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#1 of 34 Old 01-04-2011, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm new to the community though not to mothering.  I'm parenting older children who transitioned from homeschooling to public school five years ago when I divorced.  They are extremely bright and do well in school which I have come to see as something of a curse in terms of their overall wellness.  I saw the documentary Race to Nowhere recently, (http://www.racetonowhere.com/node/4494), a must-see for parents raising children in areas where there is considerable pressure to achieve.  I'm wondering if there are others grappling with similar issues?

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#2 of 34 Old 01-04-2011, 06:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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O-kay.  (*long pause*)  Twenty-six page views and no replies.  Um, I'll just be going now...

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#3 of 34 Old 01-04-2011, 06:42 PM
 
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I have not seen this film, but from reading books like What Colleges Don't Tell You (And Other Parents Don't Want You to Know) and What High Schools Don't Tell You by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross, I can well imagine the pressure that kids in affluent suburbs feel.  Their parents imply that if they don't get into very competitive schools, their future is completely ruined.  I know because here in Dallas there is a lot of that.  What kids today really need is to see where they fit into this world:  what are their passions, interests and strengths?  I just read How to Be a High School Superstar by Cal Newport, which is also about getting into great schools, but focuses on kids finding their own interests.  Even better is The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica.  If your children have loads of interests and can't pare them down to one, The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine is great. 

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#4 of 34 Old 01-04-2011, 06:43 PM
 
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Annie, this film is quite the rage in my area, although I haven't had a chance to see it. Since my oldest is only in first grade (and has pretty minimal homework), it's not quite reality for me yet, although it is on my radar. I feel sick when I think about my kids spending their whole high school years just trying to get into the "right" college. I really hope that by the time they're that age, things have begun to turn around.

 

If I had older kids, I  guess I'd try to establish what our family goals/aims were, and try to hew to those rather than the ones built up by schools/colleges/society. I imagine it's pretty tough. AP classes are a particular pet peeve of mine -- what's wrong with taking high school courses in high school??

-e


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#5 of 34 Old 01-04-2011, 06:44 PM
 
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I'll post a response for you! You ask 'is anyone.....issues' but I'm not sure what issues you are speaking of. Could you give a quick overview of the issues the documentary gets into?

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#6 of 34 Old 01-04-2011, 07:25 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LuckyMommaToo View Post

 

AP classes are a particular pet peeve of mine -- what's wrong with taking high school courses in high school??

-e


headscratch.gif What's wrong with taking an AP class? I loved my two AP classes; they gave me a big self-esteem boost that eventually resulted in my being accepted at a university (after community college) that would not have accepted me straight out of high school. I doubt that not offering AP classes would affect the atmosphere of intense competition in some schools/districts; something else would take their place.


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#7 of 34 Old 01-05-2011, 08:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Mama Shifra, for the resource suggestions.  Very helpful and I will check them out.

 

Race to Nowhere is documentary made by new film maker Vicki Abeles, based on her family's experience in the brave new hyper-competitive world.  In our district, there is a trend toward what is being called "hyper-acceleration."  Hyper-acceleration for my family has meant intensified algebra at age 12 and first AP courses in 9th grade.  It has also meant that courses they take in middle school appear on their high school transcripts and count toward their high school GPAs.  Hyper-acceleration also means differentiating kids by ability at a younger and younger age.  (For being bright, they are rewarded with extra homework.)  Kids ARE at different ability and developmental levels and things like different reading groups within a given classroom are appropriate.  However, for many kids, there is pressure—and not always from the parents—to be in that top group and as that top group takes more advanced materials sooner, some suggest sooner than their brains are developmentally ready, it can cause a lot of stress.  There have been times when my eight-year-old has cried over the homework load.  (I get my family outdoors as much as possible.) 

 

It is double edged as Emmeline II pointed out.  While part of me thinks it is nuts for a fourteen-year-old to be taking an AP class, there is the self-esteem boost for those who can cut it.  It also made my daughter feel like an intellectual, an individual with ideas of her own which were valuable.  When I encouraged her to back off on AP's this year, she declined.  "Who needs sleep?"  She wants to be among the smart kids, even at the expense of GPA.  Ultimately families like ours who don't push give up those slots at top schools, give up those scholarships, in the cause of our kids' mental health. 

 

The point of the film is that the entire system should be reformed.  There is one activist principal in our area who is taking a lot of heat for bucking the trend (against the curriculum committee recommendations).  He has unilaterally decided to minimize the sorting of students by ability in his middle school as much as the district will allow.  His actions were not generally well received, especially by the PTA, who happen to mostly be the parents of the school's top students.  When students are differentiated by ability and sorted into separate courses, the kids who are deemed especially capable are placed not in English with everyone else, but in "Intensified English" and the kids who are deemed "slow" are sorted into a remedial group.  In effect, this creates a school within a school.  Our district is one of the few in the country where the schools are both diverse and also considered superlative.  This sorting by ability often means that that top sections are populated by mostly white kids.  Also, there is evidence that kids at the bottom achievement-wise benefit immensely from their placement in integrated-ability classrooms.  There is also research that top-achievers do not benefit from such an arrangement.

 

The part that I find most difficult is that there isn't a lot of support from other parents.  Most parents just sort of throw up their hands.  "It's just the way it is."  They push their kids to perform and they do it because they believe that it is what is best for them and for some kids it is.  However, the teen suicide rate is climbing in this hyper-competitive environment and self-esteem is so fragile in adolescence.

 

Hopefully, this trend will reverse before those of you with little ones find yourselves negotiating high school course catalogs!

 

 

 

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#8 of 34 Old 01-05-2011, 09:35 AM
 
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I am one of those who read your OP but didn't comment because I haven't seen the film. I'll bite now, though, since you've described the issues a little. I think the problem hasn't been accurately identified and I think some of the solutions, like eliminating ability grouping and limiting opportunities for advanced studies, are misguided at best and horribly destructive to a healthy learning environment at worst. There are many people complaining about anti-intellectual attitudes, poor standards in education, absence of challenging opportunities, and the resulting lack of motivation in students today. 

 

The real problem is that the education system needs to allow more self-directed learning for all students, rather than the "one-size-fits-all" approach. Students should be given greater opportunity for self-paced studies, and that includes subject acceleration if they are capable and want to try it. It also includes a "de-celeration", if you will, to allow a longer period to learn a subject if they are struggling. Offer multi-age classrooms. Provide wider opportunities for experiential education and inter-disciplinary studies, rather than the typical teacher-led lecture format and independent subject silos (i.e. math, science, history, literature, geography taught separately and never-the-twain-shall-meet) that are still all too prevalent. Schools should encourage independent study programs, and with their communities create the infrastructure for internships and co-op placements and guest teaching from experts in the community. There should be more emphasis on collaborative learning with other students in group settings using lots of support and coaching and guidance from teacher-mentors. And especially, encourage students to pursue and develop their own interests in various subjects. There are all sorts of exciting, engaging ways to provide a rich learning experience that makes the apparent focus on simply whether to provide AP classes incredibly discouraging. 

 

The problem isn't the concept of ability-grouping and advanced studies. High ability students who want to work at a faster pace or explore a topic in greater depth or breadth should not be denied that opportunity. They should not have to sit in a class, doodling and catching up on their sleep, while the teacher works with the majority of students who are taking longer to work through a subject. That's a recipe for disaster. Why shouldn't a 14 y.o., who is capable and who wants to, take an AP class in a subject s/he wants to learn? I'm curious about the "research" cited about the lack of benefits of ability grouping. It sounds like the kind of biased, badly conducted and poorly interpreted "research" used all the time to undermine gifted programs.  

 

So the question isn't whether to allow acceleration and provide AP classes. Heck, yes, go ahead, those learning opportunities are essential for some students to keep them motivated and engaged in school. But also provide MORE - expand on the opportunities, create new learning pathways, look outside the traditional classroom. Above all else, encourage student-led, self-directed learning. 

 

There are a lot of reforms that are necessary in traditional formal education. Pointing the finger at parents and students for ills in the system seems like victim-blaming though. Most parents and students want a solid education and a rich, satisfying learning environment. Unfortunately, these desires are expressed as pressure to perform and succeed on a hyper-advanced path, thanks to the focus on standardized test results and the single-track must-go-to-college-immediately-after-high-school attitude that is so prevalent today. Focusing on one aspect of reforming the system is misguided though, and not likely to achieve good results. 

 

 

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#9 of 34 Old 01-05-2011, 10:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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When we talk about educational reform (which is very hard to achieve) I think it is mindful to keep our eyes on the prize.  In fact, when we talk about any reform, it's important.  Some of you may have already seen this, but I think it's worth posting. 

 

Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilisation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

 

Here's hoping for a paradigm shift!

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#10 of 34 Old 01-09-2011, 09:00 PM
 
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I have not seen the film but I agree that differentiation should not be taken place in middle school. What we all need here, in the US, is a universal CONTENT RICH curriculum - the same curriculum across the US.  In my opinion, all those fads that ollyoxenfree mentions are absolutely useless and precisely because of them, our education is failing. The group activities, integrated subjects (math and music in "one bottle"), self-paced studies, "learner - centered" activities and other such things have been implemented in our schools for years now with horrible results. The truth is that the teacher-lead classroom is the only thing that really works, provided that the teacher knows her subject well and she teachers a content - rich curriculum and challenges her students along the way. The group activities could be effective under certain limited circumstances but nothing could replace knowledgeable and passionate teacher leading her students. Unfortunately, the US schools are forever obsessed with the "new learning techniques" that teach "skills" when in reality the skills without the knowledge are useless. What would "good skills" be good for if students do not have a deep knowledge of a subject matter? For instance, the poor American students spend countless hours practicing the "skill" finding a "main idea in the text" but that very text is substandard and has nothing to offer to young minds. Students must read classic texts, texts with the wealth of information, texts with beautiful and complex sentence structure. Students must be challenged and led by their teachers. "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs. They do have special programs for the kids with disabilities but the rest of the students study the same subjects that are  rich in content and are challenging. The schools do not have multiple levels of math for "low-achieving" and "higher-achieving students". They teach real subjects to ALL children in similar settings with teachers occupying the central stage. The results? Excellent public education. And we are - with our obsession with the "small groups", over-simplified texts and "acceleration" are lagging behind. Myself and my husband's family were educated in foreign countries and our public school,s that we used to criticize turn out to be much better that the American ones. Many of my friends and family's kids including my husband's brother who were actually "C" students in their home country are  "A" students here, in the US. The math they did in their home countries in the  6th grade, the US students are doing in the 9th and 10th grades!!!! Unbelievable! My husband's brother often complained to my husband that he was not being challenged at the school. But he went to a good school in PA, took advanced classes, ended up on the honor roll, got a college scholarship from the governor of Pennsylvania. However, he did pretty much nothing during those four years - he simply capitalized on his knowledge he obtained in his home country and coasted along for for years. I have been a witness to this. And I find it shocking. The only question I have is this - with such low level of public education, how is the US existing? How come it did not fall apart yet? Or, perhaps our society does not really need good school system? I mean, our secondary education is bad but the country is existing, right? It is quite alive, it did not collapse. So, then why do worry so much about our kids in public schools? Why do want them to study "Singapore" math? Why are we constantly talking about the "school reform"? The deterioration of the public school system started in 1960s but so what? We are alive, our country is surviving and people are living their lives as always.

 

 

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#11 of 34 Old 01-09-2011, 09:29 PM
 
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Originally Posted by anechka View Post

I have not seen the film but I agree that differentiation should not be taken place in middle school. What we all need here, in the US, is a universal CONTENT RICH curriculum - the same curriculum across the US.  In my opinion, all those fads that ollyoxenfree mentions are absolutely useless and precisely because of them, our education is failing. The group activities, integrated subjects (math and music in "one bottle"), self-paced studies, "learner - centered" activities and other such things have been implemented in our schools for years now with horrible results. The truth is that the teacher-lead classroom is the only thing that really works, provided that the teacher knows her subject well and she teachers a content - rich curriculum and challenges her students along the way. The group activities could be effective under certain limited circumstances but nothing could replace knowledgeable and passionate teacher leading her students. Unfortunately, the US schools are forever obsessed with the "new learning techniques" that teach "skills" when in reality the skills without the knowledge are useless. What would "good skills" be good for if students do not have a deep knowledge of a subject matter? For instance, the poor American students spend countless hours practicing the "skill" finding a "main idea in the text" but that very text is substandard and has nothing to offer to young minds. Students must read classic texts, texts with the wealth of information, texts with beautiful and complex sentence structure. Students must be challenged and led by their teachers. "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs. They do have special programs for the kids with disabilities but the rest of the students study the same subjects that are  rich in content and are challenging. The schools do not have multiple levels of math for "low-achieving" and "higher-achieving students". They teach real subjects to ALL children in similar settings with teachers occupying the central stage. The results? Excellent public education. And we are - with our obsession with the "small groups", over-simplified texts and "acceleration" are lagging behind. Myself and my husband's family were educated in foreign countries and our public school,s that we used to criticize turn out to be much better that the American ones. Many of my friends and family's kids including my husband's brother who were actually "C" students in their home country are  "A" students here, in the US. The math they did in their home countries in the  6th grade, the US students are doing in the 9th and 10th grades!!!! Unbelievable! My husband's brother often complained to my husband that he was not being challenged at the school. But he went to a good school in PA, took advanced classes, ended up on the honor roll, got a college scholarship from the governor of Pennsylvania. However, he did pretty much nothing during those four years - he simply capitalized on his knowledge he obtained in his home country and coasted along for for years. I have been a witness to this. And I find it shocking. The only question I have is this - with such low level of public education, how is the US existing? How come it did not fall apart yet? Or, perhaps our society does not really need good school system? I mean, our secondary education is bad but the country is existing, right? It is quite alive, it did not collapse. So, then why do worry so much about our kids in public schools? Why do want them to study "Singapore" math? Why are we constantly talking about the "school reform"? The deterioration of the public school system started in 1960s but so what? We are alive, our country is surviving and people are living their lives as always.

 

 


Anechka...paragraphs are your friend.  Kindly use them.

 

But having forged through your thoughtful response I must disagree with pretty much all your points.  Especially this one:

 

Quote:
The group activities, integrated subjects (math and music in "one bottle"), self-paced studies, "learner - centered" activities and other such things have been implemented in our schools for years now with horrible results. The truth is that the teacher-lead classroom is the only thing that really works, provided that the teacher knows her subject well and she teachers a content - rich curriculum and challenges her students along the way

 

I have taught in the very environment you despise and I found it the most inspiring, workable, teachable classroom I have ever experienced.  Our class was a team-taught (history/english), project based learning classroom that was strongly student centered (learner centered if you will).  Students spent the majority of their time working in groups and doing research.  They had to read every day.  The results were anything but horrible.  We had the highest API in our county and one of the highest in the Bay Area.  Students scored very high on the standardized tests, but not because we did test prep (I freaking hate those tests) but because they learned the skills necessary to parse them.

 

Teacher-led classrooms work for some students, but drive many into intellectual passivity.  You seem to be a big believer in "knowledge", whatever that may be.  As a history teacher I could care less if a student memorizes the year William the Conquerer invaded England, but I certainly care that a student learns how to analyze a text about that event, and I hope they are able to understand how invasions (imperialism) impact culture.  I see that as more of a skills-based approach rather than a content-based one.

 

The problem with AP classes in my eyes is that the AP test is (in history at least) mostly about memorization of "facts".  With the exception of the document analysis portion the whole test is crappus.  A better way to ensure students enter college with the skills for college is to allow interested students to take classes at community colleges.  Many schools do this already.

 

I too think it important to keep students of all levels in classes together.  Removing the gung-ho students takes out the natural leaders, and makes it less likely that the remaining students will learn from one another.  We did in-class pull out sessions for students who needed more assistance, as well as open ended project goals for those who wanted a greater challenge. 

 

ANyways, I have not seen the movie because so many of those type of things make my blood boil.  The outline of the issues are always oversimplifyed and the data always seems to be skewed.  Plus I am sick and tired of the blame-the-teacher mentality.  I do agree though that not all students should go to college and that college is not a panacea.  I can't really speak to the issues with math and science curriculum since I suck at math, and that is why I went to grad school for humanities lol!

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#12 of 34 Old 01-10-2011, 03:35 AM
 
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mostly just subbing until have more time because I'm intensely interested in the subject...

 

I will say, though, that I'm a huge proponent of ability grouping. It's actually not a new trend, though. As most educational theories go, it's just coming back into vogue. My middle school was ability-grouped, and my MIL has talked about ability grouping in her school in the 1940s and 50s.

 


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#13 of 34 Old 01-10-2011, 08:50 AM
 
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My DS is in the first grade, and I can see how much of a disaster it would be if the students were not ability grouped for certain subjects...especially reading.  Some students go to the reading specialist, and have really come a long way (I volunteer in the classroom helping the kids read).  If they had to be the the middle group, it would be disastrous. They really need that extra help.  The kids in the advanced group (the kids have no idea what group they are in at this age, btw), would suffer similar results.  My son is in the advanced group, and without his teacher allowing him to read chapter books, he would be miserable...and not progressing.  It should be a crime to hold kids back with high abilities, as well as not give the kids the help they need to progress.

 

My son is not the fastest runner, and he never wins awards in gym class.  He keeps trying his best, and that's all I can ask.  Not everyone is going to get a trophy, nor should they.  But, schools should allow students to excel and to give them the help they need.  I hope this differentiation continues throughout his academic career.  I breezed through school but found college extremely challenging at first.  I think if high school had been more challenging for me, I would have been better prepared.

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#14 of 34 Old 01-11-2011, 05:52 AM
 
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My DS is in the first grade, and I can see how much of a disaster it would be if the students were not ability grouped for certain subjects...especially reading.  Some students go to the reading specialist, and have really come a long way (I volunteer in the classroom helping the kids read).  If they had to be the the middle group, it would be disastrous. They really need that extra help.  The kids in the advanced group (the kids have no idea what group they are in at this age, btw), would suffer similar results.  My son is in the advanced group, and without his teacher allowing him to read chapter books, he would be miserable...and not progressing.  It should be a crime to hold kids back with high abilities, as well as not give the kids the help they need to progress.

 

My son is not the fastest runner, and he never wins awards in gym class.  He keeps trying his best, and that's all I can ask.  Not everyone is going to get a trophy, nor should they.  But, schools should allow students to excel and to give them the help they need.  I hope this differentiation continues throughout his academic career.  I breezed through school but found college extremely challenging at first.  I think if high school had been more challenging for me, I would have been better prepared.


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I remember being separated into groups for reading in kindergarden and first grade.  I definitely know which group I was in.  I was in the highest group and know it would have bothered me if I wasn't.  I don't necessarily mean this as a criticism of this method, but just something that struck me when reading this thread.


Yes, I remember being in the "Rainbow" group" in first grade; it was the lowest reading group. First grade was also the year students were separated out for STEPS (gifted program). Though we were generally aware of who was in which group, I still don't think that is an argument for holding achieving students back.


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#16 of 34 Old 01-11-2011, 12:47 PM
 
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I haven't seen the film, so I can't comment about the specifics.  Now that you have described the talking points of the film, I'm inclined to disagree with most of what's been posted.

 

I attended affluent suburban schools and took all of the gifted (in elementary school) and honors/AP classes (in middle school & high school) that were offered.  In addition to taking AP classes in high school, I also attended college classes at a local university my senior year of high school.  I believe that my education was a huge benefit to me.  While there was some pressure to do well, I would describe the overall atmosphere as challenging, rather than cut-throat.  There wasn't a whole lot of pressure to get into the "right" college, although it was assumed that we would all be attending college somewhere. 

 

I'm in my mid-30s and still in contact with many of my high school friends, who were in the same honors classes with me.  I don't know anyone who regrets taking challenging courses in high school, nor do I know anyone who thinks that the course offerings were excessive.  Some of my friends now have well-paying careers and are doctors, lawyers, bankers, business managers, IT professionals.  Some have less lucrative professions such as social workers, teachers, professional artists and musicians.  There are also a fair number of SAHMs. 

 

Quite honestly, I've seen the other side- my children are currently enrolled in a small, rural, poorly-funded charter school.  There are things that I LOVE about that school, but I sincerely believe that my children would receive a much better education in an affluent suburban school.  Sure, they're happy and somewhat successful where they are, but I don't think that their current school is preparing them for a professional career as well as a competitive school would. 


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#17 of 34 Old 01-11-2011, 01:49 PM
 
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Annie, this film is quite the rage in my area, although I haven't had a chance to see it. Since my oldest is only in first grade (and has pretty minimal homework), it's not quite reality for me yet, although it is on my radar. I feel sick when I think about my kids spending their whole high school years just trying to get into the "right" college. I really hope that by the time they're that age, things have begun to turn around.

 

If I had older kids, I guess I'd try to establish what our family goals/aims were, and try to hew to those rather than the ones built up by schools/colleges/society. I imagine it's pretty tough. AP classes are a particular pet peeve of mine -- what's wrong with taking high school courses in high school??

-e

 

 

AP courses are for kids that need more than average high school levels. Same with honors. My children have been home schooled but it is the AP and Honor courses that keep them going! They love the challenge!

 

It is wrong to assume that all kids need the same thing. The problem is when there is a push for all kids to be in the higher groups and no acceptance for kids in the lower group or belittle the lower groups. Yes, some kids are best served with this advancement and not to offering it would be just as wrong as not having a place for kids not at the same level.

 

Kids that are at the top of the spectrum are hurt just as much as the kids at the lower end if their needs are not meet.

 

 

One issue I do have with our system is there is an expectation for all kids to go to college. College is the only higher education and option. Reality is, some kids would be better off if they could take a different path with different expectations. Our local tech. school got poor reviews for preparing kids for college. Please explain to me why a kid that just learn HVAC has to go to college right after school if they have skill that can support them? IF they choose another path then they can still learn the information. If there is many years break in schools many subject, no matter how good you are, have to be retaken. (Dear friend of mine has a PhD in psychology and found herself useless to help her child in algebra because she had not used it regularly in years.) 

 

With saying that about different tracks: You need to remember in countries like Finland the population is homogonous, this fact levels the playing field greatly on education.  Also in many countries we compare the US to they do not educate the very poor and there are many children excluded and because of ethic or birth order.

 

Japan there is no cumplosary education.  Kids are in school because parents value it -- this has created a double edge sword.  Kids that cannot compete in high stakes testing don't test and ablites go unrecorded.  That is not true here.  Thus you cannot with a broad brush say XYZ countries is better than the US if not all students are allow access to the system.  This does not mean we cannot learn from them just that comparison or superiority is not always easy. 

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  As a history teacher I could care less if a student memorizes the year William the Conquerer invaded England, ....

 

ANyways, I have not seen the movie because so many of those type of things make my blood boil.  The outline of the issues are always oversimplifyed and the data always seems to be skewed.  Plus I am sick and tired of the blame-the-teacher mentality.  !


 

1066 Battle of Hastings!

 

(My head is full of soooo much useless information, but I still can't spell. Yet I had more years of drills on spelling than British History. )

 

Anyway, I haven't seen the movie either, but I'm familiar with the concepts. My DH is an executive at an aerospace firm and our kids are 12 and 14. We could be living that life if we wanted to, and we know families who are. We've found it quite easy to opt out. Really very simple to skip all the nonsense and pressure and live life in a sane way. It's just a choice.

 

My advice?

 

Be mindful. Be present. Think about what we are doing, what messages we are giving our kids, think about how things are playing out, and make adjustments. To be specific, select your school/area to live mindfully (and be willing to make changes if necessary). Let your child switch activities rather than telling they have to stick with X because they are good at it. Spend time as a family in nature. Spend time as a family doing community service. Listen to your teens when they talk.

 

Be aware of the trend, but stay present with your own kids. It's the next logical step in APing. It's really not that difficult.

 

 


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Anechka, are you a teacher? Have you studied how children learn and retain information? Have you read the TIMSS and PISA studies? Have you read this article? Yes, there may be countries that are ahead of the US in certain academic areas. But for the US to attain what is happening in China would mean a huge culture and attitude shift (reversal?). Americans don't want that. The level of academic success that comes from China, for example, does not happen independently of what else is going on there. The US is a very different country. It is unrealistic to think we can pick and choose specific features of other countries to emulate while rejecting other features. I used to teach in a school that had a wonderfully diverse immigrant population. While we teachers made every effort to avoid stereotypes, there were definitly clear patterns. We could often accurately predict how a student start out based on their native country. It was really quite fascinating.

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#20 of 34 Old 01-12-2011, 07:52 AM
 
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 AP classes are a particular pet peeve of mine -- what's wrong with taking high school courses in high school??

-e


I agree with this to a certain degree.  I think AP classes are great for kids who need/want them.  The push for all high school kids to take AP is what bothers me.  It should be okay for a kid to take high school classes in high school.  They should be high school classes of sufficient quality that a kid is still prepared to go to college if they so choose.  

 

I recently had an acquaintance quit her job at a charter school teaching AP English.  This school had a rule that all seniors had to take AP English.  Unfortunately, half of them were unprepared for an intro level university class and were failing.  The school administration wanted the teacher to make the class easier.  She refused if they were still going to call it AP.  Her argument was that if you call it AP you need to keep it at that level. It should be okay for kids to take another english class their senior year if they weren't yet ready for AP.  Or, she said we need to just call it 12th grade English.  The admin refused so she quit.    I have to say I rather respected her choice. :-)

 

 

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I agree with this to a certain degree. I think AP classes are great for kids who need/want them. The push for all high school kids to take AP is what bothers me. It should be okay for a kid to take high school classes in high school. They should be high school classes of sufficient quality that a kid is still prepared to go to college if they so choose.

 

I recently had an acquaintance quit her job at a charter school teaching AP English. This school had a rule that all seniors had to take AP English. Unfortunately, half of them were unprepared for an intro level university class and were failing. The school administration wanted the teacher to make the class easier. She refused if they were still going to call it AP. Her argument was that if you call it AP you need to keep it at that level. It should be okay for kids to take another english class their senior year if they weren't yet ready for AP. Or, she said we need to just call it 12th grade English. The admin refused so she quit. I have to say I rather respected her choice. :-)

 

 



One major issue with high schools, they are not preparing kids for college. Kids are going to college and having to take remedial courses to get them up to the level they need to be.

 

I think this is a difficult issue without one solution.

 

1. One is parents, to many parents make excuses and expect way to little from their child. Your child has ADHD - it makes things harder don't say they can't figure out how they can. Many parents find excuses to not being able to read or take active involvement, and their child's behavior. I have seen kids behavior drastically change when the parents put their foot down. I have wonder how many discipline problems in the classroom would be solved if the parents were told the child can return when they could act right (My step-mom teaches k-2nd, she has one child that called her a stupid whore cracker, multiple times. That comes from the home and should not be a problem of the school. Yes, I think the school has a right to dump the child back onto the parents. In some cases. She went through h*%% to get the child removed from her classroom. She could no longer emotionally deal with child and the mom. In 24 years of teaching that particular child was the only child she could not fell she could work with or through the situation.)

 

2. One is the teachers, bad teachers need to be let go. I also think how we train teacher's to teach fails to give them the skill they need. Team teaching and a longer student teacher status paring up with an older teacher would help. I do think that there are many teachers that have no clue on how to handle children's natural behaviors - it becomes easier to label than deal. Many teachers pick the wrong battles to fight. Wiggle butts in chairs do not necessarily mean a bad student but different teaching skills and sometimes ignoring. Also, in early years multi-age group were kids move forward based on ability not age. The show competency in set skill they move to next level. If there is no or slow progression intervention. I do feel teachers are often set up to fail.

 

3. Policy makers, many times school policy setters also are counterproductive and inhibiting to teacher to do their job. I do agree with a national curriculum, like "What your X grader should know, but the teacher needs to find the best way to make it work with in the classroom. Policies often make teachers social workers and everything other than teachers. Policies often make it impossible to get kids and teachers the help they need. And yes, sometimes the help they need is to be told - bring your child back when they can act right.

 

I started homeschooling after an incompetent kindergarten teacher of 20 years missed that my son had dysgraphia. She should not have missed that he could not hold a picture.  Then he did one month of first grade -- policy had 3 kindergarten classes going into.  Then they tried to fix it by having a certified 6th grade teacher teach 1st because she held the right certificate.  She was a great 6th grade teacher not a good first grade teacher (but that is not her fault, but a policy and training issue that could have been solved with team teaching).  

 

Nobody wants to take blame, and there is not one place to blame everyone is at fault for our issues.  And not a one single fix.  

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One major issue with high schools, they are not preparing kids for college. Kids are going to college and having to take remedial courses to get them up to the level they need to be.

 

Everyone doesn't belong in college, and that's something that isn't said often either. The percentages of people going to college now are higher than in the past. My university was listed as "highly selective" when I applied. I don't know if it still is, but I do know that the student population has grown significantly. There cannot be that many more students who are qualified to be there (and want to pay the outrageous tuition, which also has increased significantly). In fact, I know it's not the case as many of my old professors are FB friends and complain about the increasing lack of ability in their students.
 

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#23 of 34 Old 01-17-2011, 08:42 AM
 
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 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs."

 

Let's take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of Finland: 

 

The entire population is @5,000,000.  Only 2.5 percent of the population are foreign citizens.  Its "indigenous" people are limited to @7,000 people of Sami heritage.  The largest ethnic group after Finnish speaking Finns (92% of the population) are Swedish speaking Finns. 

 

Let's also take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Korea:

 

Per Wikipedia:  "South Korea is ethnically one of the most homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity"" 

 

Then let's give a little thought to the United States:

 

The United States is the third most populous country in the world.  In 2009 1.1 million legal immigrants (the equivalent of ONE FIFTH the population of Finland) were granted residence.  Estimates of illegal immigrant populations vary (wikipedia puts the number at 11.2 million) and also per Wikipedia, about 31 (THIRTY ONE!) ethnic groups have membership of more than 1,000,000 persons. 

 

Wonder why we can't just import what works in Finland and South Korea?

 

All the hand-wringing aside, my understanding is that kids of white and asian heritage are competing and testing on an equivalent level with the best of the world.

 

Our issue is with disadvantaged minorities and immigrant populations (which for all intents and purposes don't exist in Finland or South Korea.)

 

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#24 of 34 Old 01-17-2011, 09:12 AM
 
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I'm editing because I said Finland when I was thinking Sweden.


I think it depends on who you talk too as to how well "one size fits all" works. The major critisisms I've heard about Sweden in particular is that they offer nothing in reguards to gifted education.... that accelerated children are often made to feel bad for wanting more academics at a faster pace. I've also read that while Sweden does have the lowest rate of learning disabilities, they also don't acknowledge them period.

 

Don't get me wrong. I see lots of benefits for the typical kid in this system but the small percent above and below typical suffer.
 

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Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post

 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs."

 

Let's take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of Finland: 

 

The entire population is @5,000,000.  Only 2.5 percent of the population are foreign citizens.  Its "indigenous" people are limited to @7,000 people of Sami heritage.  The largest ethnic group after Finnish speaking Finns (92% of the population) are Swedish speaking Finns. 

 

Let's also take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Korea:

 

Per Wikipedia:  "South Korea is ethnically one of the most homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity"" 

 

Then let's give a little thought to the United States:

 

The United States is the third most populous country in the world.  In 2009 1.1 million legal immigrants (the equivalent of ONE FIFTH the population of Finland) were granted residence.  Estimates of illegal immigrant populations vary (wikipedia puts the number at 11.2 million) and also per Wikipedia, about 31 (THIRTY ONE!) ethnic groups have membership of more than 1,000,000 persons. 

 

Wonder why we can't just import what works in Finland and South Korea?

 

All the hand-wringing aside, my understanding is that kids of white and asian heritage are competing and testing on an equivalent level with the best of the world.

 

Our issue is with disadvantaged minorities and immigrant populations (which for all intents and purposes don't exist in Finland or South Korea.)

 




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#25 of 34 Old 01-17-2011, 09:17 AM
 
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 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, 


I agree with a lot of what you've written, except that Finland doesn't have a "one-size fits all" system, from what I've read. Here's a quote: 

 

But here's what I think is the key point, from the WSJ and my other reading: The education culture in Finland is one of excellence and intense individualization. Finnish teachers are expected to customize lessons for students. As the WSJ quotes one education expert saying, "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs." And they are good entrepreneurs. In Finland, teachers are trained extensively. They must have master's degrees, and 40 people apply for every job.

 

It suggests that the Finnish system doesn't implement a cookie-cutter approach, but rather uses innovative methods with a great deal of differentiation for individual students. Even though there may not be separate classes for remedial students and gifted classes (streaming), within a classroom students receive differentiated instruction. 

 

The comments from Finns to that blog post are very interesting, particularly the description of being allowed a lot of freedom, self-paced learning and pursuit self-directed interests.  

 

I also read recently that Finland educational authorities are becoming concerned about the lack of "official" programming for gifted students. Having developed one of the best educational systems in the world, they want to continue improving. One issue is whether gifted students are being neglected and if they couldn't be doing even better. Unfortunately, I couldn't find that reference. 

 

 

ETA: I see Jane91 was actually quoting Anechka from an earlier post, and so the quote above should be attributed to Anechka.  I didn't bother to reply to that post because I think my view of education differs so fundamentally that it would be like speaking a different language. I'll just respond now to Anechka that some people believe that children are empty vessels to be filled up with a defined amount of information. Teachers and schools are merely tools used to transmit that information. While I can agree that there is a core knowledge base that is useful (and perhaps optimal) for an individual to possess, I think true education also develops learning and life skills - logic, analysis and critical thinking, collaborative work, etc. that are inherent but require nurturing.  

 

If you believe in the "empty vessel" theory, then it's understandable why you would believe that there should be a single curriculum, a simple massive transfer of data downloaded into a child and no concerns about allowing any "alternative" pedagogical methods that foster those other learning and life skills. Personally, I think core knowledge changes as the world changes and even as individuals move from one location to another. I think it's short-sighted to limit a child's learning to a simple data download and neglect their true education. For those reasons, I disagree with what Anechka has written.     

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#26 of 34 Old 01-17-2011, 03:50 PM
 
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Another book that should be on the reading list for parents concerned with the crazy push of highschool is:

 

"Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges" by Loren Pope

 

This book highlights colleges that are fairly easy to get into, but produce excellent results. A couple of the schools highlighted have 100% acceptance rate into medical schools, but they take B students. Some don't use SAT scores for admissions because they've found no link between SAT scores and success in college, and some produce Rhodes Scholars, Fullbright winners and future PhD candidates at higher rates than big name schools, which are harder to get into.

 

I think just reading this book would help most parents relax.

 

(and some of these school don't accept AP credit.)


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post

 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs."

 

Let's take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of Finland: 

 

The entire population is @5,000,000.  Only 2.5 percent of the population are foreign citizens.  Its "indigenous" people are limited to @7,000 people of Sami heritage.  The largest ethnic group after Finnish speaking Finns (92% of the population) are Swedish speaking Finns. 

 

Let's also take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Korea:

 

Per Wikipedia:  "South Korea is ethnically one of the most homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity"" 

 

Then let's give a little thought to the United States:

 

The United States is the third most populous country in the world.  In 2009 1.1 million legal immigrants (the equivalent of ONE FIFTH the population of Finland) were granted residence.  Estimates of illegal immigrant populations vary (wikipedia puts the number at 11.2 million) and also per Wikipedia, about 31 (THIRTY ONE!) ethnic groups have membership of more than 1,000,000 persons. 

 

Wonder why we can't just import what works in Finland and South Korea?

 

All the hand-wringing aside, my understanding is that kids of white and asian heritage are competing and testing on an equivalent level with the best of the world.

 

Our issue is with disadvantaged minorities and immigrant populations (which for all intents and purposes don't exist in Finland or South Korea.)

 

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#28 of 34 Old 01-18-2011, 04:41 AM
 
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I would also put out there that, in addition to not having the ethnically homogenous population that some of the countries mentioned do, we also don't have as much of an established social safety net. I remember traveling to France in college and staying in a hostel in Paris. A woman who was in the hostel with us was homeless, and the government gave her assistance to be there.

 

Contrast this to the students I taught in NYC who were living in cars. Even where I teach now, in a "solidly middle class" suburban high school, we have issues of extreme poverty. One of my colleagues went to a student's house to do home instruction only to find that there was no heat in the house...in January in the Northeast. I had a favorite student a couple of years ago who was taken out of her home because Mom decided to pay boyfriend's bail instead of the water bill. And, I have three former students, a boy and two girls, who live in a family who rations food based on gender: the boys just don't get fed nearly as often as the girls do. Possibly as a result, the girls are relatively successful (the oldest graduated and attended beauty school, the middle is a senior on track to graduate with decent grades) while the son is in a non-mainstreamed special education program, gets in fights, has major truancy issues, and has an assigned aide follow him when he is in the hallway because he can't be trusted to not walk out of school. 

 

Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs. How can we expect children to perform at school at even a marginally level when they are concerned with whether or not they'll be eating that day?


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#29 of 34 Old 01-24-2011, 07:38 AM
 
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My HS had AP classes and I took them all.  This was great b/c I entered college with 1 full year of credit and was able to get right into the interesting things.  It would have been even better if all the subjects were ability grouped, b/c by the time I got to HS, I was so thoroughly bored by going so slowly that I had pretty much checked out mentally and had a bad attitude towards school.  It was a waste, by and large.


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#30 of 34 Old 01-26-2011, 09:03 AM
 
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I agree with this. Also, there should be more time spent in nature & w/ the arts.
 

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I am one of those who read your OP but didn't comment because I haven't seen the film. I'll bite now, though, since you've described the issues a little. I think the problem hasn't been accurately identified and I think some of the solutions, like eliminating ability grouping and limiting opportunities for advanced studies, are misguided at best and horribly destructive to a healthy learning environment at worst. There are many people complaining about anti-intellectual attitudes, poor standards in education, absence of challenging opportunities, and the resulting lack of motivation in students today. 

 

The real problem is that the education system needs to allow more self-directed learning for all students, rather than the "one-size-fits-all" approach. Students should be given greater opportunity for self-paced studies, and that includes subject acceleration if they are capable and want to try it. It also includes a "de-celeration", if you will, to allow a longer period to learn a subject if they are struggling. Offer multi-age classrooms. Provide wider opportunities for experiential education and inter-disciplinary studies, rather than the typical teacher-led lecture format and independent subject silos (i.e. math, science, history, literature, geography taught separately and never-the-twain-shall-meet) that are still all too prevalent. Schools should encourage independent study programs, and with their communities create the infrastructure for internships and co-op placements and guest teaching from experts in the community. There should be more emphasis on collaborative learning with other students in group settings using lots of support and coaching and guidance from teacher-mentors. And especially, encourage students to pursue and develop their own interests in various subjects. There are all sorts of exciting, engaging ways to provide a rich learning experience that makes the apparent focus on simply whether to provide AP classes incredibly discouraging. 

 

The problem isn't the concept of ability-grouping and advanced studies. High ability students who want to work at a faster pace or explore a topic in greater depth or breadth should not be denied that opportunity. They should not have to sit in a class, doodling and catching up on their sleep, while the teacher works with the majority of students who are taking longer to work through a subject. That's a recipe for disaster. Why shouldn't a 14 y.o., who is capable and who wants to, take an AP class in a subject s/he wants to learn? I'm curious about the "research" cited about the lack of benefits of ability grouping. It sounds like the kind of biased, badly conducted and poorly interpreted "research" used all the time to undermine gifted programs.  

 

So the question isn't whether to allow acceleration and provide AP classes. Heck, yes, go ahead, those learning opportunities are essential for some students to keep them motivated and engaged in school. But also provide MORE - expand on the opportunities, create new learning pathways, look outside the traditional classroom. Above all else, encourage student-led, self-directed learning. 

 

There are a lot of reforms that are necessary in traditional formal education. Pointing the finger at parents and students for ills in the system seems like victim-blaming though. Most parents and students want a solid education and a rich, satisfying learning environment. Unfortunately, these desires are expressed as pressure to perform and succeed on a hyper-advanced path, thanks to the focus on standardized test results and the single-track must-go-to-college-immediately-after-high-school attitude that is so prevalent today. Focusing on one aspect of reforming the system is misguided though, and not likely to achieve good results. 

 

 



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