Sunday, November 6, 2011

Success at all levels

Interesting article in the paper this morning. A local school jumped from a 'C' to an 'A' on their state evaluation report card. They did it in a matter of a single year. The solution was considered radical and not everyone is enamored with the solution.

In fact what they did was quite simple. The students were placed into three groups; advanced, average and slower learners. Notice, I didn't use a derogatory term. We're not talking about dummies or trouble-makers. What they managed to do was to let each group learn at their own speed. Too often the liberal thinker mandates that everything is equal for all. What they then fail to consider is their equality is holding back all these groups. The 'fast' kids are held back because the process they are subjected to is too slow for them. Slower learning kids continue to fail because they can't keep up with the faster kids.

The 'equalitarians' fall into their own trap. Being equal across the board doesn't raise the level of everyone, it often does the opposite, dragging all performances down. They succeeded by letting the faster students learn at their own rate thus succeeding. The slower learning succeeded by, guess what, doing the same thing, learning at their own rate and thus succeeding. Grouping by ability doesn't need to have a stigma as the opponents claim, it raises their success rate by giving them the chance to succeed, thus negating any stigma by having a positive outcome.

It's not about the end justifies the means, it's about doing something that works.


  1. I remember fighting with a teacher at Christ the King, and yes, it was a nun (!) to be placed into the faster reading group when we moved in second grade. This is how we were raised, as were those before us. Somehow, we have lost this and moved to equality, where the fast learners suffer, it's still to slow for the middle, and the lowest maybe are still too slow. I forwarded your blog to a few teachers, and would like a link for the article itself. My kids have suffered due to this change, and I, for one, would like to see a move back to the faster and not-as-fast groups. I think this contributes to the lack of challenge in schools today, as well as to the decline of academics. fortunately for my kids, they have honors and AP classes in high school - they have vowed to never again take a general class because they were bored to tears! So we come to the crux of the matter - everything old is new again.

  2. When we switched to CK, I was placed in the lower of the 3 groups because of where each was in math, as SJS was a bit behind then; that was in March, and by the following school year I had jumped into the top group.

  3. If I remember hearing correctly, the nuns at SJS pulled strings to get us into CK - the school was full but based on talking to SJS, they let us in. Hard to believe that there were that many kids in Catholic schools!

  4. Completely agree. I was not allowed to take a foreign language in 8th grade because my marks in 7th grade Engish were not high enough. They were low because I was BORED since there was no devisions of English in Junior High and we were all lumped together. I fought to get into College Prep English in High School and worked my way up to AP English by Senior Year, earning college credits.

    I do disagree with the "liberal thinker" comment. The No Child Left Behind program put in place by the Bush Administration forced additional tests on the US school system. Now our local public school takes three weeks out of regular classes to prep all students for these standardized tests, which leaves everyone even further behind.

  5. Well, let's see: 1)the nuns at SJS had very little to do with the admission to CK (after all the nuns between the two schools belonged to different orders and did not necessarily see eye-to-eye on academics and other things. The final showdown involved our mother and a few choice words and threats, and a consultation with higher authorities, i.e., priests. 2)When I went to Hartley, I was place initially in the slower English class based on the fact that I had not gone to any of the "suburban" schools, just one of "those inner-city elementary schools". The teacher in the class refused to post the accurate grade that first quarter "because, after all, it's not like you were in the class of those expected to go to college". She was mortified that even with the grade that she gave I still managed to top the honor roll list for that first quarter. I was immediately transferred to the "higher" English class. 3) I agree with "equestrian". Liberal thinkers are not stupid or so engrossed in equality that competition is perceived as bad and that everything has to be equal among all. However, there is something to be said for having the opportunity to succeed, which may place the notion of equality in a different light. We do not sacrifice individual performance simply for the sake of the greater good.

  6. Unfortunately, someone in authority in a school not to be names, has the idea that the greater good for the lower third involves ignoring the top third, and sometimes even the middle third, in order to bring up the lower third. Sound strange? It would unti you realize that the person in authority's children do not reside in the upper third, but either in the middle or towards the bottom third. A far cry from where the school used to be - academics - verssus the new "battle cry" of "it's a mission". I'm tired of hearing that one, and want the focus to switch back to academics and getting kids ready for high school - particularly with the challenge that is needed to keep the overachievers on track and not bored.
    fortunately, there are teachers who agree with me - and they are the strong teachers that can see the need and the consequences of the current policy. Thankfully, they are pushing my children and encouraging them to do the extra credit/challenge work and to work ahead when the pace is too slow that they are bored!