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23 January 2013 @ 02:56 pm
apples and oranges  
The results of the Program for International Student Assessment showed that our students actually placed No. 1 when they were compared with students at schools abroad having similar poverty rates. To wit: schools in the U.S. with less than a 10 percent poverty rate posted a score of 551. Finland, which is widely acknowledged to have the world’s best schools, came in No. 2 at 536. Even when the poverty rate was as high as 24.9 percent, the U.S. held its top-rated position with a score of 527.

This is just one of my favorite take aways from Larry Ferlazzo's remarkable compendium found here (http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2010/12/08/the-best-sites-for-learning-the-truth-about-international-test-comparison-demagoguery/) which is a compilation of all manner of resources about international comparison of our students (PISA and more).

My focus today is not on the unflattering comparison of our students to those in other countries, though (but this collection from Ferlazzo should give all of us plenty of information to respond to CCSS and Coleman and others). It is about COMPARISON period. Comparison is really COMPETITION, I think. Oooh, look, they are better than we are. Better spend more money on STEM (amd I am old enough to recall that this happened when Sputnik launched and again in the former Soviet Union when we got to the moon first, etc.) or more money on getting them better prepared for the tests. Fostering this "have to be #1 or it does not count at all" mentality is not healthy in any situation. Who has the most AR points? Who has the highest GPA? I remember when Career Girl graduated from high school that the top kids in her class had GPAs well over 4.0. I asked how that was possible since As are 4 points. Easy, it seems: more points are awarded for grades in AP and other accelerated classes. Huh? What was the point? It was to get more kids to take those AP and other classes since, from our state's perspective, that meant the school was excelling, making AYP (remember AYP?) and winning blue ribbons. forget the fact that not all the kids needed or wanted to be in AP classes. If you wanted to be top dog, you took all those courses. I wonder what data exists about how they did in college where A=4.0 and not any more points? I do know the valedictorian of Career Girl's class worked in a bakery for 2 years after graduating college with a degree in psychology. Maybe Coleman would point to this and say we failed that person in terms of preparing her for her career/college? (and she is enrolled in a grad program now anyhow).

I am digressing a bit here (and I suspect this is a topic that will take several posts until I can come to a sharper point), but the bottom line is this: kids are not products; school is not an assembly line. Kylene Beers wrote eloquently about this several years ago in her editorial column in VOICES FROM THE MIDDLE. She pointed out that assembly lines accept only quality, top notch parts and ingredients; that anything that does not meet QC standards is discarded. That is not how education works. Each kid is individual; each has unique gifts and needs. And those of you working with them day in and day out use every fiber within you to meet those needs and desires and expectations. You hone those gifts, skills, talents. And you do NOT do this by making kids compete one against the other. You do not spend time in comparison when it comes to kids. I have heard parents talk about their smart kids and their "other kids" in front of the "other" in a conference. Adn this is, in effect, what the NAYSAYERS in education are doing: making sure we never compare favorably to anyone else when it comes to education. I do wonder, though, how these NAYSAYERS got to where they are today, don't you? How did the framers of CCSS ever crawl out of the ooze that was their education? Maybe we should ignore them since they are the product of our horrid schools, too? Hmmm
 
 
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