The Confidence Men are consultants who claim they know how to raise student achievement dramatically, writes Eric Hanushek in the summer issue of Education Next.
(Lawrence) Picus and (Allen) Odden . . . claim that a specific set of policies can shift average student performance upward by three to six standard deviations, an extraordinary gain. The policies they identify include providing a year of full-day kindergarten, reducing class size to 15 students through grade 3, using multi-age classrooms, hiring classroom coaches, employing one-to-one tutoring for disadvantaged students, getting half of the students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch to attend summer school, embedding technology within the classroom, creating a gifted and talented program for the top 5 percent of all students, and accelerating instruction for the 2 percent of students capable of benefiting from it.
Raising achievement by a standard deviation — the difference in scores between the average fourth and eighth grader — would wipe out the racial achievement gap and send U.S. students soaring ahead of Korean and Japanese students.
After their policies are fully implemented in Washington (state), Albert Einstein, were he not participating in these programs, would find himself achieving at or below the state average.
And it will happen in one year, the consultants predict.
Not going to happen, writes Hanushek.
Also in Education Next, writer Barbara Feinberg analyzes the influence of Lucy Calkins on how schools teach writing. Once an advocate of teaching children to discover their own writing style, Calkins has suffered “hardening of the ideologies,” writes Feinberg.
Students are supposed to be write about their own experiences, so fantasy is taboo. Only “realistic fiction” is exempt from the ban.
Recently, New York City teachers were asked to describe how top-down mandates affect their teaching. Many complained the Calkins’ writing workship method was far too rigid, prescriptive and sometimes irrelevant.
A kindergarten teacher reported how she was instructed to ask her students, on the third day of class, â€œto reflect on how theyâ€™d grown as writers.â€
“Ridiculous,” the teacher said.