January 2, 2007

Survey says: regular people aren't as foolish as educators

Apparently, the public is not quite as enamored with mainstreaming as educators. Mainstreaming or full inclusion is the practice of not separating students by ability and throwing them all into the same classroom. Educators, who are all about egalitarianism, love it. The rest of us, not so much:

More than three quarters of people believe that bright children should be taught separately to push them further, according to a new study.

The overwhelming majority either want more streaming by ability in comprehensive schools or the chance to send high-fliers to selective grammar schools.

Almost as many people said that weaker children could also benefit from being segregated at school, said the report by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), a Right-wing think-tank.

Regular people seem to understand better than educators that when you put the Einsteins and the Forrest Gumps into the same classroom neither is going to learn to their capacity. The Einsteins are going to be bored to tears as the class moves at, what to them is, a glacial pace and the Gumps are going to be overwhelmed by, what to them is, a breakneck pace.

The results showed that 76 per cent believe "more academic" children at secondary school can maximise their potential by being taught separately. Of these, 40 per cent were in favour of children being streamed by ability within comprehensive schools and 36 per cent wanted them to be sent to a wholly selective school.

Only 20 per cent said bright children could be pushed in mixed ability classes.

This comes despite huge resistance by teachers to separating children by ability.

There they go again, getting in the way of a proper education. That'll be my theme for 2007: Educators getting in the way of education.

The reason why educators don't like separating by ability is because it creates an education ghetto of low performers whose failure to learn is painfully evident. When you mix them in with the other kids and socially promote them, it's easier to disguise the failure, at least until NCLB came into the picture. These low-performing kids still aren't learning, but when you mainstream them, some parents might not figure out the game.

Fundamentally, the problem remains the inability of schools to educate the bottom half of the curve to an acceptable standard. The solution that schools have come up with is a form of education socialism. Since they can't raise the lot of the lowest group, the next best thing is to pull everyone else down to this same low level. People didn't find this to be an attractive solution for the economy and it looks like they don't like it for education either.


Anonymous said...

Educators, who are all about egalitarianism, love it.

Interesting. I've never met a teacher who didn't hate it.

KDeRosa said...

I should have been clearer-- those educators responsible for policy decisions. Understandably, front line educators aren't going to like it.

Anonymous said...

"Interesting. I've never met a teacher who didn't hate it."

Well, I have.

I've seen teachers who love it and others who just silently accept it but aren't sure they buy it (based on results, no doubt.)

I think the tendency to like it breaks down according to the age of the kids being taught. Early childhood teachers probably feel more successful at it than middle or high school. Kids seem more alike in earlier years because of the general lack of academic knowledge that all of them missing at that stage.

Also, no one wants to lock anyone in at that point. It's a hopeful, but foggy time.

Administrations, otoh, seem to love it.

Catherine Johnson said...

I disagree that the "fundamental" problem is "the inability of schools to educate the bottom half of the curve to an acceptable standard."

This is a restatement of the "Washington consensus," which I've come to feel is not only wrong, but harmful.

No group of children is being systematically educated to an acceptable standard. The decline in SAT verbal scores happened at the top, not just in the middle and the bottom.

As long as we carry on assuming that wealthy white schools are "good" and that poor black schools should live up to the "standards" set by wealthy white schools we'll undermine reform efforts with wrong analysis.

Perhaps most importantly, this analysis reinforces the universal belief that "better students/parents = better schools." Thus reform efforts center on "getting parents involved in the schools" as the answer because affluent white parents are involved in their kids' schools.

(The idea that parents are "involved" is an especially unpleasant irony for us. In our district parents are locked out, literally. We can't even come in out of the cold to pick our kids up after school. Our "involvement" is limited to donating money, chaperoning field trips, and sending emails to the Board of Ed.)

The notion that affluent white schools are good obscures the fact that a very large amount of the learning in good-white-schools is happening at home, not at school.

Until we do value-added analyses of our "good" white schools, policy analysts will carry on thinking that the problem with black & Hispanic schools is the parents & the students, not the schools.

KDeRosa said...

I'm 0 for 2 today. I didn't mean to imply that I thought that the top half of the curve was necessarily receiving a good education. But, limping by on depressed student achievemnet is not quite the same thing as outright academic failure. The former is a minor annoyance known only by the education wonks; the latter is a very visible display of school failure that gets parents and politiians riled up.

SteveH said...

I understood that mainstreaming was the (older) process of bringing up lower-ability kids to the grade-level expectations of regular kids. Full-inclusion is the (modern) process of mixing all kids together at any level of ability. For full-inclusion, there is no assumption of grade-level expectations. Each child moves at his or her own speed. This is a nice idea, but it doesn't work in practice.

What full-inclusion does is to eliminate almost all grade-level expectations. Schools use spiraling techniques in the hope of keeping all same-age kids together. To make this work, they have come up with the idea of differentiated instruction or learning. This is what our public schools do and they can't seem to get it to work, but they are working on it. The fundamental flaw is that they think that there is a way to teach all kids at their own levels in mixed-ability, child-centered groupings. It just doesn't happen.

The only way to get this to work is if you lower or eliminate specific goals for content knowledge and mastery of skills.

Anonymous said...

The fundamental flaw is that they think that there is a way to teach all kids at their own levels in mixed-ability, child-centered groupings.

Don't you understand that the struggling kids are supposed to learn from the advanced kids during group work while teachers mill about the room and facilitate? Back to ed school for you!