Ruminations on the crazy people we are, by a retired teacher/musician. Can't get the "requests" out of my system after years of barroom/lounge/restaurant/party gigs mining 100 years worth of the musical mother-lode.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The real average student

A week or so ago, Newsweek published it's annual listing of the one hundred best highschools in the country. Being a teacher for 38 years, I approached this list with some anticipation, since I expected the list would be accompanied by interesting information as to how these schools had solved the biggest educational problem there is: EFFECTIVENESS!

Only a moment had passed before I was disillusioned; most of the schools at the top of the list were special schools. The article had boasted of what these schools were doing for the AVERAGE kid;to my surprise, the top schools were magnet schools, special subject schools, and the like. The only way they were dealing with average kids was to yank the most promising of them out of their neighborhoods, put them in a highly specialized setting with the best teachers available, and voila!, great results. I'm glad for those kids. But this is not what it claims to be: it is a treat for the elite.

The average kids who need effective education are those who DO NOT show promise, or signs of genius. Let the results be what they may, but give them the best you can. The best teachers gravitate to the best kids. In all my years of teaching, I saw that truism contradicted only once. An old lady who had been creating effective materials all her life was putting them to use in most effective ways with truly average kids, and getting great results. That phenomenon is all too rare. Average kids usually get an average or below average education in school systems that almost never set improvement goals for their average kids.

Consider this possibility: every school district be required to improve its results with average kids by a factor of one every year. One elevated student this year, two next year, three the year after that, and so on. The possibilities are staggering. Consider a goal of elevating one added kid each year from the BELOW AVERAGE group up to the average group each year. Want to solve our crime problem? This is how to do it.

But, in the first instance, its not about solving our crime problem; let that be the beneficial after effect. It's about being true to our kids, in ways that they, and our country, will never forget.

End of ruminations for today, 5.9.2006.

Today's burning question: whence the origin of the "fore" that is yelled by golfers about to hit some poor guy in the head?

Ta ta.


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