Good news and bad news: The good news is that SAT scores for America’s lowest-achieving students are up; the bad news is that the scores for the top achieving students are down. Recently, state governments and the Department of Education have focused their attention on bringing kids who fall behind up to speed, but this also means slowing down the kids who are way ahead. The WSJ has the story:
A report by the National Association for Gifted Children released this week said public schools deny top-performing children the resources, properly trained teachers and coherent policies they need to excel. It called for policy changes that don’t require additional spending, such as holding schools accountable for the scores of the top-fliers.‘There is this myth that gifted and talented children will be fine on their own,’ said Jane Clarenbach, director of the National Association for Gifted Children, a nonprofit advocacy group. ‘But I think history is showing us that this is not true, and we now have a crisis in this nation where our top achievers are being ignored.’
Meeting the needs of students at all levels of achievement will require us to rethink our institutions at a more fundamental level. In the early 20th century, it might have made sense to educate hundreds of students in identical classrooms and stamp them all with the same basic lessons so that they could become the next generation of factory workers. Today, this is no longer the case.Our whole system of ‘grades’ is geared to the routines of factory life and to the standardization of individual training and performance that went with it. No two people are exactly alike, and that goes double for teenagers. People learn with different styles, at different speeds and they have different gifts and different limits. The school systems of today were consciously designed to reduce the differences among individuals as part of the Great Standardization of the progressive era. Today, that needs to change.We need more, and more different, options for different kids. In the 18th century many people when to university in their early to mid teens; so far as one can tell the many Founding Fathers who attended college at an age that today would have them pegged as high school freshmen did pretty well. Artificially holding bright kids back is as destructive as ‘socially promoting’ slower kids who haven’t mastered basic skills.The changes in American education have only begun; one of our society’s most barnacle encrusted, stodgy institutions, the K-12 complex, is bit by bit going through the biggest restructuring since the introduction of universal secondary education.