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

  1. Cal

    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.

  2. LP

    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:

    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)

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

  3. PhillipMarlowe

    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.

  4. LP

    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.

  5. Cal

    “. 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.

  6. pgteacher


    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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