Monday, February 04, 2013

Achievement gap calculations are mostly misguided

Just because something can be calculated mathematically, doesn't mean there is any point in the calculation. Nor do the calculations necessarily justify spending precious resources to mitigate the results.

People who are found of wielding power and spending resources, see some point in grouping together all Hispanics for example, and then calculating the difference between their average performance and the average performances of other ethnic groups.  Someone is going to have to lead the movement to address the problem of disparate average performance across ethic lines.  There is a potential for a number of high paying and powerful positions to be created.

There is really only one achievement gap worthy of our worry;
the individual achievement gap; the distance between an individual student's actual and potential performance.

You can if you want, add them all together under any premise at all, and divide by n.  The calculation is justified only by an intent to devise some macro solution to address individual problems.

Imagine a curtain.  On one side a qualified teacher, on the other, an individual student with "an achievement gap".  The point being, the teacher is completely unaware of what "groups" the student might be part of; no idea of his/her race, sex, sexual identity, political persuasion, ...

The teacher can ask the student a number of questions, perhaps do a modest amount of "testing".  At that point, most any teacher and most any student can create a decent plan and a realistic likelihood of closing the gap between that student's individual performance and their performance were their needs being met.

It remains only to implement individual plans; the gaps will close, students will graduate with an education that qualifies them for work or further education.  The gaps of arbitrarily determined groups, Hispanics. Asians, Native Americans, African Americans, Others, will take care of themselves.

Where are we going to get enough teachers?

Students can learn without teachers.  Every learner, for want ever amount of time they are learning independently, frees their teacher to work with other students who really need a "teacher" at that moment.

There's a problem with independent learning; students are unaccustomed to it.  They are accustomed to doing whatever they want to, even it if isn't learning.

If you ask a teacher if you could pile 30 kids in a room and expect them to stay busy and on task, they would say, no. They are accustomed to working in schools where adults have lost authority over students.  They work in schools were students are in control.

They work in schools where you can't take a kid with a problem, off the assembly line long enough to address the problem.

The prime directive is, has been, and will likely continue to be; students must stay together.  There is neither time nor opportunity for students and teachers to work one on one.

Hence the need for global intervention; the need to find some model that works with groups of 30 kids at a time; 30 kids with nothing in common but the year of their birth and the neighborhood where they live.  Hence the need for cemetery seating, six rows of five desks, and thought choir learning strategies.

Dig where the gold is…unless you just need some exercise.
John M. Capozzi
The people who want to sell or be part of macro solutions to individual problems know where to dig for the gold; in conflating statistics and creating the appearance of a global issue, when in fact there is only a sea of individual issues each with it own face.

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