Smart kids don't get ahead

While low achievers are improving thanks to No Child Left Behind, our best students suffer from benign neglect, write Tom Loveless and Michael Petrilli in a New York Times op-ed.  While, a Center on Education Policy study showed more students are reaching the “advanced” level on state tests than in 2002, these tests are too easy to measure how high achievers are learning.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress . . . found relatively little progress among our highest-achieving students (those in the top 10 percent) from 2000 to 2007, while the bottom 10 percent made phenomenal gains. For example, in eighth-grade math, the lowest-achieving students made 13 points of progress on the national-assessment scale from 2000 to 2007 — roughly the equivalent of a whole grade. Top students, however, gained just five points.

Closing the achievement gap shouldn’t be our only goal, they argue.

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  1. The achievement gap between the top and the bottom will never be closed unless the test is so weak as to be meaningless. That gap should not close. The kids at the top should be given opportunites to soar; their talents serve our country well. After all, the top earners pay almost all of the taxes that support the government’s programs.

  2. The phrase ‘benign neglect’ implies that students benefit from this neglect. I’m not sure this is what the authors really intended to convey.

  3. Dennis Fermoyle says:

    I’m befuddled! For good reasons, most of our efforts have been to improve the performance of our lowest performing students. If in the process of doing that our best students are also making gains–even if the gains aren’t as large as those on the bottom–it seems to me that’s something we should be thrilled about. Talk about finding the cloud in the silver lining!

  4. Student of History says:


    Don’t we care about the capabilities of our best students and whether they have to exert any effort at all to make gains?

    Does the fact that other countries appreciate that it’s their best and brightest’s aptitudes and skills that create the innovations of tomorrow that our country will need to continue to thrive in a global marketplace?

    Is equality of treatment so important that we are willing to give up on the future we are capable of achieving and that other countries now have or will achieve?

    Do you like sports? Do you want the best team representing you or is it more important that anyone who wishes make the team and get a chance to play?

    Is it fair that the differences in skills and abilities of some in one area of life become an anchor that limits what all but the most determined can become intellectually?

    What is befuddling about wanting every American child to have the academic opportunities to thrive as individuals so we benefit collectively?

  5. We actually have TWO achievement gaps, though one gets most attention. That gap is the focus of the No Child Left Behind Act–to bring the lowest achieving students up to a rather minimal level of proficiency.

    The other–more ignored gap–is the one between our brightest students and what they could achieve if our country focused on them to the same extent as it does on the NCLB goals.

    It’s tragic that we don’t do this. Perhaps the work by Mr. Loveless and Petrelli can lead the way.

  6. Dennis, the problem is that the kids at the top are easily capable of making large gains, if they are challenged appropriately. Absent large gains, they are not being challenged.

  7. Dennis Fermoyle says:

    SOH and momof4, I don’t think there’s any question that the biggest problem in American education has been the performance of our low achievers. You might not be satisfied with the performance of our best and brightest, but they’ve been doing fine, (and apparently now they’re doing even better). They’re going to college, they’re getting good jobs, they’re become doctors, lawyers, etc. I have no doubt that once our best and brightest get into college and decide what it is that they really want to do, that they are not handicapped. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell points out that while intelligence in obviously a huge advantage, once you get past a certain IQ (120), there is no real world advantage. He shows the same thing for colleges students get into. For instance, a student who is able to get into the University of Michigan is just as likely to excel in his profession as someone who has gotten into Harvard. He doesn’t actually address test scores of high school students, but I would guess that the same principle holds. I think you people are seeing a problem where a problem doesn’t exist.

  8. Mark Roulo says:

    I have a bad habit of trying to go to the original source when evaluating claims like this. I’m going to assume that the Loveless and Petrilli article is this:

    What is unfortunate, is that the link to the NAEP that they provide, points back to a search of NYT articles on NAEP, not to the original NAEP data.

    So … off to the NAEP website to try to guess what data they are unhappy about.

    First point: NAEP seems to track by *age*, not by *grade*. So my choices are 9-year-old, 13-year-old, and 17-year-old. I’m going to make the wild guess that the Loveless 8th graders are the NAEP 13-year-olds.

    So … off to the math data. I can find math data here:

    We have data for 1999, 2004 and 2008, which isn’t the same as 2000-2007, but maybe close enough.

    So … in 1999, the 90th percentile for 13-year-old math scores was 317. The NAEP table has a little asterisk next to this score and the legend indicates that this asterisk means that this score was “Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008." Since the 1999 score is lower, my read is that the NAEP means that this gain is *real* … not just statistical noise. The 2008 90th percentile score was 323 (so 6 points higher than the 1999 score).

    In 1999, the 10th percentile score for 13-year-old math scores was 234. This score has no asterisk, so I'm assuming that the NAEP does *not* think that this score was significantly different from the 2008 score. The 2008 score was 237 (so 3 points higher than the 1999 score).

    Using *THIS* data, I'd reach a conclusion opposite that of Loveless. Between 1999 and 2008, the top 10th percentile made statistically significant progress while the bottom 10th percentile did not. The top is pulling away from the bottom. The gap is not closing.

    However, without any clear idea of what data Loveless is using (no link/reference from the article), I can't be sure.

    Anyone have any ideas? Right now I'd just conclude that Loveless is wrong …

    -Mark Roulo

  9. “I have no doubt that once our best and brightest get into college and decide what it is that they really want to do, that they are not handicapped.”

    What do you base this conclusion on? Oftentimes, bright kids have little to no opportunity to learn study skills. Why would they learn to study if they can get As with little to no effort?

    What about the kids who are so turned off school by the end of elementary school that they simply stop trying? Do they exist in your mindset?

    “I don’t think there’s any question that the biggest problem in American education has been the performance of our low achievers.”

    I don’t see this as the biggest problem at all. I have spent the last six years listening to the officials at my kids school natter on about how they must have activities and events to help the low kids. How these kids must be recognized and celebrated. I never hear anything about celebrating the achievements of the high kids. I have watched my daughter spend school YEARS reading novels under her desk because it is important to work with the low kids.

    I worry about what will happen to her when she goes to college and doesn’t know the material and has to learn it. She has no study skills right now and little prospect of needing them.

    At minimum, it would be nice if the teachers who believe the high kids don’t need any attention could be kept away from the high kids.

  10. Dennis is the reason why my kids will never attend government schools, even at the postsecondary level.

  11. Margo/Mom says:

    And yet another tiresome attempt to pit the low achievers against the high. Education is not a zero sum game. If the data that Loveless and Petrilli refer to exists (and I assume, Mark, that there is someone to explain the difference between your findings and those that they report), we have increased overall levels of achievement while narrowing the distance from top to bottom. Examining the scores of our country and others on international tests, we can certainly stand to do both. Among the leading scorers internationally we tend to see both higher average scores AND narrower top to bottom spread. While we can stand to raise the top, where we really need work is at the bottom (as well as give up the fiction that those other countries only test their best and brightest).

    We also have to understand that when we talk about “growth” from year to year, mo4, we are not talking about the amount of individual learning. We are talking about whether the population this year scored at a higher level (knew more) than the population four, or eight years ago. That there is measureable change not only indicates some attention to what the kids at the top are learning–but that the test is capable of measuring such increases (that is, the top kids aren’t topping out somewhere beyond the top levels).

    But it is really troublesome that whenever one of these things comes out, there is a certain amount of “bashing” of the undeserving kids at the bottom. They will never save the world, they don’t carry a fair load in supporting the economy through taxes, in the end, they are just not worth the effort. It ought to concern us when ANY child gives up and drops out–whether they are unengaged because the material is something that they already know or because their needs are overlooked in any other ways. We know that the drop-out population includes both.

    Personally, I tend to rejoice in the ideals of equity and the ways in which they apply to public education. I rejoice in public education as a concept, as I do in all the factors that go into a democracy. I recoil from the churlish way in which anon refers to “government schools,” as if government were an evil to be avoided. Rather, I see education as a public responsibility. It may take many forms, from “government schools” to government regulation of or payment for education in other arenas. And yes, all of these democratic leanings require a great coming together from time to time. Let’s commit to doing it for the greater, rather than our individual, good.

  12. I was one of those smart ones in high school who never learned how to study (straight A’s with 30 minutes of homework per night). It was a really hard hit in college, and I ended up dropping out. I later finished up my college degree, and after another 4 years eventually entered law school. I was 35 by the time I finished law school, and I promptly ran into age discrimination in hiring. So I bummed around in different jobs for over a decade, finally finding my preferred career choice at the age of 46.

    Anecdotal, I know, and Dennis is certainly right that once the best and brightest figure out what they want to do, they’re okay. But I can’t help but think that if I had been properly challenged in high school, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

  13. To anon, who says, “my kids will never attend government schools”: As an example of a district that does it right (at least in this one area), take a look at the Highly Gifted Magnet at North Hollywood High School, in the Los Angeles Unified School District ( The admission criterion is a measured IQ of 140 or more, and the education is every bit as good as that provided by, say, the nearby (private) Harvard-Westlake school

  14. Dennis Fermoyle says:

    I’m not sure we’re all talking about the same kids. When we’re talking about the top achievers, I’m assuming that we’re generally talking about the best “students,” not just the “bright kids.” The best students in our school have been intelligent, but they’ve also usually made a pretty good effort and demonstrated pretty good study skills. Granted, there are some bright kids who underachieve badly, but I would guess that most of them are not in the top ten percent when it comes to these scores. Maybe some, but not many. So when Jane asks the very fair question regarding what I based my statement on, I’m basing it on what I’ve seen during my career. The top students in our school have rarely failed to do quite well in college and end up with very nice careers.

    Anon, ouch! That would hurt more, but today–yes, this actually happened today–a parent came up to me and told me how happy she was that I hadn’t retired because she really wanted her daughter to have me. She said, “I’ve heard so many good things about you.” She then told me that she hoped I’d hang in there for a couple more years because she really wanted her younger daughter to have me because she was a better student. This is a person who actually is familiar with me and the job I do, so hearing that means a lot to me. One of the problems with blogging is that it’s so easy to make insulting comments to people. After all, you’re probably never going to see the people you’re commenting about, and a lot of people write things anonymously. When I first started blogging, I made some comments like yours, and I ended up being embarrassed by them. After a few months I learned that I’d be better off treating people with a reasonable amount of respect even if I disagreed with them. Hopefully, you are a person who will eventually learn that same lesson. If not, since you have no clue about the kind of job I do, your comment actually says a lot more about you than it does about me.

  15. Student of History says:

    Dennis – I believe Anon was reacting to the attitude of “good Enough” instruction that your comments seemed to advocate. Our public schools can be extraordinarily painful places for the kids with IQs of 140 or above who learn quickly and see valid connections most adults will never see. Their’s is an HDTV color world where even the 120 IQ kids Dennis mentioned still only see black and white. America will be a much poorer place, economically and culturally, if concerns over equity limit their intellectual progress. Other countries understand this and cultivate these students.

    I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who wrote a short story about the government mandating a sack over the faces of the attractive kids, hobbling the athletic kids, and implanting a buzzer in the brains of the smart kids to keep them distracted. This would make for a fairer world.

    Is that the equitable vision being sought or do we only try to achieve equity in certain areas?

  16. Student–Dennis made an important distinction. The kids under discussion are not defined by their IQ, but by their percentile ranking. I think that we unfortunately still view IQ as being absolutely predictive.

    However, I wanted to respond to your equity question. I am very big on equity. But I don’t see the equity in clamoring for those with high IQs to be educated to their highest potential when this is not the goal for all others. In fact, in most states the law is quite clear that students with disabilities have no right to an education to their full potential, but only to gain some benefit. Excusing this differential set of expectations with the assumption that those with a higher IQ have more to offer is not only elitist, but not well founded when the research plays out.

  17. Student of History says:

    Margo/Mom- I believe your first point is that in the US no one is entitled to anything other than a basic education. I understand that but other countries disagree and we won’t be able to compete against them in the future in many ways. There are consequences to deciding “not to be elitest” and only providing a basic education and the brighter and more capable the student the greater the amount of ability being lost- both to the individual and to society in the aggregate. Is your point that if we won’t do it for everybody, we mustn’t do it for anybody? Again, that may be fair but it’s not without consequences.

    I would appreciate a cite to the research you mention that differential sets of expectations aren’t well founded. I’m using IQ as a shorthand for mental ability and it does matter in numerous professions like medicine, law, or hard sciences. Have we decided to deemphasize excellence in knowledge and skills in those professions to avoid elitism or do we simply define excellence in the US by reference to who got an “A”?

    These are hard questions about what a society chooses to value. Again we mostly seem to be concerned about equity and elitism in the intellectual or economic spheres and not in other areas of life.

  18. I see little gain in measuring the gap between the highest and lowest students. [Do we measure the gap between the fastest and slowest runners?] Instead, the gains (or declines) overall and at various percentiles should be measured.

    Why is it bad if there is a gap and it is increasing as Mark concludes? Isn’t this a good thing? In the distant past, the gap between the most and least intelligent was small. As knowledge increased, a few remained behind, but most moved ahead so that overall knowledge is much higher now, and those at the top (say 5%) are way ahead of their peers from ancient times.

    Like Margo/Mom, I think all students should be educated to their highest potential. However, I think schools (even pre-NCLB) are much closer to achieving this for lesser students than for the highest students. While the higher students do succeed, and often at a high level, how much more could they achieve if challenged?

    Where is the cure for autism? Why don’t we all have low-cost efficient solar roofs? How come I can’t have a computer in my watch with a 3-D projected display that I control with eye movements and other gestures? Possibly because our best and brightest in the past were not challenged, so they settled for a high paying, secure job where they excel but without much effort.

  19. Student: here’s a brief summary of research on the topic of IQ as a predictor:

    “An example of this research on the limits of IQ as a predictor is the Sommerville study, a 40 year longitudinal investigation of 450 boys who grew up in Sommerville, Massachusetts. Two-thirds of the boys were from welfare families, and one-third had IQ’s below 90. However, IQ had little relation to how well they did at work or in the rest of their lives. What made the biggest difference was childhood abilities such as being able to handle frustration, control emotions, and get along with other people .

    Another good example is a study of 80 Ph.D.’s in science who underwent a battery of personality tests, IQ tests, and interviews in the 1950s when they were graduate students at Berkeley. Forty years later, when they were in their early seventies, they were tracked down and estimates were made of their success based on resumes, evaluations by experts in their own fields, and sources like American Men and Women of Science. It turned out that social and emotional abilities were four times more important than IQ in determining professional success and prestige .

    Excerpted from

    But–I disagree that the result of being non-elitist is to limit everyone to a “basic” education. I reiterate that the countries that are doing very well tend to have higher scores overall, and a smaller gap from top to bottom. Many have consciously abandoned highly stratified systems of education–with children separated at early ages based on tests or other means into those who will get a lot and those who will get only the basics.

    I don’t know in what resource room Cliff has been observing to come to the conclusion that the “lesser students” are achieving closer to their potential than the “highest” students. I can assure you that pre-NCLB, and even continuing we have had, and continue to have some students who just don’t get very far at all–and no where near anything that might be termed their “potential.”

  20. Student of History says:

    I would be the last to deny that emotional intelligence matters to overall success in life but citing a study of science PHD’s has little bearing on the question of whether we are educating our higher aptitude kids at a sufficient level for them to be willing to major in the hard sciences anymore. Our “this is good enough” attitude in American education, concern over equity, unwillingness to track, and the push for an inquiry approach to math and science instead of explicit instruction using worked examples means that fewer of our most capable will ever get to a PhD program in the hard sciences. Once there the more affable will likely to better in the end. They are certainly who I’d prefer to have a beer with.

    The Sommerville study is clearly not apt to a discussion of whether we our shortchanging our country’s future by failing to try to educate our ablest kids anywhere close to their potential.

    Do you have anything from a peer reviewed journal that goes to the question of why aptitude is not relevant to success in certain subject areas?

    Do you have anything on how economies thrive long term without scientific innovation?


  21. Among the countries frequently cited as high-performing, with smaller gaps, are Japan, Finland, Korea and Singapore. I think that those countries have limited amounts to teach America, since they are all much smaller and almost completely homogeneous. I’d like to see some data from France, Germany and Britain that compare their Muslim populations to non-Muslim ones. I suspect that the gap is significant, and may well be larger than reported because of Muslim girls kept at home.

  22. Dennis Fermoyle says:

    I think you people are just plain wrong on this idea that the best students in our schools are being neglected and are not being challenged. Over the 35 years that I’ve been teaching in high school the best students have generally been the most active, involved, and happiest of all the kids in our schools. If you told a Warroad High School senior who is taking AP Government, AP English, Physics, and Calculus that he or she wasn’t being challenged, I think you might just get an argument. I talked to one of our former students last week who is now carrying a 3.9 at North Dakota State University. She told me that her last year in high school was definitely harder than her first year in college. I’d love to think that that’s because are school is academically superior, but there’s no evidence of that. We are a very typical Minnesota high school. With all due respect, I think some of you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

  23. Soon-to-be-ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    With all due respect, Dennis, I think you’re wrong.

    I’ve been explicitly told, by my boss as well as by others, that the smart kids will be successful anyway and that it’s the stragglers that merit most of our attention and effort.

    A Tale of Two students:

    The best student I’ve had during my 3 year teaching career is a student I’ll call C. C is the whole package: smart, hard-working, respectful and cooperative. A straight A student who, unusually, never seemed concerned about grades but about learning. Whenever she missed any questions on a test she was the rare student who never cared about somehow fixing her grade but about learning what she apparently didn’t know. C is a senior now and she can go on to pursue several different academic disciplines since she’s not an antisocial dweeb. Her intention, however, is to be a biochemist. It’s quite possible that a decade from now she’ll be working for NIH on cancer research. She’ll be a much better biochemist (or physician, or pharmacist, for that matter) if she has a good grasp of physics, especially electrostatics and thermodynamics.

    I’ve always considered C to be my most important student because not only will she get better grades in her intended discipline in college if she’s learned something from me, but other peoples’ lives may be affected if she’s got a good grasp of physics.

    Yet the education establishment claims that kids like C will “succeed” even if I don’t teach them a thing. Duh. Of course, even if I had her do nothing but watch soap operas in class C would graduate, with honors, and go on to college. But would she be the optimal biochemist? Suppose she learned too little in my class and had difficulties in her first biochem class causing her to switch majors to marketing. Would the education world still view her as a success? OF COURSE! Yet we’d be losing a potential medical researcher and gaining yet another shoe seller.

    On the other hand one of the biggest pains during my time as a teacher has been a student I’ll call S. S is the child of hippies and she has almost no grasp of propriety, manners, or authority. She’s polite if she thinks it will work, and she’ll lie if she thinks that will work better. If neither work she gets beligerent. In her world if the teacher can speak without permission, so can she. She’s non-academic but “hands-on” and a “I wanna be in charge” kind of person.

    We have a very good culinary arts program in our school and S is apparently one of the stars. She seems to have found her direction and forte in life, and my content area has nothing to do with it. Neither her life nor anyone else’s will be affected if S has learned nothing in my class. Evey minute that I’ve spent trying to “engage” someone like S to keep her big mouth shut is a minute I didn’t have for someone like C. Yet this is the way the academic establishment seems to want things.

  24. Dennis Fermoyle says:

    Soon to be, I’m not sure we disagree as much as you think we do. I do disagree with your statement that the educational establishment’s position is that it doesn’t matter if we teach students like C anything. Obviously, you’ve taught her something, and I don’t think you’re unusual in that. Why do we offer all those AP classes? And unless I’m mistaken, the number of AP classes being offered in high schools across the nation have been growing like crazy.

    Regarding student like S, you are misreading my position on the way they should be treated. I quit posting in May, but my blog is still out there, so my position on apathetic students is pretty clear. Yes, I think we need to do something to improve the performance of low achievers, but I don’t propose to do that by coddling them. My position is that teachers need much more power to remove kids who won’t try and won’t behave so we can focus on the kids who want to learn. If we did that, the kids with greater ability and lesser ability would all be able to learn more just as long as they were willing to behave and make a reasonable effort.

  25. Dennis,

    “I do disagree with your statement that the educational establishment’s position is that it doesn’t matter if we teach students like C anything. ”

    I disagree with your statement. Or maybe I don’t. The statement that educational establishment’s position is that it doesn’t matter if we teach students like C anything implies indifference. I have seen outright hostility.

    My daughter’s elementary school principal told me that they (the school) could put my daughter in a cardboard box and she would still pass the state tests. There was no reason to spend resources on her. One of her teachers told me it wasn’t his job to work with kids like her. Another teacher said that since she had met the standards for her grade there wasn’t much to do with her (in September).

    She has been told that she was too far ahead of the other kids in reading and should stop. She has had to watch the other children in her class compete for and receive prizes and treats in contests that she was not allowed to enter, and there was no alternative contest for her. All because she was too far ahead.

  26. Wow, hard to respond to so many discordant voices who are referring to many different specifics as if they are the same thing. First–the original study looked at the highest vs the lowest achievers. Then, the conversation shifted to IQ (with an assumption that this is the same thing). Soon to be ex, echoed by Dennis, has introduced motivation and civility (again, seeming to assume that this was the same thing). Then Student conflates aptitude and brings in the ability to innovate. Let me just point out that these things, while they may or may not be related, are not identical. They mean different things. What the study says, plain and simple, is that the students at the top know more today than the students at the top eight years ago. The students at the bottom also know more by comparison to eight years ago–and by a greater amount of increase than those at the top.

    The study does not tell us the IQs of any of those students. It tells us nothing about whether any student is adequately “challenged.” We can infer that attention to improvement has benefited both groups, with greater benefit to the group on the bottom. Compared to other countries internationally it doesn’t appear as though we have yet pushed the envelope of what is possible for either group.

    As an aside–mo4, Japan, which is in fact a very homogeneous country, while having high scores overall, is not among the countries with the narrowest spread. Canada (or in some instances Ontario), which has levels of diversity similar to, or exceeding, our own is a country with a narrow spread. Finland, while less diverse overall is not lacking in diversity and we could learn a thing or two from their approach to indiginous and historical different groups as well as recent immigrants. Singapore is by no means a homogenous country. It is comprised of three major ethnicities, heavily influenced through British rule (which maintained separation of the ethnic groups) and has had to confront both language differences and the desires of the various groups to be recognized.

    For Student–here are some citations from peer reviewed journals on the relationship between IQ and general life-long contribution, employment, etc. I don’t know what journals you may have access to, but I found the best combination of search terms to be “intelligence” and “success.” In summary, IQ (if that is what we are talking about) in isolation is only weakly correlated to the kind of life-long contributions that are assumed when people start pushing the argument that those with a high IQ should be receive more and better because they will produce more and better.

    One more anecdote–Jane, I was told the same thing (that there was no reason to expend resources on my kid) by a principal. The difference was that my kid was on an IEP and the district could waive (pre-NCLB) his scores. We shouldn’t be saying that to any parent, about any kid.

  27. Sorry–forgot to paste in the citations:

    Intelligence (IQ) as a Predictor of Life Success.By: Firkowska-mankiewicz, Anna. International Journal of Sociology, Fall2002, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p25

    Intelligence and socioeconomic success: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal research.By: Strenze, Tarmo. Intelligence, Sep2007, Vol. 35 Issue 5, p401-426

    THE VOCATIONAL SUCCESSES OF INTELLECTUALLY GIFTED INDIVIDUALS.By: Terman, Lewis M.. Education Digest, May1942, Vol. 7 Issue 9, p26-29

    Do highly gifted students really have problems?Guldemond, Henk; Bosker, Roel; Kuyper, Hans; van der Werf, Greetje; Educational Research and Evaluation, Vol 13(6), Dec, 2007. Special issue: Current research on giftedness: International perspectives. pp. 555-568.

  28. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    I do disagree with your statement that the educational establishment’s position is that it doesn’t matter if we teach students like C

    I know we teach her something, but a fraction of what we can. The k12 definition of success is little more than getting good grades, inflated and arbitrary, and then sending the kid packing to college. What happens then is forgotten.

    Throughout my 3 years of teaching I’ve taught the following classes:

    IB Standard Level Physics, Years 1 & 2. We have open enrollment in our school, so anyone in the least bit interested in the subject can take IB physics. The kids, in general, are sharp and interested, although there are a few trouble makers.

    Physics 1.
    The kids here rarely have any interest and many are seniors with severe cases of senioritis. There are one or two per class with the interest but who happen to have felt intimidated by IB.

    Active Physics.
    For kids who flunked Algebra 1. Lots of ESOL kids.

    In my three years NOT ONCE has my boss observed a single IB class. NOT ONCE. The pressure is always on the other two classes. Spending time trying to engage students in P1 (like S) inherently comes at the expense of students in IB (like C).

    Here’s what I noticed in my time in teaching.

    If you’re a “good” teacher (as defined by administrators and ed school professors):
    — You have excellent classroom management skills which means that you can minimize the trouble that trouble makers make.

    — You can engage students meaning that you can occupy F students long enough and often enough to justify giving them passing grades and shipping them off to some local college (where they will take remedial courses to learn what they never learned during k12. But that will be our little secret).

    — Your A students will continue to be A students because that’s who they are. They would behave even if you had no classroom management skills and they would find the material interesting without you trying to make it so, because that’s who they are. They will learn a fraction of what they’re capable of and in college they’ll major in something like nuclear engineering. They then will struggle to compete with better-prepared students from India (that too, will be our little secret)

    — Your content knowledge may be good, or bad, but your superiors won’t notice either way.

    — You, the teacher, will get credit for teaching both sets of students because they all got passing grades and it will be assumed that your A student have learned all that they could have since A is the highest grade possible.

    If you’re a “bad” teacher (as defined by administrators and ed school professors):
    –Your A students may be learning bucketfulls (because they want to) but because your knuckleheads are being knuckleheads you are viewed as “knowing your material but being unable to convey it” even though you may have conveyed far more content to far more students than your “good” counterpart, because you are always judged by the behavior and engagement level of your worst students.

    Policies like this limit what the best students learn.

    Why not assign the kids who need the most discipline to the teachers who are good at that sort of thing and the docile kids who want to learn to teachers who excel at content and not necessarily at classroom management?

    In hockey, there are different roles for different types of players. There are cementheads and there are playmakers. It would be foolish to insist on creating a team made exclusively of cementheads and then secretly hoping that they can put the puck in the net as well.

    But this is how the world of education seems to work. I think the results speak for themselves.

    Dennis, too bad you don’t write for your blog anymore. I liked reading it.