We’ve been talking a lot lately about ridiculous blank slate policies that drag down bright kids and steer slower kids in the wrong direction. But this is the worst I’ve heard yet. A middle school in San Diego, that sounds like it’s full of poor Hispanic kids, eliminated most of its tracking.

The headline was The End of ‘The Stupid Class.’

Correia put almost all students into the same classes this year, ending the controversial practice of splitting children into classes based on ability, also known as tracking.

“We wanted to debunk the whole thing and try something new,” said Principal Patricia Ladd. Her hope was that doing so could raise the bar for all kids at Correia. “So we detracked.”

That’s all the explanation we get. We are comforted with one gifted Hispanic student’s statement that she’s become more tolerant since they lumped her in with the average and slow kids.

“I was upset because I felt slowed down,” said Elizabeth Modesto, an eighth grader. “But now I like it. I’ve gotten better at working with others.”

She was surprised to see that some of her new classmates were great writers, that the boy she knew as a class clown could wow her with a cogent point. And Modesto said she kept learning, too.

This isn’t a fact-laden article. It seems the writer is bending over backward to be optimistic, and/or taking the school official’s word for how things are going:

“But so far the Correia experiment has shown promising results. School district tests show more students scoring well. Fights have dwindled and misbehavior is less common in class. And because gifted classes tend to have fewer children of color and poor kids, the move also helped to integrate the school by color and class.”

More students scoring well. We aren’t given any specifics. Later in the story, we find out scores for the gifted students have dropped in math. Anyhow, I wouldn’t expect a single year of any bad strategy to have a huge measurable effect.

Of course, there’s not one word about how splitting up the bright kids and making them minorities in every class might socially affect them. That would mean admitting slow kids tend to hassle bright kids and act worse in general. And we don’t hear from any kids without Hispanic surnames, even though we’re told that there were a lot more white kids in the top track. Based upon my experience as a white kid in a mostly Hispanic and Filipino school, I would predict the problem Hispanic kids will bother the gifted white kids before the gifted Hispanic kids. So as long as there are some white nerdy kids around, Elizabeth Modesto will probably slip under the radar.

I wonder how the reporter chose the student sources. Some schools allow reporters full access, but others restrict their contact. For example, sometimes they will allow you to interview only hand-picked student sources on school property. Small media outlets have to pick their battles carefully, so it’s often easier just to give in on small stories like this. Or, the reporter might even have given the principal control over who got interviewed by asking her to provide the sources.

To teach all kids at once, teachers let students show their knowledge through more flexible and open-ended assignments that allow children to make them as tough as they want, instead of asking all kids to do the same fixed task. For example, one history class asked students to pose and answer their own questions in writing about “big ideas” — one hallmark of gifted classes now used across Correia.

One student posed the question, “Was the war with Mexico good or bad?” and answered simply that it was good because the United States got more land but bad because people died. Another asked what factors caused the Texan rebellion and answered, “The Americans started disrespecting the Mexicans’ ways of life. On the other hand, the Mexican government enforced certain laws too harshly.”

Wow, so a kid can choose to make his assignment harder for himself as he works alongside his slower peers. How generous. What exactly would be the incentive for a student to do that?

The reporter interviewed a couple teachers, who not so surprisingly declined to speak negatively of either their bosses or of having to teach the slow students. Also not surprisingly, teachers who had all slow students before consider the mixed classes an improvement.

“I’ve never had a class like this,” said Lisa Young, who was used to teaching struggling students in a separate class. “The kids see someone else having success and they think, ‘I want that.'”

Bianca Penuelas is one of them. Slackers won’t make it in her classes this year, she says, so she’s trying harder, thinking bigger, proud to be working and chatting with the “smart kids” she once saw from afar.

“I feel smarter,” she said, her braces glinting in a smile. “I felt like I made it up to their level.”

——————————————

Here’s an on-point article from John Derbyshire at The National Review Online (via Half Sigma). And we discussed a study about tracking here, and L.A. Unified’s new approach to gifted education.


Category: School

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31 Responses to The worst news I’ve heard yet for gifted students.

  1. trumwill says:

    The last time I got into a conversation about this it was with someone that believed that the best of the best students should literally be put in classes with the developmentally impaired (I don’t think he was referring to Down Syndrome, but still short bussers). That was when I found that I could not have a reasonable discussion with the opposition on this subject.

    This article has me seeing red.

    I have no one to blame but myself for not being put with the honors kids, but to suggest that I was well-served by it is I think what just sends me into orbit.

  2. Peter says:

    And because gifted classes tend to have fewer children of color and poor kids, the move also helped to integrate the school by color and class.”

    This, of course, is the money quote, especially the part involving “children of color” (at this point I will pause briefly to vomit). Even if all evidence indicated that this noble experiment was a complete flop in educational terms, school authorities and other meddlesome types would support it based solely on the integration aspect.

  3. web says:

    ““I’ve never had a class like this,” said Lisa Young, who was used to teaching struggling students in a separate class. “The kids see someone else having success and they think, ‘I want that.’””

    Bullshit. The kids see someone else having success and they think “tear them down they’re making me look bad.”

  4. stone says:

    Web wrote: “Bullshit. The kids see someone else having success and they think “tear them down they’re making me look bad.” ”

    Well, maybe not that one little sweetheart that got interviewed for the article. But it’s silly to think she represents the typical slow student.

    Anyone else notice how there were no males interviewed from the school, except one teacher? When you want rah-rah quotes, go to the girls.

  5. Maria says:

    This, of course, is the money quote, especially the part involving “children of color” (at this point I will pause briefly to vomit).

    Because of course, the needs of white kids should never be considered – they just don’t count.

  6. Maria says:

    Bullshit. The kids see someone else having success and they think “tear them down they’re making me look bad.”

    Yep! So true.

  7. Maria says:

    When you want rah-rah quotes, go to the girls.

    Yeah, pretty embarassing for the sisterhood. 🙂

  8. stone says:

    I suggest people check out the comments to the article, which contain some interesting debate. One man calling himself “Philosopher 3000” (“Michael Russell”) calls critics of the end to tracking “very cowardly anonymous elitists…”

    “…The fact is that, despite what their parents say, all students are created equal. The advent of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and the science of DNA prove that each student is uniquely ‘gifted and talented’. Further, our experience demonstrates that any genetic predisposition to specific traits or brain structures is shared, and generally random, throughout the population. …

    … Imposing values that disenfranchise the majority of our population, and degrade one set of children to elevate others, should be left to the elitists at the Private Schools.”

    Easy to not be anonymous, when you’re spouting the PC line. But it’s nice that he at least sums up his belief bluntly, instead of couching it in sugary double-talk like the principal does.

  9. Maria says:

    … Imposing values that disenfranchise the majority of our population, and degrade one set of children to elevate others, should be left to the elitists at the Private Schools.”

    The majority of our population is “slow”? Who knew?

    Why don’t they just hit the smart kids on the head a few times with a 2by4? It’s the Harrison Bergeron solution to the problem.

  10. stone says:

    Another commenter describes the demographics of the school. It is a poor school:

    “The Correia is surrounded by young, poor navy families in apartments and at the old NTC site. 43% of Correia students are Hispanic and 9% are black. 54% of the students participate in reduced price meals (Plilo, this means very low income.). 18% of the student are English language learner.”

    He/she mentions that many of the wealthier parents in the area send their children to private schools. I certainly would, at least after reading about this policy.

  11. stone says:

    Maria wrote:

    9.… Imposing values that disenfranchise the majority of our population, and degrade one set of children to elevate others, should be left to the elitists at the Private Schools.”

    The majority of our population is “slow”? Who knew?

    Why don’t they just hit the smart kids on the head a few times with a 2by4? It’s the Harrison Bergeron solution to the problem.”

    LOL, props for the Vonnegut reference.

    RE the majority being slow, apparently some people believe that being left out of the “gifted” class, which will by definition be a minority class, is a disenfranchisement. This guy exemplifies the worst stereotype of the blank-slater: He believes everyone is “gifted,” and therefore no one is.

    You know, I’ll bet if the non-gifted kids in my 8th grade could have voted whether to put me in another class, it would have been unanimously ‘yes.’ 🙂

  12. trumwill says:

    What Lisa Young heard “Wow, you’re smart. I want to be smart just like you!”

    What Lisa Young was told “Hey, you’re smart, right? Can you give me the answers to last night’s homework?”

  13. stone says:

    “1.The last time I got into a conversation about this it was with someone that believed that the best of the best students should literally be put in classes with the developmentally impaired (I don’t think he was referring to Down Syndrome, but still short bussers). That was when I found that I could not have a reasonable discussion with the opposition on this subject.”

    Was this person an educator? I had a similar argument recently that I may have mentioned, with the former gifted schoolmate who now teaches in East L.A. After she called me a racist for being concerned about treatment of brighter students, I came to a similar conclusion.

  14. trumwill says:

    No, but I think he came from a family of educators. To be fair, he didn’t accuse anybody of racism. He mostly implied that it was unfair for some kids to be pulling ahead when they could be spending their time helping others catch up. Or, if they were going to pull ahead, then they should not do so on the government’s dime.

    I was about to say that if my kids’ school did something like this that I would pull them out and put them in private school or homeschool them. But if we stay in Callie, I don’t know that there is room for an honors program at Callie High School. So it may be something I just deal with. The fact that it’s logistical (not enough students) rather than ideological (intelligence is discriminatory) makes it easier to swallow.

  15. stone says:

    Will wrote: “He mostly implied that it was unfair for some kids to be pulling ahead when they could be spending their time helping others catch up. Or, if they were going to pull ahead, then they should not do so on the government’s dime.”

    There’s some logic to this. If we don’t think society overall benefits from special cultivation of the gifted, why should tax dollars be spent for that purpose?

    Furthermore, why not disperse gifted students in the interest of majority benefit? Spreading them out would seem to benefit the majority in the schools. Since high-performing kids virtually never are behavior problems, segregating them in tracks means concentrating the behavior problems in other tracks.

    Also, I would predict bullies are mnore likely to pick on bright kids if they’re available. And, bright kids are less likely to respond with physical violence or great disruption. So perhaps increasing the bad kids’ access to the bright kids decreases the likelihood of substantial disruption occurring — because the problem kids can bully without facing retaliation. If you find bright people annoying, then this idea would appeal. You would feel it should be their burden to find a way to escape negative attention.

    And I like the honesty of admitting that advanced intellectual development is a luxury good. It’s a step up from pretending that anyone can do well as long as they’re motivated.

    Will wrote: “The fact that it’s logistical (not enough students) rather than ideological (intelligence is discriminatory) makes it easier to swallow.”

    Same potential damage to your kids, though.

    My husband and I are faced with putting our oldest in kindergarten next year, so the public/private debate has started. He favors the public side.

  16. Peter says:

    “The Correia is surrounded by young, poor navy families in apartments and at the old NTC site. 43% of Correia students are Hispanic and 9% are black. 54% of the students participate in reduced price meals (Plilo, this means very low income.). 18% of the student are English language learner.”

    It actually doesn’t sound like that bad of a school. You can find far worse in any large city.

    The fact that many of the children are from Navy families is a good sign. As Steve Sailer and others have pointed out, the military’s entrance standards keeps out complete dummies. This would carry over at least to a modest extent to the children of servicemembers.

  17. Maria says:

    My husband and I are faced with putting our oldest in kindergarten next year, so the public/private debate has started. He favors the public side.

    You’re in Cali aren’t you Sheila? Walk, don’t run to the nearest private school. From a Mom who’s sent two kids to CA public schools.

  18. stone says:

    “You’re in Cali aren’t you Sheila? Walk, don’t run to the nearest private school. From a Mom who’s sent two kids to CA public schools.”

    Yes — we live in one of the exurbs that Steve Sailer, Mr. Studio City, likes to bag on.

    Here’s one problem with my argument: Mr. Tone is a product of the exact same public schools we’d be sending our kids to. Plus, both his parents are retired from the exact same school system.

    Another problem: I am a product of parochial schools, not public schools. So Mr. Tone argues that private schooling is the cause, not the solution, to the sorts of problems I had.

    I counter with the facts that 1) His experience with the system happened 30 years ago, and the school population was different then (although we’re still in the wealthiest district in the area), and 2) My experience in parochial school in a bad area is therefore more relevant, because I’m the one who knows what it’s like to go to school with a lot of poor kids and Hispanic immigrant kids.

  19. rob says:

    The last time I got into a conversation about this it was with someone that believed that the best of the best students should literally be put in classes with the developmentally impaired (I don’t think he was referring to Down Syndrome, but still short bussers). That was when I found that I could not have a reasonable discussion with the opposition on this subject.”

    Was this person an educator?…

    Teachers have self-interest in keeping bright kid with average and below kids. There’s this “theory” in education that fast kids are best used as, and have a duty to be, free teachers’ aides. So rather than learning trig in 5th grade, the gifted child’s time is better spent helping less-intelligent children figure out fractions. Teachers like the free help, and it has the bonus of making dumb kids resent smart kids instead of teachers for trying to make them learn.

    I too noticed all the students quoted were girls. Stone’s experience has changed my priors a bit. I still think that mainstreaming is much harder on gifted boys than girls, because of peer-culture and mean personality traits. Boy culture is quite anti-intellectual in many places. Being smart is not neutral, it’s actually a negative in getting along. Girls seem more able to tolerate boredom in school without tuning or dropping out.

    Stone, is the public school your kids would be going to bad? The active, professional-managerial class parents probably keep education fads on a tighter leash, and kids are reasonably well socialized.

  20. Maria says:

    I counter with the facts that 1) His experience with the system happened 30 years ago, and the school population was different then (although we’re still in the wealthiest district in the area), and

    It’s not just immigrant kids or poor school districts. It’s that Cali public school kids are petri dishes for every single educational fad to come down the pike. Whole language, fuzzy math, open classrooms, etc. — it just never ends.

    And the PeeCee indoctrination is pretty scary too. Even kids in wealthy i.e. mostly white districts are subjected to it.

  21. Maria says:

    The active, professional-managerial class parents probably keep education fads on a tighter leash, and kids are reasonably well socialized.

    The socialization is good but alas, the educational fads are not kept on a tighter leash in the wealthier districts.

  22. trumwill says:

    For what it’s worth, California schools have a pretty atrocious reputation in Delosa. The perception, anyway, is that when they move there they are way behind their Delosian counterparts. And Delosa is hardly a paragon of educational excellence! The knock on California is exactly what Maria says it is… they spend more time in theory than in education, and the result is that they’re behind. I’ve only talked to one teacher about this, but he has gone on and on about it. He teaches 8th grade math at a pretty well-to-do school.

    Sounds like if you send your kid to a private school you need to be more selective than your father was able to be. I also really think that in addition to the fact that you went to a private school, you went to a small one. Big schools can help a lot. Are there really big private schools around?

    My advice is worth exactly what you’re paying for it.

  23. Maria says:

    22.For what it’s worth, California schools have a pretty atrocious reputation in Delosa.

    No shit, Sherlock! They’re like number 48 out of 50 in state school quality rankings. When I was a kid CA schools were number one in the nation (yeah, I’m bitter about that.)

    Sheila, you could always go our route, which is send to public schools in a good district and supplement with private tutoring. Although the private tutoring is almost as expensive as private school.

  24. David Alexander says:

    The perception, anyway, is that when they move there they are way behind their Delosian counterparts. And Delosa is hardly a paragon of educational excellence!

    In contrast, here in New York, pretty much any Southern school district is written off as third rate and inferior. I’ve heard lots of anecdotes where 9th grade material is supposedly 11th and 12th grade material in other states.

    PeeCee

    I must admit, the reference to PeeCee and “blank slater” is a little disconcerting, but then I’m in the class of people that uses those philosophies an effective shield against questionable attitudes and treatment from other groups.

    So Mr. Tone argues that private schooling is the cause, not the solution, to the sorts of problems I had.

    I think the best bet is not to magically make a decision right now, but to seriously investigate the schools in your area. Not just schools that have been zoned for your area, but those within the school district. I’ve seen systems where the elementary schools are good, but everything falls apart at the junior high school or high school level. As I like to point out, when checking out private schools, make sure that they’re not the dumping ground for parents trying to fix their children, which is a concern at higher grade levels where things begin to count more.

    FWIW, I’d argue that it is disingenuous to argue that private schooling caused your problems as the public schools in your old neighourhood may have been just as bad or worse if you didn’t luck out with a gifted programme to isolate you from the other students.

    Teachers have self-interest in keeping bright kid with average and below kids.

    While this is anecdotal at best, my male friend teaches history at a Catholic high school, and he generally hates teaching the less bright kids, and would do anything if possible to get rid of them. For him, they’re just a burden to deal with while the smarter kids generally operate on their own with little effort needed from him to get a solid response.

  25. SFG says:

    Well, we all know where everyone’s sympathies here lie. But I’ve come to the conclusion that America just isn’t interested in developing intellectual talent, and prefers to import its brainiacs from China and India, either as H1Bs or as young immigrants. And there’s not much we can do about it.

  26. Nanani says:

    Wow. I’m late replying, but this article is incendiary.

    The promise of BEGINNING tracking in Grade 9 (we didn’t have junior high) was the light at the end of the tunnel for me in Grades 7 and 8.

    >There’s this “theory” in education that fast kids are best used as, and have a duty to be, free teachers’ aides.
    There are no family-friendly words coming to mind as a response to this.

    >The kids see someone else having success…

    Linguitic question now: is “having success” an American idiom? I don’t recall ever hearing that before. If not idiomatic, I think it might actually reflect the crazy worldview behind this sort of policy, as in “success is something people randomly HAVE instead of something they earn and do for themselves”. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    It would be interesting to know how many kids are suddenly moving or switching to private school between now and the new school year.

  27. stone says:

    “Linguitic question now: is “having success” an American idiom? I don’t recall ever hearing that before.”

    I never thought of that before, but I suppose it is. Yeah, I don’t know why we don’t just say “succeed” intead of “have success at.”

  28. rob says:

    I don’t know why we don’t just say “succeed” intead of “have success at.”

    That must be a west coast phrase. I have never heard it. It’s really awkward too.

  29. trumwill says:

    “Have success at” is not uncommon phraseology. It didn’t even occur to me that there was anything unusual about it. Of course, you never hear something until you do. It was only recently that I heard the word “bag” rhyme with “vague” but I hear it pretty regularly in Arapaho.

  30. john says:

    “We wanted to debunk the whole thing and try something new”

    This was probably a vocabulary malfunction, but if they are really doing this to “debunk” tracking then they are using their students as guinea pigs in an experiment designed to validate their beliefs. That’s reprehensible.

  31. Maria says:

    This was probably a vocabulary malfunction, but if they are really doing this to “debunk” tracking then they are using their students as guinea pigs in an experiment designed to validate their beliefs.

    The public schools have been using students as guinea pigs for failed social experiments for decades now, and not just “gifted” ones.

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