Reformers fail the ‘Tiffany Test’

In stressing the achievement gap above all else, education reformers are failing the “Tiffany Test,” writes Robert Pondiscio on Core Knowledge Blog. As a fifth-grade teacher in the South Bronx, he met Tiffany Lopez.

Walk into any classroom in any struggling urban school and you will spot someone like Tiffany almost immediately. Her eyes are always on the teacher, paying careful attention and following directions. She is bright and pleasant, happy to help and eager to please. Her desk is clean and well-organized; homework always complete. She grew up hearing every day how important education is. She believes it, and her behavior in class shows it. She does well in school. She gets praise and she gets good grades.

She also gets screwed.

Her teachers are told to focus on the low achievers. Tiffany isn’t a problem, so she gets ignored.

Rick Hess’s essay on “Achievement Gap Mania” is right on target, writes Pondiscio. Achievement gap mania is denying bright, hard-working students the help they need to reach their “full academic and life potential.”

When you have a Tiffany in your class in the age of gap-closing you understand that despite her good grades and rock steady performance on state tests, she is subsisting on starvation rations in history, geography, science, art and music. You understand that her finish line—read on grade level; graduate on time—is the starting line for more fortunate children. Tiffany and the numberless, faceless multitude of children like her, represents the low-hanging fruit the typical inner city school leaves drying on the vine.

Giving every child a mediocre, minimum-competency education is not the route to social justice, writes Pondiscio.

Thanks to her own grit, Tiffany has started her freshman year at a state university.



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  1. This sure rings true.

    It’s bothered me for a long time.

    It’s a shame.

    • This really spoke to me. In a small school I’ve got three students who could go way beyond where they will likely end up were classes able to proceed at a higher level. If they were dropped into a school where the middle is much higher they would still rise to the top. What makes me crazy is that we’re just one small school, so there’s likely hundreds or thousands of kids like Tiffany in NYC alone.

      First person to say “differentiate” has no idea what is actually going on.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    First person to say “differentiate” has no idea what is actually going on.

    Are you saying that ed school professors don’t have a profound understanding of how classrooms work?

    I’m shocked. Shocked!

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    They’ll remember who screwed them. Be afraid.