Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Excellence Gap

Consider this statistic:

Over 50% of California public school students are Hispanic, yet on the 2011 NAEP Grade 4 Math test, only 1% of Hispanic and Black students scored at the advanced level, compared to 19% of Asian and 12% of White students. Long-term trends do not lead to optimism: in 2005, 2007, and 2009, the advanced rate was 1% for Hispanic students in California.

This should be a mind-boggling statistic for you (read entire article here). Why are we failing to educate for excellence, aiming instead at the very minimal target of "competency," especially with regard to our minority populations?

What is it about education in US that refuses to adapt to the changes in the world?

Why are we throwing programs and standards at kids that have less to do with learning and more to do with test-taking competency?

Why is it still acceptable to have this kind of gap between races at the highest level of academic performance?

Do we really think this little of the kids in our country?

It is difficult to write a commentary on something that is so obviously biased in such an institutional way; when kids talk about racism today, they say how far we have come, how it is possible to be in a classroom and drink out of a water fountain with students of different colors.

They don't see the racism woven into the fabric of everyday life, legislated and legalized by the people who run the country, even as we have our first black president (who was characterized as "not as black" as other former presidential candidates).

The statistic at the start of this blog is sickening to me, and unacceptable. To be sure, there are a number of factors involved in a student's underachievement, but our system of education is currently perpetuating this underachievement in the way it does business. You can't shoot for the middle and hope for the best; the only students who will rise to the top are (generally) those who would rise to the top regardless of where they are and where they come from. Minorities and boys are currently underidentified in gifted programs, and we have done nothing to change that except dumb-down gifted curriculum to make it more inclusive and let anyone with a waiver in.

This is not the solution. Students will rise (or fall) to the level of expectation you set for them. If we think they are dumb and incapable, guess what? If we think they are brilliant and capable of greatness, guess what?

We are who we teach; they reflect us as clearly as a new mirror. Take a long, hard look, America.

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