Resident Knowledge?

The new evaluation of Boston Teacher Residency* ($) is worth checking out, Sawchuk has a solid write-up here. The Boston Teacher Residency, a flagship teacher preparation program, is a residency-based teacher preparation program where teachers learn in a job-embedded setting. Punchline on the results: The program’s candidates struggle the first couple of years and then start to outpace other teachers, on average.  It’s pretty small n stuff but nonetheless interesting.  The study raises a host of questions and issues, here are a few.

First, and I’m reading between the lines just a bit here because I’ve seen more data on this,  it seems like diversity is a sleeper issue here.  BTR seeks to improve diversity in the teaching force – a worthy goal to be sure – yet the performance-trends indicate that efforts to do so must be coupled with intensive support.  Looking holistically at teacher preparation it may well be that selectivity and intensity of training can be inversely related, at least to a point, across various programs.  That idea would obviously be at odds with the common notion that we need task forces, commissions, etc…to divine the one best way or system for training teachers.

Second, on the performance issue, the Ed Week headline is interesting, “Teacher Residents Seen Outpacing Peers in Later Years.”  That’s quite right but it’s not how Teach For America research – which clearly shows that TFA teachers outpace in the early years – is generally presented. Perhaps editors just don’t dig into the data but I actually think it’s something else.  And I don’t mean to pit the two programs against one another but I think this illustrates a prevalent bias in our field – rooting against the upstarts.  There is a deeply seeded desire to believe that things from within the system can work – and sometimes they do, of course, and sometimes ideas from outside the system don’t. But this sentiment and concern about the more disruptive things going on can cloud how we look at various pieces of information in a pretty basic glass half-full/glass half-empty sort of way.  Put more plainly, if this study was about Teach For America teachers I suspect the headline in many papers would have been – “Teach For America teachers struggle in their first two years.”

There is also a more substantive issue here. I think Teach For America works because – despite all the crazy rhetoric about the program – the evidence (to be clear by which I mean actual studies with actual quantitative research methods) makes it pretty plain that on average TFA teachers do no harm in the classroom and are a good choice relative to other options. I think the secondary impacts of TFA are tremendous but classroom impact has to be paramount.  The other day in a meeting someone noted that Wendy Kopp was sitting atop the most powerful human capital pipeline of the last quarter-century.  It’s not an overstatement, it’s 20K alums are all over the place and in cities around the country you see them playing instrumental roles in all sorts of high-velocity education projects (Bellwether is crawling with them). Complaints that TFA devalues the teaching profession, could be made better with various changes, and other long term impact questions etc…are all legitimate points to argue, even if you don’t agree – I don’t, but TFA is not harming students.  In this case BTR, however, raises the exact same question.  In the first two years its teachers struggle relative to other teachers.  To its credit BTR is seeking to address this but while I may have missed it I didn’t see a lot of concern about this issue in the wake of the evaluation.  Double standard?  Sure.  But that’s the easy part.  The harder issue is the question of just how much adverse impact are we willing to tolerate in the service of other goals? Right now the answer is situational although ironically TFA doesn’t put that on the table, BTR does, at least based on the data available now. No one is picking it up though.  At least thus far.

Finally, enormous cost-benefit questions embedded in all this.  The preparation/training conversation can’t happen in a fiscal vacuum.  I favor a variety of routes into the field with common high bars, and am comfortable with investing more to achieve other goals, for instance diversity, because education is not a purely utilitarian or economic undertaking.  But that doesn’t mean cost-benefit considerations should not enter into the public policy conversation – and today they generally don’t when it comes to teacher preparation.  Hard to look around and conclude that’s not going to have to change.

*Disc - BW worked with BTR earlier this year.

43 thoughts on “Resident Knowledge?

  1. Cal

    The one thing never mentioned in these “teacher diversity” issues is whether or not the teachers have to meet the same content knowledge requirements (passing state tests) or not. If they did, then there’s not really much in the way of “focus on diversity”. If, on the other hand, part of what they are doing in this intensive coaching is giving the teachers the knowledge to pass the content tests, then it might explain the low results at first. But it’s never mentioned one way or the other, and all eduformers are ignorant about teacher content tests, so they never think to ask.

  2. Cal

    Where relevant. Not all states use Praxis. California has its own. But yes, I’m referring to Praxis II, not Praxis I.

  3. pgteacher

    Checking up on the BTR and MA DoE websites shows that BTR teachers end their residency year with a “Massachusetts Initial Teacher License,” which requires a passing score on the MTEL, the MA equivalent of the Praxis II content. This doesn’t necessarily mean that support during their residency year isn’t in part targeted to passing the content tests, but it does rule out the possibility of support and intensive coaching for passing those content tests after their residency year.

    On another note, why do you go out of your way to bash “idiot eduformers” (quote taken from another one of your comments on another post) in such a way? It took all of five minutes to do the research needed to answer your question, so why not spend that five minutes on your own? My guess for why it wasn’t mentioned is that almost all alternative preparation programs I know of (at least the ones on the East Coast states, including but not limited to TFA, TNTP, and the host of other alternative cert. programs done by universities out here) require teachers to have passed the Praxis II content tests before ever getting the provisional certification needed to be the teacher of record in a classroom. In that light, the reason for omission seems to make sense to me. Is it really that the eduformers are ignorant, or are you scraping for reasons to label them as such?

  4. Cal

    “My guess for why it wasn’t mentioned is that almost all alternative preparation programs I know of (at least the ones on the East Coast states, including but not limited to TFA, TNTP, and the host of other alternative cert. programs done by universities out here) require teachers to have passed the Praxis II content tests before ever getting the provisional certification needed to be the teacher of record in a classroom. ”

    Why do you go out of your way to speculate things that you know nothing about?

    Yes, I do think eduformers are ignorant of teaching content test requirements. That’s why they babble on endlessly about SAT and GRE scores.

  5. Cal

    Nothing wrong with speculation per se, PG. It’s the combination with your ignorance that’s the problem.

    In fact, once I realized that your comments are always ignorance coupled with a google, I looked at your answer here and realized that you were not even providing what I asked for. So I went looking for it myself–which I often don’t do because in other sites, with better commenters, will often provide the real-life input I’m looking for. Here, alas, not so.

    Anyway, here’s the relevant info:

    “Do I have to take the MTEL before applying to BTR?

    No, BTR does not require applicants to have already taken/passed the MTEL at the time of application to the program. [So don’t let that hold you back from applying early!] However, because it is a requirement to get licensed, graduate from BTR, and get hired by the Boston Public Schools, we strongly urge all applicants to prepare for and take the MTEL as early as possible. Remember, BTR is a rigorous 13-month program – and the last thing you’ll want to do on a Saturday while a full-time grad student and almost-full-time teacher is spend the day taking tests. Also, taking the MTEL early will allow you to focus your energies on preparing to be a great teacher [instead of preparing for tests]. It will also allow us to identify Teacher Residents who may need additional support for test preparation.

    Do I have to take the MTEL once I’m accepted to BTR?

    YES. While we understand that not everyone may be able to take all required components of the MTEL during the admissions process [although it is highly recommended!], we do expect all accepted and enrolled Teacher Residents to commit to taking each unpassed test at each upcoming test date until all components have been passed. In other words, after acceptance notifications for Early Admissions are sent in late January, enrolled residents for Cohort 10 must take all outstanding MTELs at the next available test date. Residents unable to meet these requirements due to extenuating circumstances [living in an area that does not offer MTEL] or prior commitment must submit a formal request to miss a test date.”

    That’s the kind of answer you give to a teacher base that is extremely worried about passing the test. They even have a whole process for missing test dates.

    In contrast, here’s UMASS:

    “The University’s policy is that:
    – Undergraduates must achieve a passing score on the C&LS test as a pre-requisite for
    –Post-baccalaureate and graduate students must achieve a passing score on the C&LS test in
    their first semester of study.
    –All students must pass the Subject test(s) (if one has been developed for that licensure field) before enrolling in the practicum.

    That’s considerably more stringent. This supports, but doesn’t prove, my theory that part of the goal of “diversity” programs is to support URM candidates to apply and feel less discouraged about the tests. If everyone in the program is struggling to pass the tests, they may feel more at ease. And it really does suggest that there’s additional support.

    But again, the reason I asked was because I wondered if someone had actual knowledge, as opposed to my fabulously informed speculation, of the goals and support mechanisms of these “alternate” programs designed to support URMs through to a teaching credential. Since the one big barrier they have is the content knowledge requirements, that seemed the logical difference.

  6. pgteacher

    In what way did my initial response contradict anything you said? I quite clearly allowed for support during the residency year, and then added a comment that many alt. cert. programs seem to be the same in that regard. I didn’t argue anything about your claims on diversity – in fact, they seem to make a lot of sense, especially from hearing about it from colleagues in alt. cert. programs in my school. I did take a stand against your continued unnecessary vitriol targeted against ed reformers. I understand, but don’t agree, when Linda or others have substantive differences in perception, but rarely have their comments been sprinkled with ad hominem attacks.

    If this site is such a waste for you, then why bother? With all of your experience in both teaching AND tutoring math, I’m sure your opinions would be welcome in many other blogs.

  7. phillipmarowe

    Sawchuck’s review leaves alot to be desired, though I suppose that is from the study itself.
    All that we get from this is that according to test scores, BTRs’ students score better when their BTR has a few years of experience.
    The WHY is missing.

  8. Chris Smyr

    You’ve not once explained the part where pgteacher comes off as ignorant, Cal. Maybe you should do that if you keep wanting to write it.

    A lot of your latest comment is worthless, in that it answers a question you yourself raised, with a lot of whining about why you had to answer it yourself. Not only did pgteacher answer your question already, but you are again misrepresenting your sources, since taken from the exact same link I find this:

    Admission to STEP is competitive and is based on the following criteria:

    * a strong background in a subject field;
    * a commitment to learning;
    * an interest in and respect for diversity and willingness to work for an equitable society through the profession of education;
    * potential for leadership through teaching, compatibility of applicant’s goals with STEP goals and resources; and
    * a passing score on the Communication and Literacy
    Skills test of the MTEL (Recommended for all students. Required for undergraduates.)

    UMASS only recommends that a portion of the MTEL is passed before admission for outside applicants, that part being the CLS.

    In response to your inane comparison between BTR’s FAQ and an informational pamphlet about UMASS’s STEP program, where you implied the difference in language helps confirm that STEP has “considerably more stringent” requirements than BTR, a more correct comparison would be between their FAQ sites:

    Can I take MTEL preparation workshops? 

    * Yes, preparation workshops in several formats are offered.  Communication and Literacy Skills Test (CLS) workshops are offered (See this LINK for information) by the School of Education, Educator Licensure Advisory Council, and the Division of Continuing Education. Contact individual programs for Subject Matter test preparation and information.

    Which MTEL tests do I have to pass in order to be accepted into STEP?

    * The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) includes a test of Communication and Literacy skills and tests of Subject Matter Knowledge.  THE Communication and Literacy Test must be passed by the end of your first semester, and we advise you to take it prior to admission. The subject amtter [sic] test must be passed in order to student teach. Again, we advise taking this tet [sic] as soon as possible.


    Language is very similar between the two.

    One wonders what the CLS portion of the MTEL entails for it to be required for undergraduates and recommended for all other applicants to the licensing program at UMASS. Surely it must be a very difficult test for all of those scared BTR teachers to require hand-holding by a trained mentor! Or maybe instead of “speculating” I could look it up:

    The multiple-choice and short-answer items on the [CLS] test cover the skill areas as indicated in the chart above [which includes an understanding of such items as "Meaning of Words and Phrases" and "Spelling, Capitalization, Punctuation"]. The open-response items require candidates to prepare written responses to demonstrate mastery of vocabulary, grammar, mechanics, summarizing, and development of ideas in essay form on specified topics.


    So what was your point, Cal? The MTEL requirements are definitely not much different between the two. Neither program is going to be much help in support related to passing the CLS, a test designed to make sure aspiring teachers know how to read and write, although there are even CLS workshops being held at UMASS just to be sure. Both programs allow for the student to take the rest of the MTEL — like the more relevant content tests — after already being admitted. Thus, your contention that there is additional support in BTR regarding content exams is lacking (to say the very least).

  9. GGW


    1. Good blog.

    I’d add one more point. When we look at all teacher prep pipelines, from TFA to residencies to various ed schools, what is striking is how close the BEST are to the rest (in value added). Ie, nobody is a standout minter of rookie teachers.

    By contrast, among charters, there are standouts. That is, there exist schools which generate far, far higher than expected achievement gains.

    The biggest story here is of 5,000 charters, there are few like KIPP and Uncommon far above normal levels, but of 1,000 teacher prep programs, there are zero far above average.

    2. Suggestion: consider a moderated comments section. You do have this fairly devoted tribe of readers who are interested in the details, but you have a few whiners who kill most threads. Ie, it’s like you write about football (ed reform), these commenters hate football, and constantly write about how football is dumb.

    Since these few commenters tend to show up on other edu-threads, how about let them happily engage there?

  10. Cal

    “The biggest story here is of 5,000 charters, there are few like KIPP and Uncommon far above normal levels, but of 1,000 teacher prep programs, there are zero far above average.”

    KIPP is a school. Do you need to be told that schools aren’t the same as teacher prep programs? Because I can’t think of any other reason why you would be comparing the two.

    KIPP does not have “far above normal levels”. KIPP is moderately successful, through weeding and creaming, at educating highly motivated kids with relatively low ability levels in elementary school. But whatever. KIPP achieves whatever it does with hires from teacher prep programs. Do I have to explain how this further obliterates whatever point you had in comparing KIPP to ed schools?

    Finally, there are more teacher prep programs (aka ed schools) that are given high marks by outside agencies than there are charter schools with high marks. Frankly, I think the ratings for both are absurd, but so long as you’re talking about “above average”, you should be consistent.

    “it’s like you write about football (ed reform), these commenters hate football, and constantly write about how football is dumb.”

    Yet another dreadful comparison. Eduwonk is making assertions to support “ed reform as I want it is wonderful” and other people write comments saying “No, you’re wrong, ed reform as you want it is a terrible idea”.

    So you are suggesting that he moderate comments so that only people who approve of his version of ed reform are welcome–that is, post if you agree with him. Fine, and it’s his blog, but he would get a fair amount of criticism for doing that. Better to just disallow comments entirely.

    Which would be a good thing. The commenters unique to this blog (Smyr chief among them) are really pretty awful.

  11. Chris Smyr

    Seriously, Cal? Another non-response? How unexpected!

    Here’s an idea: let’s just ban folks who have had every available chance to engage in an honest discussion about the issues surrounding ed reform, but instead choose to take the easy, cowardly approach to online debates, and that is by not bothering to finish them. We could have an Eduwonk “Standards & Practices” similar to that found on the very popular science/atheist blog, Pharyngula. We could even have a dungeon, too!

    (I know that Andy doesn’t have the time to do this so, sadly, this is nothing more than an item on my wishlist for 2012, penciled in below “ending poverty”)

  12. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    We are unlikely to see an end to poverty in the near future but we can eliminate some of the worst effects of poverty for our least advantaged children. Please join teachers and other child advocates in destroying the status quo of education by zip code. Other countries have done it and so can we. Thank you.

  13. Cal

    Phew, I knew I was agreeing with you too much!

    There’s no evidence that putting poor kids in suburbia improves results. That is, after all, what NCLB proved.

    The reason low income schools have such dreadful results is the concentration of low ability kids, not because they need suburban kids around to do better.

  14. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Yes, it’s true that if we just look at test scores, we won’t see much improvement with poor kids in suburbia. However, if you look at those children twenty years later, I believe you will see that the life chances of many were significantly improved by associating with mainstream classmates. Read biographies and memoirs of successful people (including Geoffrey Canada) and you will see that many people who started out in impoverished areas, were “rescued” by relatives or scholarships that helped them get out of impoverished schools. The real life subject of the film “Blind Side” (Michael Oher) believes that his life was “saved” by the people who helped him get out of his neighborhood. He stated that none of his former classmates “made it.”

    When I refer to “education by zip code” I am not just referring to the status quo of going to school where you live (although that’s a big part of it) but by the general inequity of public schools for the affluent and the poor. Visit the public schools in Palos Verdes CA and then contrast them with those in nearby Compton. This is not right and we all pay a huge price for it. True educational reform will happen in the United States when the average citizens begins to really care about those “other” kids. With enough resources, even those “low-achieving” students can learn and can be successful but we must invest in them.

  15. Cal

    Michael Oher was adopted by a white family. That’s a whole lot different than just putting him in a suburban school. In fact, he failed that school and had to go through all sorts of permutations just to graduate (funded by his adopted family). And, as you acknowledge, test scores are not any better.

    Then again, you’re stuck with the reality that poor white kids outscore non-poor black kids and usually tie non-poor Hispanic kids. Putting poor white kids next to non-poor black kids wouldn’t help–in fact, it might hurt their scores. We already know, thanks to tons of data, that putting poor and non-poor Hispanic kids next to poor and non-poor Asians doesn’t help.

    In short, there’s volumes and reams of data showing that your fond fantasy of “exposure to better test scores” doesn’t matter in the slightest, and putting poor kids in rich schools has been shown, time and again, not to help.

    The rest of your statement is equally wrong. We invest a fortune in those “other” kids. Education by zip code hasn’t been the case for decades, very few schools fund directly by property tax any more. DC spends a fortune per kid–how’s that working out?

    It’s absolutely untrue to say we don’t spend money on poor kids. It’s just unpleasant to acknowledge that the money doesn’t help.

  16. pgteacher


    There you go again, writing about the “reality” that “poor white kids outscore non-poor black kids” without providing a citation, despite being asked repeatedly by me and having your math worked out and contested. You speak often of “volumes of data” without having provided any. When will you start to give us what we’re all asking for?

    Of course, as Chris has said multiple times, you’re most likely to ignore these requests and move on to another thread to dispute someone’s comment – without resorting to citations again – so that you never actually get called out on it.

  17. Cal

    Don’t be silly. I gave you a cite. The CSTs all show that poor white kids outscore non-poor black kids. The NAEP shows poor white kids tying or beating non-poor black kids, depending on the year. You even looked them up and concurred. This is all generally available data.

    So again: Google CST Results. Bring up Test Results. Search first on Economically Disadvantaged Whites. Look at the results. Search then on Non-Economically Disadvantaged Blacks. The scores will be lower. Then do a search on Non-Economically Disadvantaged Hispanics–you’ll see that they are a tiny bit higher, for the most part.

    SAT scores: It’s not just SAT scores from the 90s. It’s still true today. It’s just that the College Board doesn’t report the data any more.

    “But there is a major flaw in the thesis that income differences explain the racial gap. Consider these three observable facts from The College Board’s 2005 data on the SAT:

    • Whites from families with incomes of less than $10,000 had a mean SAT score of 993. This is 129 points higher than the national mean for all blacks.

    • Whites from families with incomes below $10,000 had a mean SAT test score that was 61 points higher than blacks whose families had incomes of between $80,000 and $100,000.

    • Blacks from families with incomes of more than $100,000 had a mean SAT score that was 85 points below the mean score for whites from all income levels, 139 points below the mean score of whites from families at the same income level, and 10 points below the average score of white students from families whose income was less than $10,000.”


    “Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.”

    I told you. This is a constant throughout all cognitive test scores. And, given the realities of IQ distribution, not terribly surprising.

  18. pgteacher

    Again, you said a test of cognitive ability, not the CST or NAEP. Are you equating those tests to an IQ test?

  19. Cal

    Actually, here’s what I said:

    “Then again, you’re stuck with the reality that poor white kids outscore non-poor black kids and usually tie non-poor Hispanic kids.”

    You asked me to support that statement. I did.

  20. pgteacher

    Actually, here’s the quote from you where it first came up (albeit in another comment thread, but really, at this point, there’s little difference between this one and the other).

    “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 you look back, I asked you then if you could support that statement with a citation and you gave me an improperly used citation followed by the statement “if you do the math…” I did do the math, and yours was incorrect, and I asked you then if you were equating IQ with scores on standardized tests.

    I’m still waiting on answers to my questions in the other thread too, when you get a chance.

  21. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    In today’s Los Angeles Times there is a beautiful tribute to teacher Keizo Tajima, who died in February at the age of 88. The tribute was written by award-winning journalist and USC professor Joe Saltzman.

    When Saltzman was in high school, his counselor crushed him with the advice that Saltzman wasn’t “college material” and should probably become a window cleaner like his dad. But Tajima comforted him by saying he’d help him to get into the best journalism school in the country and he did.

    Teachers everywhere know the great potential of the human child (or adult). They know that whether the child has an IQ of 85 or 185, he is capable of wonderful, wonderful things. His potential is endless. While it is probably true that the child with the low IQ will not become a brain surgeon, the other possibilities are limitless: musician, athlete, artist, actor, businessman, caregiver, driver. Our society needs all these people and each has value.

    The job of the teacher is to see the endless possibilites in each child and to help that child develop his special gifts. Excellent teachers never say “Your IQ is too low for that.” Instead they say “Let me help you. Let’s try this.” If the child sets up impossible tasks for himself, it is the teacher’s job to guide him and to help him see his unique abilities.

    Thank you to Pgteacher and all teachers who celebrate the gifts of every child. Happy New Year to you and best wishes for your continued success in education.

  22. Cal

    “Actually, here’s the quote from you where it first came up (albeit in another comment thread, but really, at this point, there’s little difference between this one and the other).”

    Yes, there is. I think it’s quite clear that the CST and SAT are tests that demonstrate cognitive ability, but I’m not interested in arguing it with you, so I’ll defer. I’m pretty sure that the data does show that non-poor blacks have higher IQs than low income whites, but I can’t find a cite for that right now. I am sure that the SAT, before 1995, was considered a proxy for IQ and the GRE still is. In both cases, that fact means that the SAT scores are a supporting cite.

    But you are an insanely boring person and I’m not interested in arguing it with you. If you want to insist that the SAT and the CST are not tests that show cognitive ability, fine. Then I haven’t supported my assertion that non-poor blacks have lower IQs than poor whites. That was not in any way the main thrust of our argument, which was about whether or not any evidence existed supporting the movement of low achieving (never mind ability ) kids to high achieving. So we’re done.

    However, here, you asked me for cites supporting what I said to Linda, and on this point, I have given you the cites. Cope.

    As for your other questions, they were irrelevant and boring. You are eager to distract from the main point and ask for tedious cites for non-essential info, simply to avoid engaging with the larger issue. This site is cursed by insanely tedious people; if it weren’t for my occasional desire to snark off to the Eduwonk, I wouldn’t post here at all.

    It’s very clear in our interactions that you’re much more interested in promoting your own view than actually engaging in the debate. I’m not. So if I don’t talk to you, that’s why.

  23. Cal


    That’s one of those beautiful platitudes that says absolutely nothing, unless you assume that anyone who discusses IQ or ability is incapable of holding them. And of course, that’s wrong. you’re also wrong about your assertions on zip code and test results. But then, you know that, which is why you posted the platitude.

  24. pgteacher


    What a brilliant way to allow yourself to spout off rubbish without ever having to actually back it up. Bravo. At least you’ve (sort of) moved on from ignoring the questions posed to you, and for that, I congratulate you.

    You demand evidence from those that claim that low achieving students can be made into high achieving students, but then as soon as we ask for evidence for all of your supporting assertions that lead up to your belief about low achieving schools, you run off and say it’s our fault that you don’t want to engage in the debate.

  25. Chris Smyr

    Cal, I was specifically referring to available evidence supporting your perpetual refrain that “poor whites outscore high income blacks on most cognitive tests.” The only evidence presented for that statement thus far (and I had to do the presenting) are SAT scores from the 90s. SATs are not cognitive tests, however, and neither are CSTs nor the NAEP, so what evidence are you citing for that claim?

    There’s much more going on with CSTs as the 2011 results show, and it’s false to flatly state that “poor whites outscore high income blacks” with this test, either:

    ELA %Proficient or Advanced, Grades 2-11:

    Poor/White: 52, 44, 63, 58, 55, 55, 57, 54, 44, 43

    Not Poor/Black: 59, 50, 67, 62, 57, 59, 57, 50, 42, 39

    Not Poor/Hispanic: 62, 52, 72, 66, 61, 62, 60, 55, 47, 43

    Math/General Math % Proficient or Advanced, Grades 2-7 and 8-9:

    Poor/White: 64, 66, 67, 57, 49, 46, 32, 19

    Not Poor/Black: 63, 64, 69, 59, 47, 44, 31, 14

    Not Poor/Hispanic: 70, 72, 76, 67, 56, 52, 35, 19

    But see, there are plenty of alternative explanations for finding achievement gaps (and that is specifically what they are) on these achievement tests that do not require positing cognitive differences. The link I provided and the link you provided, both articles from the same journal, give some of these explanations. Many have them have to do with educational opportunities. None of them involve cognitive differences.

    Finally, I appreciate that you seem more willing to respond to my arguments this time around, however some responses are still necessary for several of my recent comments, linked below for your convenience (most recent first):

  26. Chris Smyr

    I think it’s quite clear that the CST and SAT are tests that demonstrate cognitive ability

    What you are asserting borders on worthless if you can’t adequately defend it.

    That was not in any way the main thrust of our argument, which was about whether or not any evidence existed supporting the movement of low achieving (never mind ability ) kids to high achieving.

    Escalante’s students very specifically showed an example of this. Random assortment in several key charter studies specifically show more examples of this. Ask any teacher about success stories they’ve had with their students and you might find even more examples. At some point you’ll have to start questioning your assumption that immutable cognitive differences explain much of our achievement gaps.

    It’s very clear in our interactions that you’re much more interested in promoting your own view than actually engaging in the debate.

    Can it be? Is Cal berating *****someone else***** for not wanting to engage the debate? What an incredibly large dose of hypocritical bullshit to ring in the new year with!

  27. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    My “platitudes” mean a lot to me, Cal. Today at Mass I was thinking about our Judeo-Christian tradition that is reflected in the American belief that all men are created equal. Yes, I truly believe that.

    Every teacher knows that the child with the low IQ is capable of all kinds of things. But don’t take my word for it; just look at the marvelous achievements of ALL groups of people. You will find those who are great leaders, soldiers, businessmen and artists. Give them IQ tests and you’ll get the full range. But the bottom line is this: Even the kid with the low IQ is equal to you and me in the eyes of God and law (Constitution). Is this a platitude or a basic American and Judeo-Christian value?

    There is nothing wrong with discussing differences in IQ but many of us do not accept that certain groups have lower intelligence and therefore we shouldn’t go above and beyond in our efforts to provide them with an appropriate education, as required by law. To be even more explicit: I taught poor black kids for many years and so I know that they are bright and capable as are all other groups of children.

    If you COULD prove that all people from a certain geographic area have lower IQs, I would say, “So what?” or “Let’s explore ways to improve their cognitive ability” or “Let’s give them the very best instruction possible.” That’s the job of a teacher. We’re not in the business of saying what kids can’t do.

    Finally here’s a definition for you:

    “Racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differeces among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement.”

    Please reflect on your beliefs because similar ones have caused untold grief to humankind throughout history. They can do no good and can only hurt those children whom you deem “less intelligent” than others.

  28. The Truth

    If you look at the most recent NAEP scores in 4th grade, lunch eligible whites outperformed non eligible (although not necessary wealthy) blacks by one point in math, however non eligible blacks outperformed eligible whites by 5 points. This gives evidence against Cal’s hypothesis. This information was obtained from the official NAEP site.

  29. pgteacher

    Your language got mixed up and you ended up contradicting yourself. Try saying what you wanted to again, just a little more carefully this time.

  30. Cal

    ““Racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differeces among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement.””

    Since I don’t believe that differences among groups determine individual achievement, and don’t particularly care about cultural differences, you do the math. But of course, you’re not terribly interested in reality. You just like whining about meeeeean people who, since you disagree with them, must be racists.

    “If you COULD prove that all people from a certain geographic area have lower IQs, I would say, “So what?” or “Let’s explore ways to improve their cognitive ability” or “Let’s give them the very best instruction possible.” That’s the job of a teacher. We’re not in the business of saying what kids can’t do.”

    It IS proven. It’s a fact. And the efforts to improve cognitive ability have thus far proved fruitless, alas. There’s always hope, though. As for “so what”–that’s MY point. I agree. So what? Individuals are the issue. But eduformers can’t accept the “so what”. Instead, they ignore reality and insist that it’s the teacher’s problem.

    I’ve never said what kids can’t do. Refer to my earlier comments about your inability to comprehend anything beyond Meeeeeeeeeean people who say things you don’t like so you babble oatmeal loudly and hope it all goes away.

    “If you look at the most recent NAEP scores in 4th grade, lunch eligible whites outperformed non eligible (although not necessary wealthy) blacks by one point in math, however non eligible blacks outperformed eligible whites by 5 points.”

    You should type more carefully. And notice how thoroughly you had to search in order to find just one example–assuming, of course, your sloppy typing covers up an actual example. Do you really think that does anything but further prove my point? If poverty were such a critical factor, poor whites would be far outscored by non-poor blacks.

    Again, my point: poverty does not explain poor test scores. Your own data supports the point.

  31. LRP

    “If you COULD prove that all people from a certain geographic area have lower IQs …”

    “It IS proven. It’s a fact.”

    First of all, all of the ‘evidence’ you sited contained averages, which say nothing about ALL people. You should type more carefully. Second, seems like Chris did a pretty good job debunking your claim regarding such performance to begin with (see his post at 4:52 pm). You never addressed what he wrote. I expect that rather than backing up your points in the face of criticism, you will likely just blather on about how tedious and boring everyone is or about how this has nothing to do with your main point. Every time you start doing that is demonstrates that you’ve lost the argument.

  32. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    “Since I don’t believe that differences among groups determine individual achievement…”

    Good. Children of all colors and ethnic backgrounds can, and do, become very high achievers. It’s the teacher’s privilege and responsibility to help each of her students to recognize and develop his unique gifts. Of course the teacher does not operate in a vacuum but teams up with the parents, the students, other professionals and the community in order to do her very best.

    Poverty itself does not affect learning. Why would it? The EFFECTS of poverty (low birth weight, malnutrition, poor medical care, lack of access to books etc.) can have an adverse effect on scholastic achievement. Conversely, wealth has no direct effect on learning, but access to books, conversation with educated adults, tutoring and travel can have a positive impact on achievement. As someone who taught in mainly poor schools for many years, I want to say that MOST poor parents care for their children and provide them with the basics needed to do well in school.

    Where I live, a child must go to school in the city in which he resides. As a resident of a California city, I could send my children to the city schools or I could pay for private school, or I could move. Those were my options. A poor person could send his child to the city schools or move to another location. So I do believe that we have “education by zip code.” Perhaps it is different in your city.

    Most of us believe in the tremendous potential that is in each child. We mostly agree that our poorest children don’t always get the best learning experience but we don’t agree on how to remedy this. Let’s hope that we unite in 2012 to seek out the best ways to improve education for ALL children.

  33. Chris Smyr

    Cal, your persistence in ignoring my ongoing refutation of what you write here is not going to make it stop.

    poverty does not explain poor test scores

    Poverty does (directly or indirectly) help explain the range of scores seen between eligible and non-eligible students. Furthermore, nothing you have written thus far in any thread supports your larger point that these score differences are tied to immutable cognitive differences between student subgroups. To remind you, here is your larger point as you summarized in the other thread:

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

    Lastly, I wanted to add that I’m still astounded at your use of the JBHE article to further a point that that journal would reject outright, that SAT score gaps are indicative of cognitive differences. The exact same topic was addressed a few years earlier with the following as part of the introduction, as I cited above:

    But racial conservatives as well as the “biological” racists who believe that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites call attention to SAT statistics that tend to refute the belief that family income differences are largely responsible for the racial scoring gap.

    The authors then follow this — as in your cited article — with a list of alternative explanations explaining the SAT score gaps, none of which included cognitive differences. Because of course that would be more in line with the arguments of, in their words, “biological” racists.

    More humorously, if one were to read the very next paragraph after your cited text about income not explaining the SAT score gap, one would find this:

    Clearly, one of the main factors in explaining the SAT racial gap is that black students almost across the board are not being adequately schooled to perform well on the SAT and similar tests. Public schools in many neighborhoods with large black populations are underfunded, inadequately staffed, and ill equipped to provide the same quality of secondary education that is offered in predominantly white suburban school districts.

    For someone who casually assures us that “the data is everywhere”, you surely picked the most interesting article to cite!

  34. Attorney DC

    Linda: I’ve been reading your posts on this column – keep fighting the good fight! Don’t have time to weigh in myself, but just wanted you to know you have supporters out there!

  35. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Thanks, Attorney DC.

    Today I’m rereading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell and came across this quote from Lewis Terman:

    “There is nothing about an individual as important as his IQ, except possibly his morals.” Terman went on to discover that his geniuses weren’t as successful as he thought they would be. Some became judges and professors but others went on to ordinary jobs and some were even considered failures. Some of the children rejected by Terman for his study went on to win the Nobel Prize but none of his chosen children did. Gladwell goes on to point out what most of us have noticed ourselves: test a lot of very successful people and you’ll get a wide range in IQs.

    Anyway I found this extremely relevant to the above discussion. This was the first time I realized that most of us who post here are more similar than not because almost everyone believes in the awesome potential of every child, regardless of color or ethnicity. And most of us believe in the power of the teacher to help each child achieve. The big difference is that you and I believe the teacher needs the family and the larger community to help her whereas others feel she can do it alone. But that difference now seems small compared to what we’ve read in some of the above posts. Shudder!

    Happy New Year!

  36. Cal

    Linda, of COURSE poverty has an impact on learning. It’s just not as powerful as the impact of race–for reasons that we don’t know.

    In other words, poverty impacts learning *within* racial categories. But it does not explain the fact that the poor in certain races outscore the non-poor in other races.

    And please pay attention here: I bring up race when people make untrue assertions about poverty. You should not assume that this means anyone is racist. It means that performance is not simply about poverty. Liberals often want to blame poverty because they have ideological reasons to push for income redistribution. I don’t care about that one way or the other, provided that you don’t misrepresent facts. Would ending poverty improve performance? Not as much as you hope.

    Would it be better to be born poor with a high IQ or wealthy with a low IQ? According to several studies, you will do better off if you are poor with a high IQ. That, too, suggests your woe is meeing about poverty is misplaced.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push for your beliefs. It just means you should stop conflating your beliefs about government intervention in poverty with your understanding of what’s best for education.

  37. Linda/RetiredTeacher


    Thank you for your response.

    As I said above, I am rereading Malcolm Gladstone’s book “Outliers.” He talks about Lewis Terman’s genius children and the people they became as adults. One third of the group did not progress as expected. Most did not go to college or pursue the kinds of occupations that were expected of them. When Terman studied this group and contrasted them with his “A” group (most successful) he found that the differences were almost always due to their family upbringing. As James Coleman would say decades later with his own study, ” It’s all family.”

    Not only are there mountains of research to back this up, but it was also my experience as a teacher. When my own sons were in the first grade, I couldn’t help noticing with concern that some of the impoverished students in my class could read better than they could. Although there were variations in abilities, the black and Hispanic children seemed well within the normal span of intelligence. I would say out of twenty students, one or two every other year would be learning disabled. So I would guess that fewer than 5% were below normal in ability.

    However normal and bright these children were, they would fall back as they grew older, while my sons surged ahead. By high school many had dropped out. It always hurt to remember a particularly bright child and know that he or she had not even finished high school. The correlation with parental education and graduation was close. So the girl with the mother who was a practical nurse did better than the boy whose dad was in prison, even though both were bright in first grade.

    I know that the government can never take the place of the parents, but if we are truly interested in helping our least advantaged students to get a quality education we have to isolate those socio-economic factors that make the biggest difference and try to offer them to poor children. As I’ve said before, I would choose pre and post natal care, infant and toddler education, high quality preschool, community schools, public school vouchers, very small classes and highly trained teachers for our most challenging schools. And yes, I do believe it would be very beneficial to get poor kids into mainstream schools where they can pick up some of the coping strategies of advantaged children. Because we’ve discovered over and over again that “it’s all family” I believe we must heed the research and try to make a difference for children who have so little at home. People who can do the math tell us that investing in children will save money later on.

    I will concede that there are differences in IQ but we know that as long as children are within a normal range (85-110) they are capable of much. And, as you said, we can hope to improve cognitive abilities. When “Baby Louise” was conceived in a test tube in 1978 I never thought I’d be the grandparent of twins thus conceived, but I am! I imagine there are many more biological “miracles” to come.

  38. Chris Smyr

    I bring up race when people make untrue assertions about poverty. You should not assume that this means anyone is racist. It means that performance is not simply about poverty.

    What many do find racist, like the journal you cited above, is when you go a step further and declare that it is simply about cognitive differences, particularly when you’ve given little to no evidence to support the claim.

    And once again, you are foolishly prescribing causal factors that do not need to exist; that there are gaps along racial lines does NOT imply that race is the cause of these gaps. If you’d simply take all of 5 minutes to read the rest of article that you cited above, you would know this.

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