the centrist education reform world who objects (many of whom don’t have quite as dark a historical view of anti-poverty efforts as Meyer does).  And as I’ve noted before such a strategy would create a formidable political coalition. But if the answer is codify lower expectations either tacitly – through weak accountability systems – or explicitly – through accountability rules with different expectations for different student groups then you lose a lot of those who would otherwise be allies.

Speaking of school improvement efforts, Connecticut’s governor is calling for boldness there in a letter released yesterday (pdf).

56 Responses to “Class Matters, Plus Nutmeg Action Just In Time For The Holidays!”

  1. The Truth Says:

    Ladd and Fiske state:

    “Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates.”

    It is important to note that this does NOT necessarily mean that poverty in and of itself is responsible for 40%+ of variation in NAEP scores. Part of this variation is a direct impact of impoverished circumstances yes, however, given this evidence, it is impossible to know how much of this variance is caused by failing schools/teachers that are disproportionately located in low income areas.

  2. John PIscal Says:

    Governor Malloy adds his name to the long list of Governors with ambitious goals to “reform” public education. I find these statements to be neither bold nor ambitious. Newly elected this past summer, Malloy will learn to back track on these issues as he runs into the powerful “buzz saw” that is the teacher’s union. All Gov. Malloy needed to do was watch what is happening to President Obama.

    Obama’s signature piece of legislation on education reform is being attacked by the NEA and AFT. This is not just my view, but fact. The NEA passed a resolution ordering the NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, to “communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately” to President Obama that the teachers union “is appalled” by a number of things Duncan has said and done in the name of school reform.

    Wait? Why does the NEA take such a circuitous route in conveying its message? “Dennis, tell President Obama that we don’t like what Arne Duncan is saying or doing! Were telling you, to tell him, to tell Arne, to stop!”

    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the dysfunctional world of education reform politics. The very next day the NEA passed a heavy majority vote to support candidate Obama in 2012. This gives the NEA a chance to say, “We love Obama, but dislike Arne Duncan and all that he represents and stands for!” (I think he represents Obama?).

    Unfortunately, it also gives cover for President Obama. The President has been relatively quiet lately on key education reform issues. This is unfortunate, and perhaps the Presidential Debates will give Obama the opportunity to rediscover his passionate voice for improving the dire educational opportunities for under served students in America. These students, and their parents, desperately need the “change we can believe in.”

    The President, Governors, and State Legislatures don’t lack a vision for what needs to be done to improve education in their state, they simply lack the will.

    It will be very interesting to see if Arne Duncan is still Education Secretary in a 2012 Obama Administration. The NEA has made it clear that an Obama Administration in 2012 without Secretary Duncan would be a victory that “they can believe in.”

  3. Cal Says:

    “OK, why won’t we admit it and do what?”

    And stop insisting that all kids have equal abilities–poverty or no. Some suburban kids aren’t too bright. Some poor kids are. Stop pretending that everyone can achieve at the same level, and accept that incoming achievement levels predict outcomes.

  4. Nadja Young Says:

    I agree with “The Truth” that a disproportionate number of ineffective teachers and schools exist in those low-income/high-need communities. I commented a bit more about it in my Ed blog last month: http://blogs.sas.com/content/statelocalgov/2011/11/17/giving-thanks-for-good-teachers-closing-the-achievement-gap/

    I also have to respectfully disagree with “Cal” about achievement levels predicting outcomes. If you incorporate value-added data in to the picture, you start to see a different side of the story on schooling effectiveness. A low achieving student can make great gains and move into upper achievement levels if consecutively placed with highly-effective teachers/schools. Conversely, some high-achieving students sadly slip into lower achievement levels if consecutively placed with less-effective teachers/schools.

  5. Cal Says:

    ” A low achieving student can make great gains and move into upper achievement levels if consecutively placed with highly-effective teachers/schools.”

    First, I said low ability, not low achieving. But regardless, students moving from low achieving to high achieving is rare to non-existent in the literature, and there’s zero evidence that the few occurrences were due to teacher effect. This isn’t a matter of opinion.

  6. pgteacher Says:

    Cal,

    You’ve gotta be more careful with your language here, there’s way too much open to interpretation and the “zero evidence” claim is way too strong. Case in point – Jaime Escalante’s calculus students in the 80′s. Many of his students came in as low achieving, only to pass the calculus exam by the time they left his class (if that’s not high achieving, I don’t know what is). Further, although the school culture deserves more mention than it usually gets, you’d be hard pressed to say that it wasn’t due in large part to teacher effect.

  7. J.D. Sallinger Says:

    pgteacher,

    Someone will probably point out (no doubt dutifully in his/her opinion) that Escalante’s students were accused of cheating on the AP exam. Years later, the Washington Post ran a story in which they found out that nine of the students did in fact cheat. Some will point to that as evidence that these students were therefore not “the best and the brightest” like everybody thinks. But, all of the AP calculus students re-took the exam, and were highly monitored/proctored. They passed as did subsequent classes of his students.

  8. Helen KC Says:

    I agree with “The Truth” that a disproportionate number of ineffective teachers and schools exist in those low-income/high-need communities.

  9. jmiller Says:

    But is that why those schools underperform, Helen?

    Egg. Chicken. You decide.

  10. Cal Says:

    “Case in point – Jaime Escalante’s calculus students in the 80’s. Many of his students came in as low achieving, only to pass the calculus exam by the time they left his class (if that’s not high achieving, I don’t know what is). Further, although the school culture deserves more mention than it usually gets, you’d be hard pressed to say that it wasn’t due in large part to teacher effect.”

    Actually, you have no idea if his kids came in as “low achieving”. You have, literally, no evidence that he took kids with CST scores of FBB (or the equivalent) and moved them up to Basic or Proficient.

    Two things are well-established: first, Escalante took kids and taught them for hours and hours more than is usual over a 3-4 year period. Second, while some of these kids were undoubtedly good at math (and probably had test scores to show it), others were taught Calculus by rote, according to Escalante himself.

    We have no idea what the kids knew before they got there. However, we do know that it is incredibly rare to move a kid more than one dial on the ability notch. It’s simply not done. Absent data, the logical hypothesis is not “Escalante took low-ability kids and made them high achievers” but “Escalante taught kids with unspecified skills how to pass the AP Calculus test”.

    No one who knows anything about low ability kids would ever conclude that Escalante had successfully taught them advanced math. It’s far more possible that he found high and mid ability kids and gave them motivation.

  11. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Because I live close to where Escalante taught, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with people who actually taught with him. They said that he worked mostly with the average to above-average students and secured the cooperation of their parents. Also, he was strongly backed by the principal. When he went to another school district and tried to duplicate his success with slow-learning students, he was unable to do it.

    The Escalante story tells us that when an excellent teacher teams up with supportive administrators, involved parents and motivated students with normal abilities, great strides can be made. However, there were no “miracles” here. Education requires active involvement among students, teachers, administrators and communities.

  12. pgteacher Says:

    I’ll take these on one by one. Surprised that there’s so much push back on Escalante’s legacy with little admission of the incredible work that he did in a time where few, if any, thought that success on this level was possible at all.

    Cal, you’re right to say that we have no concrete evidence that the students he had came in as low-achieving. However, consider the probabilities, especially since we have no solid evidence that they didn’t come in as low-achieving either. The school is a traditional, comprehensive high school (read: not magnet, not charter, so no power to choose its’ own population) in the East Los Angeles area with an overwhelming majority minority population.

    What’s wrong with teaching kids hours more than usual if they need it? You seem to demean it a bit in your comment. Teaching kids calculus by rote? Ahh, you must mean teaching them the rules of a logical system of mathematics. Take it from someone who’s not only received a 5 on both the AB and BC exams and have an honors degree in math from a top 5 school, very few people understand why all of calculus works, and even then, the calculus exams aren’t something that can be passed by just knowing rote calculations – there’s a significant amount of thought required in there too. If the majority of colleges in the country count a passing score on the test as good enough proof of mastery of calculus, then why won’t you?

    Also, as I said before, you really have to stop starting off lines with the words “anyone who knows anything about…” To many anti-reform readers of this blog, my master’s in secondary education qualifies me to know quite a bit about teaching in a lot of circumstances, and here I find myself seeing examples of students that start out as low ability increasing their achievement through hard work and a dedicated teacher.

    Linda, on to you. I don’t doubt that Escalante taught the middle-to-high achieving kids at Garfield. To fall back on your anecdotal standards for evidence, having attended and taught at both low and high achieving schools, I can tell you with anecdotal certainty that students in the middle and high achieving ends of a school like Garfield are rarely the types of students that you would typically see on an AP track at higher performing suburban and magnet schools, especially given the numbers of students that passed the AP Calculus exams under Escalante (nearly 10% of the senior graduating class at the height of the program).

    As for cooperation of the parents, you’ve already hit on the operative word – he “secured” the cooperation of the parents. Securing cooperation of parents is rarely something that comes easily, but it is also rarely something that doesn’t come at all with a persistent enough teacher. Escalante also didn’t have the support of his first administration at Garfield (saying that he came in too early and stayed too late), and it was the union that ended up finally pushing him out of Garfield in 1991, though not directly. Also, in his words, it was Clinton’s failure to pass a crucial piece of legislation funding the support programs leading up to his Calculus class that caused him to finally give up the AP dream.

    I agree wholeheartedly that an excellent teacher, when paired up with supportive administrators, can achieve great things – but it’s on them to secure the support of the parents and instill motivation in their students, and Escalante, if nothing else, showed that this can be done.

  13. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Yes, I do agree with you on this. Because of his excellence as a teacher, Escalante motivated his students and secured the support of the parents. Doing so is a huge part of being “excellent.” However, my point was that it was no “miracle” and it’s unlikely that he was able to succeed with students of below-average ability.

    I also agree that an excellent teacher can accomplish great things. I know because I experienced these people many times during my long career. Also my own sons were blessed with many excellent public school teachers, one of whom coached my younger son in economics until he achieved the status of the best econ student in the U.S. I believe this is what got him into Harvard.

    We have some of the greatest teachers in our schools but unfortunately many leave in their early years of service. We need to celebrate these dedicate professionals and explore ways of retaining them.

    Pgteacher, I have the strong impression that you do not plan to spend much more time as a teacher. Am I correct?

  14. pgteacher Says:

    What makes you say that, Linda?

  15. Cal Says:

    “If the majority of colleges in the country count a passing score on the test as good enough proof of mastery of calculus, then why won’t you?”

    Who said I didn’t? But without supporting evidence–SAT scores, CST scores–I’m saying that Escalante’s frequent mention that he taught kids “by rote” makes me wonder if some of his kids learned how to pass the AP Calculus test but didn’t have the underlying knowledge of math.

    That said, I think that case is only likely for a few outliers. For the most part, I suspect he took high ability kids and helped them.

    Remember, you’re the one who brought up Escalante as an attempt at a rebuttal. But Escalante isn’t a rebuttal without further evidence that the kids were low-achieving to start with.

    And don’t throw round “master’s in education” like it’s some big deal. I, too, have one, and no one pretends they’re anything of an intellectual accomplishment.

  16. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Pgteacher:

    You show little regard for the average public school teacher. People generally don’t choose a profession when they disrespect its practitioners.

    Well?

  17. pgteacher Says:

    Cal, the masters was thrown around in pure jest. I know exactly how little effort I put into the degree, but again, the “no one” you gave stands clear against the number of times this blog has had advanced education degrees defended as a mark of qualification in teaching.

    Again, I’ll go back to the facts of what we know and allow everyone to go off of inferences. We know that nearly 10% of Garfield’s senior class at the height of the program passed the AP exam for Calculus. From my standpoint, that’s a great number from any environment, let alone East LA.

    It seems like you’re arguing that the 10% of students had an inherent high ability, just not high achievement until they came to Escalante. If that’s your theory, the best I can do is refer you to Carol Dweck’s studies on fixed and growth mindsets and the research in malleable intelligence. If you disagree with those, then were at an impasse on Escalante and will have to agree to disagree.

    Linda, it makes absolutely no sense to spend any part of my life in a profession where I dispise the majority of practitioners in it. Even with an unwavering love of teaching itself, no one would make it a month without liking the people you work with. What I do get frustrated with, however, is the section of our field that doesn’t believe in the ability of all children to achieve at high levels. I get upset when I see teachers that openly reject any offers of help when they need to improve, and I get mad when the union of our county stifles any efforts to pay teachers of high needs schools more than their counterparts in wealthier areas of the county. Many teachers have their hearts in the right place, but the few that should not be in the profession are dragging the rest of us down by putting themselves ahead of our students. I can’t say that in teaching what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    To answer your question, I plan on staying in teaching as long as its the way that my talents are being best used to increase student achievement, whether that’s as a teacher, principal, or some other position in a school district. One does not have to always be a teacher to support student achievement, and in no way would my change of career have anything to do with the frustrations I occasionally feel when those that claim to speak for my profession argue for policies that help the goose while leaving the gander to fend for itself.

  18. phillipmarowe Says:

    and I get mad when the union of our county stifles any efforts to pay teachers of high needs schools more than their counterparts in wealthier areas of the county.
    Did Dr. Hite, or Dr. Deasy ever make this offer?
    Carolyn Boston or her predecessor?

    I’ve been in this county a long time, and yes, your union never made this suggestion, but neither has anyone else.
    Even Dr. Alvin Thorton never made this proposal.

    Maybe I missed your presentation to the BOE on this.

    Bring it up.
    I’ll support you, as the teachers I know will as well.
    There is a reason teachers will start at Glassmanor and try to get to Pointer Ridge.

  19. pgteacher Says:

    It was written into grants for the turnaround middle schools, where it was beaten back. As was the proposal for a longer school day at the turnaround schools – which was also written into the grant, only to be defeated by the union, despite strong support from teachers at most of the schools.

  20. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Even though the general public values physical education teachers and coaches much more than they do math or English teachers, unions and other advocates of children have worked hard to make certain the teachers of academics are paid just as much as the coach. And that’s as it should be. Look at the college level to get an idea of what will happen if the union stops fighting discrimination against the academic teacher: Math professor $90,000; football coach $3.5 million.

    Pgteacher,

    I’m betting you’ll soon be in another position in your school district – one that pays more money and has more prestige. And that, pretty much, sums up our problems with teachers. They leave.

  21. Chris Smyr Says:

    I’m saying that Escalante’s frequent mention that he taught kids “by rote” makes me wonder if some of his kids learned how to pass the AP Calculus test but didn’t have the underlying knowledge of math.

    This is pretty weak reasoning, Cal. While math departments at some universities will stress that math/science/engineering majors take the full set of math courses offered for better preparation for upper division courses regardless of AP scores, it’s incorrect to suggest that passing an AP Calculus test could count as little to no evidence of the “underlying knowledge of math” a student has gained. As pgteacher said, it’s strong enough evidence for most universities as they realize it’s practically impossible to pass the exam without understanding some of the basic fundamentals. In other words, universities will allow students to forgo spending time gaining an “underlying knowledge of math” in introductory calculus classes on campus if they can prove — through AP/IB scores — that they gained a strong enough understanding in high school.

    Is there a reason you require more evidence other than getting hung up on how he described his teaching style? And can you provide a cite supporting “Escalante’s frequent mention that he taught kids “by rote”"? I’m curious to know what teaching calculus by rote looks like.

  22. pgteacher Says:

    Linda,

    I agree about the undervaluing of math professors in college compared to a football coach in college, but the analogy is weak in middle and elementary school, and possibly even high school. In college, a football coach might bring in a significant amount of money for the school, which is never the case in K-8. Its not a perfect excuse, but at least its logical.

    Further, to argue for differential pay in a more proactive manner, a highly qualified math teacher can likely make much more in the private sector compared to the teaching job, whereas an art or history major likely makes less. If you’re looking to attract excellence, then you need to pay at the market rate, otherwise math and science majors will continue to flock to the private sector and away from schools where their relatively rare talents are needed.

  23. Cal Says:

    “It seems like you’re arguing that the 10% of students had an inherent high ability, just not high achievement until they came to Escalante.”

    I’m not “arguing” anything. You are. And your argument is unfounded on anything like, say, facts.

    I’m just pointing out that there are alternate interpretations. I’m not particularly tied to any of them, but they are all more likely than your proffer.

    And 10% passing is not all that remarkable. It does, indeed, seem like it correlates to the percentage of people that would be high ability at a high poverty school.

    “it’s incorrect to suggest that passing an AP Calculus test could count as little to no evidence of the “underlying knowledge of math” a student has gained.”

    Actually, I am aware of quite a few students who passed the AP Calculus test with a 5 yet struggled to get a 600 on the SAT Math section or the Math 2c. That describes a student who learned calculus to pass a test but had no underlying knowledge of algebra, geometry, or trigonometry.

    This is more common in high achieving schools, particularly with girl students, who often care about getting As and learning what they need to do without bothering to remember it. But I’m quite willing to believe that Escalante taught some (but not most) of his kids to get a 3 just learning calculus without the underlying math.

    I teach and tutor math, and have done both for much longer than you were ever a teacher, so my knowledge of both the subject matter and student competence is considerably better than yours.

  24. pgteacher Says:

    As I said, Cal, your underlying assumption is that students either have the ability or they don’t, and that’s fine, although I disagree with you. That disagreement is the root of our debate – whether or not you admit it to be one – and I doubt we can get past that one.

    Resorting to time spent in a profession instead of relying on the strength of your ideas won’t do much good against me or anyone else here, so go ahead and leave that out of your future comments.

  25. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal, you’re not even responding to what I wrote, as usual. Are you saying you disagree with practically every university’s decision to assume that students who pass AP exams have some degree of an “underlying knowledge of math”? It sure sounds like it.

    And I don’t really care whether or not you know “quite a few students” who prove some sort of point to you. You want this example to suggest that students who score highly on an AP Calculus exam may not understand the basics, but a high score does directly suggest they know enough to demonstrate proficiency in several basic applications of calculus. That is exactly what they would have been tested on had they opted for an entry-level calculus course at a university. The aims of both courses are congruent (hah!), so a passing score in either gives an indicator of their math proficiency. Do you have good reason to justify diminishing the use of AP scores to judge math proficiency?

    Finally, the appeal to authority is bizarre. You teach and tutor math, therefore you automatically know “both subject matter and student competence” better than me? I don’t care if you do or not, but if you’re eager then I’d love to hear the reasoning behind this one.

  26. phillipmarowe Says:

    PGTeacher,
    So it went no further?
    No attempt to explain oneself through the Post or the Gazette?
    The Post would have gone with that.
    No attempt to lobby school board members or to bring it up at PGCEA meetings?

    Could you be more specific with details.
    When did this happen?
    What schools?
    Who was representing PGCEA on this, Lewis Robinson?
    What were their objections?
    FIRST is occurring in a few schools, so I don’t see how this comes into play?

  27. Cal Says:

    “As I said, Cal, your underlying assumption is that students either have the ability or they don’t, and that’s fine, although I disagree with you. ”

    But we’re not debating my underlying assumption. We’re debating your rebuttal, which you haven’t supported. I could care less whether you agree or disagree with me, so long as you accept that Escalante isn’t worth a penny as rebuttal.

    I’m not appealing to authority. Nor am I questioning that a student who passed the AP Calc test would be treated as someone who understood the underlying math, whether they did or not–only that without question, some students can and do pass AP Calc without underlying knowledge.

    Again, all I’m doing is pointing out that there is no evidence anywhere that teachers can change underlying ability level. That was my original argument. PG said Escalante proved me wrong. PG is incorrect.

    So, back to the original question that eduwonk asked: Why don’t we admit it (that class matters) and do what? My answer: And start admitting that ability matters, that lack of income probably correlates to a higher lack of ability, and so on. Stop pretending that a school’s low scores is de facto evidence of anything until the underlying ability has been established.

    In your response, PG, try to use actual data if you want to argue that teachers can take low ability kids and make them high ability. You’ve acknowledged that Escalante doesn’t make the grade.

  28. pgteacher Says:

    Cal,

    Many would accept Escalante as a rebuttal, but as you won’t, I’ll move on from it for now to go back to what I just said. If you’re going to stick to a fixed-ability belief, then we’re at an impasse. I could spend my time finding the examples while on my phone on a beach, but as with your point earlier you can claim that the teacher was with high ability kids that were just given the motivation needed to succeed.

    Do you have any evidence to claim that outside of the outliers that there is an underlying ability level past which students can’t achieve? I would love to see it, I know it would really help me clarify what my expectations should be with my currently low achieving students.

  29. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    “Low achieving” and “low ability” are not the same. I have a sister and a niece who are “low ability.” These people have a very difficult time learning new material even when they try really hard. It is a disability caused by many factors. A low-achieving person, on the other hand, is often a person of normal to high intelligence who does not achieve academically, although such a person might be quite good at other things.

    Some of us are trying to make the point that an excellent teacher, such as Escalante, can make a huge difference for the low achiever, but probably not the person of low ability.

  30. pgteacher Says:

    What percent of an urban school would you characterize as low ability? Of course they’re not the same, but no one here claimed that Escalante took kids with significant learning diabilities and made them AP success stories.

    If a student has not achieved at a high level and does not have a learning disability, are they low achieving by your definition?

  31. Cal Says:

    Exactly (to Linda).

    The trick is, as Linda observes, finding the mid-to-high ability low achievers and getting them back on track. That’s the nirvana of teaching. Unfortunately, they aren’t as common as we’d like to believe, although they do exist.

    The best way to start figuring out the difference between high and low ability is to test cognitive ability and determine how it links to achievement, how teachers can best motivate and teach low ability kids, and what, if any, different methods should be used.

    But in order to do that, we’d have to acknowledge cognitive ability, and that involves a lot of discomfort.

  32. Cal Says:

    “What percent of an urban school would you characterize as low ability? ”

    We don’t know. That’s my point. Idiot eduformers yammer about low test scores as evidence of bad teaching, when we have no idea about the cognitive ability of the students.

    So for starters, although it’s an imperfect measure, test cognitive ability through IQ. The average IQ at a high poverty school will be significantly lower than that of a suburban school. The average IQ of whites, regardless of income level, is higher than that of blacks (poor whites outscore high income blacks on most cognitive tests).

    If, instead, you find that the average IQ of students is the same, then we can talk about the teachers.

  33. pgteacher Says:

    Cal,

    What research do you use to support the fixed cognitive ability claims you’re making?

  34. pgteacher Says:

    And that comment on average IQ of poor whites against high income blacks is begging for a citation as well.

  35. Chris Smyr Says:

    “Nor am I questioning that a student who passed the AP Calc test would be treated as someone who understood the underlying math, whether they did or not–only that without question, some students can and do pass AP Calc without underlying knowledge.

    How many is “some”? What level of underlying knowledge do these “some” not possess? And how many of the students who had passed AP Calculus in Escalante’s class similarly passed “without underlying knowledge”? You’re not going to be able to provide me with actual numbers but I’m just curious what percentages you’d expect.

    You agree that students who pass would be “treated as someone who understood”, but not that they all actually understand? So you actually disagree with universities when it is assumed that passing AP Calculus is a strong enough indicator to demonstrate proficiency in entry-level Calculus. That’s a pretty bold position. But I’m sure you know more math than they do, being a math tutor and teacher and all, so I guess it’s alright.

    Students who pass AP Calculus have already shown that they possess some “underlying knowledge of math”. They know enough to demonstrate proficiency in several basic applications of calculus. They would be tested on the same material in a university-level class. Once again, if you are not willing to admit this, you hold a position contrary to just about every university in the nation.

  36. Cal Says:

    PG,

    Mainstream science on intelligence says that IQ is largely fixed by childhood. It’s not in dispute. It’s just a fact people routinely ignore in mouthing platitudes.

    Ditto poor whites against high income blacks. Go to the California CST results. Search on Economically Disadvantaged Whites. Look at the scores. Then look at Non-Economically Disadvantaged Blacks. Their scores will be lower.

    The College Board stopped breaking down scores by both race and income once it became painfully evident that poor whites were outscoring high income blacks.

    The data is everywhere.

    And I want to be clear that I am not positing, nor do I have any idea as to, the cause of the IQ differences. But they do exist, and to ignore them and yammer on about how bad teachers are causing a gap that is almost certainly caused primarily by cognitive differences is just nonsense.

  37. Chris Smyr Says:

    And, Cal, I asked you for a citation on where Escalante said he taught calculus by rote. I read an article about him describing his program and techniques. Didn’t mention teaching by rote, but here are some other interesting passages to note:

    I do not recruit these students by reviewing test scores or grades, nor are they necessarily among the “gifted” or on some kind of “high IQ track”, because I believe that tracking is unworkable and unproven as a guarantee that students will be channeled into the program of classes best suited to them. My sole criterion for acceptance in this program is that the student wants to be a part of it and sincerely wants to learn math.

    [...]

    In 1979, when junior high school teachers would tell me, “Take Johnny, he’s gifted in math,” I would almost always ignore them. Such a recommendation was almost a guarantee that I would pass that child over. If the child was in fact gifted, I figured he or she would need less help from the teacher. Instead, I often chose the rascals and kids who were “discipline problems,” as well as those who simply liked math. I found that the “class cut-ups” were often the most intelligent, but were extremely bored by poor teaching and disillusioned by the perceived dead-end that school represented for them.

    [...]

    The movie Stand and Deliver brought home several important points. First, no one expected severely disadvantaged barrio students to achieve academic excellence. The movie also revealed that some educators hold the false and racist idea that Hispanic students are not as smart as some others, and that they shy away from courses that require hard work. It also showed how an even more insidious prejudice leads to a prevailing opinion that requiring academic excellence from poverty-level students presents a grave risk to their “fragile” self-esteem.

    I am happy to say that our program has proved that logic to be faulty. When students of any race, ethnicity, or economic status are expected to work hard, they will usually rise to the occasion, devote themselves to the task, and do the work. If we expect kids to be losers they will be losers, if we expect them to be winners they will be winners. They rise, or fall, to the level of the expectations of those around them, especially their parents and their teachers.

    (The Jaime Escalante Math Program. Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 59, No. 3. 1990)

  38. pgteacher Says:

    Cal,

    My mistake, I thought you’d be able to find me data on cognitive ability, not CST scores, as I asked for and you claimed to have. Unless you’re claiming that standardized test scores are a measure of inherent cognitive ability, but that’s a different claim entirely.

    Best I can find in my quick search – again, of cognitive ability measures, not CST scores – is that the black white gap has closed by about a third in the last 30 years or so and that education accounts for about a third of the present gap.

  39. Cal Says:

    PG, if you know that little about ability, then there’s not much point in doing a “quick read up”. The black white gap in IQ hasn’t closed. Full stop. The black mean IQ has been 1.5 SD below that of whites ever since we started measuring. It’s very consistent. If you do the math, you will see that that simple fact necessarily means that poor whites have higher average IQs than wealthy blacks. And if you don’t see how poor whites outscoring high income blacks on math achievement tests doesn’t suggest something about ability, then you really aren’t up to the discussion, so go back to mouthing platitudes.

    Try reading the piece Mainstream Science on Intelligence to get a starting grasp of what you don’t know.

  40. pgteacher Says:

    Check Rush 2001 for a 1.1 standard deviation difference in black and white average IQs. Dickens and Flynn in 2006 found the one-third narrowing of the gap since 1972, which was confirmed by Murray in 2006. I will gladly take counter citations for your claim of 1.5 standard deviations of difference and two counter citations against my narrowing of the gap claim.

    Again, just doing the math, I believe that puts about 15% (conservatively) of blacks above the white population mean. Now here I’ll make an assumption I can’t universally support, but its not terrible either, but I would guess that wealthier people tend to have higher IQs regardless of race, which means that those high income blacks in that 15% have a higher IQ than even middle income whites, not to mention the low-income whites at the lower end of the IQ distribution. Where’s the calculations to back up your claim?

  41. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal’s given source states a black-white IQ gap of 1 SD, not 1.5. “The data is everywhere”, yet the data she gives she misquotes, or misinterprets. There are *many* alternative explanations for a difference in CST/SAT scores between the rich and poor, or between black and white students. Demanding the difference be attributed to cognitive differences is absurd.

    To Cal, it’s a good enough reason to explain achievement gaps by stating unequivocally that minorities are just, on average, less intelligent than their white peers. One wonders what Escalante or any of his students would have said in reply.

    Finally, where’s the response to what I wrote before, Cal? You do this all the time. Are you just too knowledgeable a math tutor and teacher to need to give one?

  42. pgteacher Says:

    Linda,

    Just wanted to make sure my question for you wasn’t lost in the shuffle. Do you define low ability as students with learning disabilities, or is there a broader working definition you have? Stated another way, if a student isn’t high achieving and doesn’t have a learning disability (regardless of being diagnosed with one or not), are they just low achieving or could they still be low ability?

  43. Cal Says:

    PG, mean IQ of blacks is 85. Mean IQ of whites is 100. I thought the SD was 10, but the SD is 15, which means it’s 1 SD. Sorry about that.

    Now consider where we started and where you are now. At first, you were denying that there was such a thing as low ability. Now you busy arguing over whether the IQ gap is 1 or 1.5 SDs. You have given up so much ground you’re now arguing over a gopherhole. So before we go any further, suppose you acknowledge my original point:

    “Stop pretending that everyone can achieve at the same level, and accept that incoming achievement levels predict outcomes.”

    Because the questions you’re now asking are very, very niggling. One might almost say a tad desperate. Surely you grasp that the gaps we’re talking about explain a huge amount of the achievement gap? So all you’re doing now is arguing about a couple IQ points.

    “Stated another way, if a student isn’t high achieving and doesn’t have a learning disability (regardless of being diagnosed with one or not), are they just low achieving or could they still be low ability?”

    I don’t know what Linda’s answer is, but mine is simple: the way to assess ability is to assess cognitive ability, either by IQ or something else. Most teachers, however, can easily intuit the difference between low achievement and low ability, even though the precise measurements can only be found by test.

    You’ve just spent several posts asking about (and apparently reading about) IQ. Surely you don’t need to play dumb about the difference between achievement and ability.

  44. pgteacher Says:

    Cal,

    I don’t even know where to go with this. Your selective reading of Chris and I’s points here is astounding, and your interpretation of what’s above is equally incredible.

    If you had evidence somewhere that rebuts your inference that IQ is a standard measure throughout life (after early childhood, as you said), you may have some ground to stand on here. I have already cited my source claiming such.

    What of the other supporting claims you made in favor of your original point? You conceded the misquoting of your source (the fact that you misquoted is ironic given the flood of ad hominem attacks you levied at me for not fully understanding the race and IQ issue), but you gave nothing to support your big claim that poor whites outscore wealthy blacks other than “if you do the math…” I did, and mine didn’t support your claim, so the ball is in your court there.

    Where is a source to back up the claim the achievement levels early on determine outcomes (going all the way back to your original claim here)? Head Start closes much of the gap early on, only to see it widen again. Hanushek’s research supports that widening being the result of ineffective teaching, and writes that effective teachers can move students 1.5 years every year they have them. Where’s the counter claim for you?

    In addition to addressing the parts of my rebuttal that you chose not to tackle – for fear that you don’t have a sufficient answer, no doubt – I want to remind you that Chris has a few questions for you as well.

  45. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Pgteacher:

    As Cal suggests, it is fairly easy for a teacher to tell the difference between a low-achieving child and one with low ability.

    I don’t support the use of IQ tests or any other test of cognitive ability as the sole criterion for determining whether or not a child has low ability. I just don’t like the idea of using one or two tests to label a child as “low IQ” or “learning disabled.” As a teacher I always used to ask myself, “Would you want this for your own child?” If the answer was “No” I would not advocate it for my students. And I would definitely NOT want my own child labeled on the basis of one or two tests.

    There is another way to determine if a child is low ability. First you talk to the parents, who usually know already that the child is “slow” or “behind.” They will tell you about birth defects, failure to meet developmental milestones, early illnesses affecting the brain (meningitis, etc.) drugs in utero and so forth. Next, interventions should be planned for the child where several teachers are involved. Provide the best possible instruction for the child, using different approaches. If the child tries hard but can’t seem to grasp or retain anything, he is probably a low-ability child. Once it is established that the child has great difficulty learning, then it is appropriate to have a psychologist administer an IQ test and advise the parents.

    We all know that many factors can affect the cognitive ability of a child. Some of them are: inadequate medical care, lead poisoning, drugs in utero, child abuse (shaken baby etc.) poor nutrition, little stimulation in the first months of life, etc. Well, we know that these conditions are real and they are more often seen in high poverty areas. We should not ignore these children or pretend that they don’t exist. They need our help.

  46. Attorney DC Says:

    Linda: Well said. Though I’d have to add that it’s not only ‘poverty’ that affects academic or other abilities. Part of it is genetic (heritability of IQ is high, which I believe is supported by twin studies). And some people simply have more of an aptitude for some subjects or fields than other subjects or fields. For example, I’ve known people who are very good at most subjects, but who struggle learning another language, or who are very skilled verbally, but tend to struggle with math.

    Point being that not all differences between students are due to their current teacher or school – some differences are due to their environment, parenting, genetics, earlier academic experiences and/or a host of other factors.

  47. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Yes, I forgot to mention genetics. Of course, some people are born with low ability. With appropriate instruction though, most of these individuals can learn enough to lead happy and productive lives. Just don’t force Algebra on them and then blame the teacher when they fail to grasp it.

  48. phillipmarowe Says:

    So, PGTeacher,
    where and when did this happen, what were the excuses given by who, and what publicity was sought?
    Thanks.

  49. Attorney DC Says:

    Linda, I agree with your post: “With appropriate instruction though, most of these individuals can learn enough to lead happy and productive lives. Just don’t force Algebra on them and then blame the teacher when they fail to grasp it.”

  50. The Truth Says:

    IQ exams may not be an accurate measure of intelligence if blacks and whites are not equally motivated to take them for non genetic reasons (i.e. lack of belief in the purpose of the test, belief that the test may be biased, poverty, stereotype threat, etc.)

  51. Cal Says:

    It’s really amazing how utterly ignorant people are on the subject of IQ–or, more generally, cognitive ability.

    In short–IQ tests are extremely accurate, more accurate than many other measurements we take for granted. It has been well established for generations that there’s no bias against race or culture. In fact, questions with the least bias often have the largest racial gap.

    So yes, IQ exams are accurate. I’m not an IQ purist; there are many other ways to measure cognitive ability. They all show the same results.

  52. LP Says:

    Cal – you still haven’t provided a shred of evidence to support your claim that one’s IQ is never subject to change. Well, here’s evidence that it is:

    In layman’s terms:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111020024329.htm

    And here’s the citation:

    Ramsden S, Richardson FM, Josse G, Thomas MSC, Ellis C, Shakeshaft C, Seghier ML, Price CJ. “Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brain”. Nature. 479, 113–116 (03 November 2011)
    doi:10.1038/nature10514

    Pretty inconvenient for those who believe there are no bad teachers, only bad students.

  53. PhillipMarlowe Says:

    According to Professor Price, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, it is not clear why IQ should have changed so much and why some people’s performance improved while others’ declined.

  54. LP Says:

    This is relatively new research, so of course causality isn’t clear yet. What is clear is that IQ is not fixed. Therefore, the assumption that students labeled “low-ability” based on their IQ will always be low-ability and have poorer education outcomes is simply false.

  55. Cal Says:

    “. What is clear is that IQ is not fixed. ”

    Actually, that’s not clear at all–certainly not from the cite you provided. However, it’s also clear that I never said IQ was fixed. Had I been asked, I would have said what is generally acknowledged, that IQ seems largely fixed by childhood, although there’s always hope that this is wrong.

    “Therefore, the assumption that students labeled “low-ability” based on their IQ will always be low-ability and have poorer education outcomes is simply false.”

    Again, I never said this. Pay attention:

    There is NO EVIDENCE of any teacher taking low ability kids and turning them into high ability kids. None. Zip. Nada. For that matter, there’s very little evidence of taking low SCORING kids and turning them reliably into high SCORING kids. It does happen, but there’s no reliable causality. Note that none of this mentions IQ.

    In other words, the most likely cause for schools with low scores is students with low ability, not bad teachers or low expectations.

    Is it likely that low achieving kids are always low achieving? Yes. Are some of the low achieving kids high ability? Yes, but it’s unlikely to be very many.

    The point is that any look at low scoring schools must start by looking at the underlying ability. Start at kindergarten. Test incoming students. Regardless of income or location, how do low ability students do? How do high ability students do?

    But no, eduformers go on ranting about how low scores means terrible teachers, as if it’s totally outside the realm of possibility that low scores means low ability.

  56. pgteacher Says:

    Cal,

    Let’s take this point by point.

    1. “IQ is fixed by childhood” is generally acknowledged by whom? Please provide a citation for that.

    2. The best I’ve heard so far on what constitutes a “low-ability” student came from Linda, who essentially equated them to special education students, with the allowance that some of them just aren’t diagnosed properly. Do you agree with this working definition (in addition to your IQ claim)?

    3. At what IQ would you begin to say that a student is “low ability”? Is it 95? 90? 85? Lower?

    4. Once you’ve decided on your answer to #3, at what grade level can we reasonably expect that student to achieve at a proficient level before it simply becomes too hard for them? Recall that in many states, the bar for proficiency is actually quite low (for instance, in Maryland, a student only needs to score a 50% on the state tests at the end of the year to be deemed “proficient” in a subject)

    5. Suppose we do decide that urban schools are simply packed with low ability students. Other than not holding teachers accountable for the achievement of their students, what policy measures would you propose here?

    No need to call me ignorant in your reply either, Cal. Many readers and commenters on this blog have already made up their minds on my relative ignorance of matters, and all that it does is make you look intolerant of those that you think aren’t as cognitively able as you are.

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