Everyone’s ‘highly effective’ — but the students

In Michigan’s Hazel Park School District, every principal and teacher is “highly effective,” but  student achievement earns an F in 10 of 16 categories, reports Michigan Capitol Confidential. Four elementary schools and the high school earned D’s and F’s. The junior high got the top grade, a C in reading.

The district’s proficiency numbers nosedived when Michigan raised cut scores on state exams. The district is 60 percent white, 36 percent black; 59 percent of students qualify for a subsidized lunch.

A state law in 2011 ordered schools to rate teachers and administrators by using one of four ratings: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective. Statewide, 97 percent of teachers were rated in the top two categories.

 Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the district would hurt morale among truly highly effective teachers.

“It does a disservice to the teachers themselves if the district is not going to differentiate and define what good teaching is,” Van Beek said. “It doesn’t help anyone. Think how insulting it is for a good teacher in that district. They know they are putting in the extra time but are getting the exact same rating as one who may not be good at all. That’s not treating teachers as professionals.”

It’s possible for a highly effective teacher to be unable to raise students to proficiency, especially if they’re years behind at the start of the school year. But when everyone’s highly effective, except for the students, there may be a problem defining “highly effective.”

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Comments

  1. But when everyone’s highly effective, except for the students, there may be a problem defining “highly effective.”

    Not necessarily. Could just be that the kids have very low abilities. The best teacher in the world can’t get a low ability kid to proficiency if the kid just has low cognitive abilities.

    • Perhaps, then, they should investigate which evil corporation poisoned the drinking water, lowering the ability level of all the children in the entire district. Proceeds from the lawsuit could be given to the teachers as merit pay.

    • Or it could be that labeling lousy teachers as “lousy” carries a significant degree of discomfort for the labelers whereas labeling the kids “low-performing” doesn’t.

      • There’s no consistent unequivocal definition of a lousy teacher. There is a consistent, unequivocal definition of “low cognitive ability”. I’m perfectly happy to believe in lousy teachers AFTER we’ve established the cognitive ability to achievement correlation, which is very easy to do–if controversial.

        • Pardon me but when exactly was it that you were elevated to the position which confers the power to decide on priorities?

          See, I’m of the opinion that the adults who are doing a job, which they sought, ought to be on the hook to demonstrate, consistently and unequivocally, that they have skill sufficient to do the job before I require that the children prove that they’re teachable.

          After all, the kids have no choice in the matter. Mandatory attendance laws put those kids in those seats but the professionals running the establishment? They expect a paycheck at the end of the week so ought to demonstrate that they’re worthy of their hire by educating kids and not by offering artful dodges as to why kids aren’t being educated.

          Fortunately, this oversight is coming to public attention as teacher accountability measures gradually spread across the land. Not easily of course since teacher, teacher’s unions and school boards are all adamantly opposed to any measure that puts the responsibility for educating kids on the shoulders of those with the authority to do so the education establishment’s had a nice, long run where “trust me” was a good enough response to concerns about the quality of the education being offered.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            You’re absolutely right. We don’t know how much poor performance in school is “low cognitive ability,” how much is “bad teachers,” and how much is other things. It would be wonderful to have data which we could use to tease these out. As far as I know, we don’t.

          • >> It would be wonderful to have data
            >> which we could use to tease these
            >> out. As far as I know, we don’t

            But in order to accumulate such data you need some consistent and therefore — wait for it — STANDARDIZED means of measuring these variables.

            The insane opposition that the ed world has toward standardized anything means that we will never have this data.

          • I’m of the opinion that the adults who are doing a job, which they sought, ought to be on the hook to demonstrate, consistently and unequivocally, that they have skill sufficient to do the job before I require that the children prove that they’re teachable.

            I can require a machinist to demonstrate the ability to turn bronze bushings on a lathe to prescribed dimensions as proof of competence.

            If I then task that machinist with making the same bushings with popsicle sticks, glue and string, he will fail.  The problem isn’t the machinist, it’s me and my selection of raw material.

            the kids have no choice in the matter.

            Kids don’t have a choice about being born with autism or Down’s syndrome either.  They’re not going to learn the same things at the same pace as others, and may not learn them at all.  Outside of diagnosed syndromes, abilities and tendencies are distributed on a spectrum, not uniform.  You can’t hold a teacher responsible for the IQ, language abilities or emotional tendencies of the children in their class unless they get to choose their own students.

          • Yep. Now Engineer-Poet is talking about an entire district with autism or Downs. Surely must be something in the water.

            But seriously, his analogy is poor. A better on would be of a machinist who has to turn metals of various quality and will thus have varying levels of success. It would then reflect incompetence when this machinist fails across the board.

          • Now Engineer-Poet is talking about an entire district with autism or Downs. Surely must be something in the water.

            Or systemic discipline problems due to “disparate impact” rules and heterogeneous classes.

          • Engineer-Poet has a tough job in trying to defend a profession which, unlike machinists, doesn’t have to perform well and, up until recently has never been expected to. It’s not much of a mystery then why his analogy is silly and transparently self-serving.

            Where his analogy does – unintentionally I’m sure – illuminate rather then obscure, is embodied in the sentence “If I then task that machinist with making the same bushings with popsicle sticks, glue and string, he will fail.”

            That some teachers are better then others, and thus ought to be rewarded for their skills is self-evident despite the best efforts of the defenders of the current travesty to argue otherwise, but what’s common across a district is a school board/central administration that’s guilty of putting educational considerations last.

            They shouldn’t be judged too harshly because the structure of public education embodies no encouragement for either to put educational considerations first and foremost. So Engineer-Poet’s correct in that the “boss” being indifferent to the results so is also indifferent to the ingredients.

            One of those ingredients is the quality of the staff.

          • Engineer-Poet has a tough job in trying to defend a profession which, unlike machinists, doesn’t have to perform well and, up until recently has never been expected to.

            Not expected to?  Through the 19th and early 20th century, the products of even 1-room schoolhouses were expected to be able to read, write and calculate to some degree of proficiency.  Those expectations were usually met, and the failures were usually blamed for their own lack of accomplishment.

            What’s changed since then is “social justice”, “self-esteem” (present in toxic levels in certain racial minorities), integration and the end of tracking.  Teachers are put in front of heterogeneous classrooms with distributions of capabilities not unlike the old 1-room schoolhouse with 6 different school years in it, but tasked with teaching 1 uniform year’s worth of curriculum because the group spans 1 year of age.  It’s not the same.

            That some teachers are better then others, and thus ought to be rewarded for their skills is self-evident

            That an inept teacher in front of a room full of top-1% students will get better results at the end of a year than a top teacher in front of a class composed of brain-damaged, non-English-speaking and racially hostile students attacking the rest at any opportunity is also self-evident.  One must compare likes to likes.  A teacher who excels at getting AP physics through to HS seniors in the top 1% would likely fail at teaching basic civility to minority 9-yr-olds.  It’s a completely different problem and skill set.

            the “boss” being indifferent to the results so is also indifferent to the ingredients.One of those ingredients is the quality of the staff.

            You imply that the quality of the staff is the only important element.  This is manifestly not true.

          • [blockquote]What’s changed since then is “social justice”, “self-esteem” (present in toxic levels in certain racial minorities), integration and the end of tracking.[/blockquote]
            Oh, let’s throw in the advent of industrial unions, in the same vein as the UAW, in public education, a river of funding which has resulted lots of non-teaching, but well-paid, professionals and not the slightest increase in demands on the teaching professionals.

            But let’s not be too dreamy in our view of “the 19th and early 20th century”. That guarantor of illiteracy, whole language, was the darling of “progressive” educators-who-don’t-teach back then. Sadly for practitioners of responsibility-free education it was well into the twentieth century before the idea that ensures reading remediation teachers would always find employment really got going. Of course your gold-hued view of education in the nineteenth and early twentieth century does leave out the warehousing of special ed students and the dispatching of troublesome students to edu-jails but for those who could be broken to the plow, yeah, their accomplishments were in line with the expectations of them. But the same was true of the people hired to teach them.

            [blockquote]You imply that the quality of the staff is the only important element. This is manifestly not true.[/blockquote]
            I’m implying nothing. I’m saying quite explicitly that the quality of the teaching staff is immaterial to those who run public education. If the skill of the classroom professional were material, oh ENGINEER-poet, there’d be an effort to distinguish between good and bad teachers much in the way that engineers measure all relevant factors related to some job lest they be found professionally remiss. Yet even the notion of discriminating between teachers who are skillful and those who can barely tolerate their appointed hours in the classroom is controversial and draws all sorts rhetorical dodges.

            For instance, there’s your artful dodge in trying to turn the discussion to the quality of the kids as if the quality of the teachers is irrelevant.

            That “inept teacher in front of a room full of top-1% students”? Get rid of him. Even that room full of top-1% students won’t do as well as they would with a competent teacher so identify that inept teacher and send him packing. You got a problem with that or will you, like Cal, like every other defender of the secular saints who pull a paycheck to perform their saintly acts, find some way to ignore the question?

  2. Perhaps, then, they should investigate which evil corporation poisoned the drinking water, lowering the ability level of all the children in the entire district. Proceeds from the lawsuit could be given to the teachers as merit pay.

    Cognitive ability is not evenly distributed by race. No corporate perfidy required.

    • But surely an entire district with “very low abilities” (to quote you) would be an anomaly not easily explained even by your race distribution theory. And further, if an entire race sinks to the low end of the scale, we’re no longer talking about distribution, are we?

      • No, it wouldn’t. Average black IQ is 85. Average Hispanic IQ is 92 or so. Average white IQ is 100. Average Asian IQ slightly higher than that.

        A school that’s entirely black or entirely Hispanic is not just anomalous, but the norm. And the average IQ would be far lower than schools with 50% or more white/Asian students.

        • I do enjoy the irony to which you’ve been forced in defense of the public education status quo.

          Hailed by its supporters as the great egalitarian institution, the public education system is being defended by a proposition that would bring a nod of approval from white supremacists everywhere.

  3. Hey, didn’t we use to have italic capability? I just noticed otherwise. The first sentence in each of my two comments should be a quote.

  4. “It’s possible for a highly effective teacher to be unable to raise students to proficiency, especially if they’re years behind at the start of the school year.”

    Then don’t move them on if they are years (!) behind. If you start holding kids back, parents, and everyone else, will pay more attention to the correlation. If you just pump kids along, then all it takes is a couple of years before you can make the deniability statement above. How convenient! If you keep pumping them along to high school, then the problems will look like they completely belong to the child, society, peers and race.

    “I’m perfectly happy to believe in lousy teachers AFTER we’ve established the cognitive ability to achievement correlation, which is very easy to do–if controversial.”

    What happened to “it’s obvious”? I see that you are now willing to separate the variables and find a correlation. I’m in favor of this too. Urban parents need to call your bluff. Have the IQ of all kids tested. Let parents send their kids to other schools. Define how success correlates with IQ and hard work. Send surveys home to find out what parents do for teaching and tutoring, especially when schools send home notes telling even affluent parents to “practice math facts”. Find out what happens at home with the best students. Even without testing for IQ, there are ways to isolate the teaching variable. How about having each teacher keep the same kids for all of K-6?

    It’s “obvious” what Cal thinks is the major variable.

    “Cognitive ability is not evenly distributed by race. No corporate perfidy required.”

    • RIght. Because if School A’s average IQ at 105, and School B’s average IQ is 92, the major difference in academic outcomes is teacher quality.

      Sure.

  5. Also, ther indents for Reply aren’t working well.

  6. What happened to “it’s obvious”? I see that you are now willing to separate the variables and find a correlation. I’m in favor of this too. Urban parents need to call your bluff. Have the IQ of all kids tested. Let parents send their kids to other schools.

    Hahahaha. It’s not just urban parents who would flinch at that. The entire government and educational institution would. IQ is a well-established reality, and the IQs at mostly black/Hispanic schools, regardless of income, would be dramatically lower than IQs at mostly white schools, again regardless of income.

    • Hahahahaha, right back at you. Feel free to demonstrate the objective and non-self-referential basis for the concept of IQ.

      There isn’t any. IQ is a function of how well you do on IQ tests and nothing else. The extent to which IQ tests measure the quantity popularly known as “intelligence” is anyone’s guess since the connection between IQ and intelligence has never been demonstrated.

      It’d be an uphill climb anyway since there’s no widely-accepted, let alone proven, definition of intelligence so it’s a bit tough to discern native intelligence from the Hawthorne effect and nature from nurture.

      But my guess is you don’t much care as long as you’ve got another scat to throw at the opposition.

      And no one except poor kids gets hurt.

      • The extent to which IQ tests measure the quantity popularly known as “intelligence” is anyone’s guess since the connection between IQ and intelligence has never been demonstrated.

        It’d be an uphill climb anyway since there’s no widely-accepted, let alone proven, definition of intelligence

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_quotient

        “Well-constructed IQ tests are generally accepted as an accurate measure of intelligence by the scientific community.”

        Oops. It’s so obvious and well-known it’s in Wikipedia!

        • Ooops, when did “generally accepted” come to substitute for scientific validity?

          And as long as we’re at it, where’s the theory of intelligence? You know, what results from having a hypothesis that’s borne out by experimentation or observation?

          Oh, silly me. When you have enough PhDs laid end to end they do reach a conclusion and the conclusion’s that they’re right even if they’ve got no proof.

          But let’s not stray too far from your original, and very interesting, assertion that teachers can only teach kids who are easy to teach, i.e. poor, black kids are too stupid to learn much.

          If that’s true then why is society bothering to try? Shouldn’t those poor, black kids be herded into some useful occupation suited to their limited intellignece rather then forcing them to a daily demonstration of their shortcomings?

          How about a little compassion for the kids you’re anxious to consign to society’s trash heap rather then place any responsibility on teachers to teach them?

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          There is lots of debate about what IQ tests actually measure and what “intelligence” is. But there is no debate that IQ has a high correlation with success in school.

          • There’s a high correlation between roosters crowing and the sun rising. What conclusion should we draw from that correlation?

            And the question that remains unaddressed, let alone answered, is why bother? Why bother trying to educate black kids if, as Cal claims, they’re too stupid to learn?

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            allen,

            I suspect that there is some causation from poor performance in school to poor performance on IQ tests. There is indeed a vicious circle that forms where poor performance on one reinforces poor performance on the other–and round and round it goes.

            But I strongly suspect that it begins with a low amount of whatever it is that the IQ test measures.

          • Without an understanding of what it is IQ tests measure how does one discriminate between nature and nurture, between good teachers and bad?

            I’d love to know but the likes of Cal are perfectly satisfied using those results as a defense against criticism of the public education system in general and of the idea that some teachers are better then others.

            Psuedo-science is a harmless hobby until you start making policy decisions based on that psuedo-science. That IQ tests correlate strongly with academic performance tells you nothing other then IQ tests correlate strongly with academic performance. Those who draw conclusions from the correlation do so because they’re conveniently in service of their prejudices and interests.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            allen,

            You’re absolutely right. A correlation without more means nothing. You have to bring some other knowledge to the correlation to say anything about causation. My “prior” says the major direction of causation is from high scores on IQ tests to success in school.

            I also think there is some causation in the opposite direction. People who do well in school can raise their IQ scores somewhat.

            And, of course, a lot more than IQ goes into school success. But it is an important predictor.

            Hopefully, in the years ahead, we will have enough charter and non-traditional schools that take low IQ kids that we will be able to compare their performance to is kids in traditional schools and get a better idea of how much is due to “IQ at 5 years old” and how much is due to “quality of teaching.”

  7. lightly seasoned says:

    It’s not the drinking water that’s the problem in the ghetto — it’s lead. There’s still a shockingly high number of kids coming from these neighborhoods with lead poisoning. I have several students with it this year who came in from the city. They could have been born with perfectly average IQ, but lead has a proven effect on cognitive ability.

    • Steve is on to something. We need to hold back the laggards or…invent some new system for dealing with them. I teach seventh grade –already at least 25% of my students are hopelessly lost –and they’ll remain so for the rest of their schooling. They’re lost in history, in math, in science, in language arts… Even when they work hard, they’re lost. This is where ed reform needs to direct its energies: finding a truly effective SYSTEM for dealing with these kids. Sticking smarter teachers in the classroom won’t do the trick: no individual can deal with these kinds of disparities. Some ideas I have: tracking at an earlier age; setting up a GED type alternative program for elementary and middle school; reviving a vocational track in middle and high school (as they do in Europe); instituting Core Knowledge curricula to help mitigate achievement gaps… The current faux solution –differentiated instruction –is a failure.

      • “invent some new system for dealing with them”

        Holding kids back a year or requiring summer school (still used at our high school) is the “old” system. Although some teachers just passed kids along, the threat of flunking or summer school was really big when I was young. It got everyone’s attention. Now we have full inclusion and the idea that schools should be pumps and not filters. I’ve been told by a number of teachers that “kids will learn when they are ready”. This is the modern ed school meme.

        Our town is know for it’s full inclusion. Parents move here because of it. I have seen the benefits of mixing kids of all academic levels in K-8. But it doesn’t come without a cost. It requires more parent involvement to ensure that learning gets done and that their kids don’t have gaps. Differentiated instruction doesn’t work. It doesn’t ensure anything and it’s more about enrichment rather than acceleration. If it does work in some way, then it’s just a hidden (and bad) form of tracking. Parents do the tracking at home. Woe to any parent who doesn’t figure this out. The only effective differentiated instruction my son received was differentiated homework. My wife and I did all of the work.

        Our K-6 schools use Everyday Math specifically because it’s designed for full inclusion. It tells teachers to just keep moving through the material and to “trust the spiral”. I’ve seen first hand that it doesn’t work. All kids do NOT naturally learn when they are ready. I’ve talked about my son’s fifth grade teacher who had bright kids who didn’t know the times table. She didn’t need an IQ study to see the problem. I had to ensure the basics of math for my “math brain” son.

        It’s easy to see why teachers in this sort of (pump the problem along) environment would not like to be graded on teacher effectiveness. The answer is not to blame the messenger (test) or pass it off as an IQ issue. These are issues of fundamental educational philosophy. The only answer is school choice. Parents can choose unschooling philosophies or they can choose Core Knowledge philosophies. Teacher effectiveness will be a school problem, not a state or federal one.

        Is choice a great solution? Not really. All schools are influenced by the philosophies indoctrinated at ed schools. (It’s amazing that ed school students aren’t allowed to “discover” their own solutions.) Some of the charter schools in our area are really bad. Do I like choice? No. I didn’t like the idea having to ship my son off to a school 40 minutes away. Local schools enjoy the home court advantage. Charter and private schools do, however, put pressure on the public schools to change. The local schools don’t like to see some of their best students leave, and their talk of elitism doesn’t explain it all away. Behind the scenes, our local public school worked hard to bring my son back. They know what’s going on.

        The fundamental problem in K-6 is how full inclusion and ed school ideas of natural learning are shoved down parents’ throats. It’s not how to ensure effective teachers in a system designed to pump problems along.

  8. “I’m perfectly happy to believe in lousy teachers AFTER we’ve established the cognitive ability to achievement correlation, which is very easy to do–if controversial.”

    It’s clear that Cal doesn’t really mean this. Cal already knows the answer. This is just a cheap debating trick.

    “Because if School A’s average IQ at 105, and School B’s average IQ is 92, the major difference in academic outcomes is teacher quality.”

    I never said anything about teachers and “major difference”.

    “IQ is a well-established reality, and the IQs at mostly black/Hispanic schools, regardless of income, would be dramatically lower than IQs at mostly white schools, again regardless of income.”

    Cal is way too willing to use race as THE major variable for school effectivness. Why is that? Many affluent parents help their kids at home or with tutoring, but Cal thinks that there is no need for that in black/Hispanic schools. Maybe those affluent parents are lacking a few IQ points. Maybe, however, THEY can separate the variables. What does it say when teachers send home notes telling parents to practice “math facts” with their kids? What does it mean when parents send their kids to Kumon and it makes a huge difference? What does it say when some people are willing to treat individuals as statistics?

    I’m not a fan of calls for rating teachers given the current use of full inclusion and differentiated instruction in K-8, but the problems are not just explained away with race and IQ. It’s one thing to argue with the teacher effectiveness meme, but quite another just to pass it all off as a race/IQ issue.

    • “It’s one thing to argue with the teacher effectiveness meme, but quite another just to pass it all off as a race/IQ issue.”

      True. I believe the problem is primarily culture. However, the culture issue also revolves around race, and everyone knows it. The phrase “acting White” exists for a reason, and it was not invented by Whites.

  9. Cal is way too willing to use race as THE major variable for school effectivness.

    Wrong. I said very clearly, in my first post, that cognitive ability is the culprit, not race.

    It’s certainly not poverty. Poor whites outscore non-poor blacks and tie non-poor Hispanics in every cognitive metric going.

    • Wrong. I said very clearly, in my first post, that cognitive ability is the culprit, not race.

      You also wrote that cognitive ability is a function of race, i.e. black kids are stupid. You even doubled down by providing some IQ results, broken out along racial lines, as a sketchy attempt at objective justification.

      I see that you’ve chosen to try to ignore anyone rude enough to call you out on your racial-inferiority excuse for the failure of the public education system but the evidence from the political realm is that it’s not a defense that’s working.

      • ?
        You also wrote that cognitive ability is a function of race, i.e. black kids are stupid.

        Wrong again, liar. Well, actually, I fear you’re just too ignorant to understand, so I suppose lying gives your brains too much credit. But I absolutely did not say, nor do I believe, that IQ is a function of race. I also did not say, nor do I believe, that blacks are stupid.

        The whole conversation is well beyond your ability level, poor lad.

        • [quote]No, it wouldn’t. Average black IQ is 85. Average Hispanic IQ is 92 or so. Average white IQ is 100. Average Asian IQ slightly higher than that.[/quote]

          Ring a bell? Kind of looks a lot like you believe, or at least would have others believe, that intelligence is a function of race, i.e. black kids are too stupid to learn.

          Feel free to dissect the distinction between “Average black IQ is 85.” and “nor do I believe, that IQ is a function of race” for the benefit of those of my pitiable ability level. I’m certain those of your elevated intellect have no trouble divining the subtle, but ever-so-crucial, difference.

          I eagerly await the explanation and further insults.

          • Kind of looks a lot like you believe, or at least would have others believe, that intelligence is a function of race, i.e. black kids are too stupid to learn.

            Focus hard. The mean IQs I stated are facts. They do NOT–repeat, do NOT–mean that IQ is a function of race. African American mean IQ is 85. You, not I, are the one asserting that an IQ of 85 is “stupid”. I do not think so. Moreover, a mean IQ of 85 means that half of African Americans have an IQ ABOVE 85, which means that even idiots like you who think that an IQ of 85 is “stupid” have to account for the half of African Americans above that metric.

            Again. Your ignorance is clear.

          • Ummm…Cal, this thread started because you practically asserted that the reason an entire school district is below average is more plausibly race rather than teacher effectiveness. But let’s let that go. I just want to remind you again to pick up a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

          • I don’t have to account for a blessed thing, Cal. I’m not the one asserting the stupidity of a racial group as an excuse for the failure of the public education system and trying desperately to avoid being hoist on my own, resulting, petard.

            I suppose these are the sorts of extremities you’re driven too when the old tactics of simply ignoring criticism aren’t working any longer.

            You know, Cal, I wish more of you supporters of the district model were willing to use the tactic you’re trying to use.

            Blacks, despite the intellectual deficit you claim, are smart enough to realize the current public education system, which didn’t work for them, also isn’t working for their children and are thus rather more welcoming of every opportunity to escape the system’s clutches. I imagine if your “85 IQ point” solution to the problem of criticism of the public education system were more widely heard black Americans would be rather more inclined yet to support and vote for the reform of the public education system.

            I strongly encourage you to post your views as widely as you are capable.

  10. Well, this seems to be a suburb of Detroit, so while I think its absurd that EVERY member of the faculty is highly effective, the demographics suggest that the district faces challenges in the student population that are hard to overcome. And the problem with overwhelming demographic challenges is that it is near impossible to effectively separate the wheat from the chaff staff-wise. So, just as the education community dumbed down student evaluation over the past few decades because of insurmountable challanges, so have they dumbed down teacher evaluation.

  11. palisadesk says:

    “It’s certainly not poverty. Poor whites outscore non-poor blacks and tie non-poor Hispanics in every cognitive metric going”

    Odd that the data from the UK are quite different. There, the lowest-performing group, both in measured IQ and in academic achievement, is working-class whites — by a significant margin. Males do much worse than females, but even with the females averaged in, they don’t reach the same level or composite IQ scores as UK blacks or Pakistanis (who as an ethnic group are reported as having lower IQs than whites by some researchers).

    Is it genetic differences between UK blacks and American blacks? Is it cultural? Measured IQ among working-class whites in the UK has been falling while that of other groups have shown increases.

    It isn’t all about poverty, either. About 45% of UK blacks in poverty (on the free school meals register) are successful on the significantly g-loaded GSCE’s, while only 10% of working-class white boys and around 30% of the low-income white girls achieve the same results.

    • There is still a substantial achievement gap in Britain, with blacks at the bottom and whites/Asians at the top. But African blacks in the UK are immigrants, usually well off, the top of their particular country, and so there’s the usual immigrant selection bias. You won’t see the same poverty split–wealthy blacks in the UK probably outscore poor whites, or at least it’s a feasible theory–because the average IQ of blacks who migrate to the UK is much higher than blacks in general.

      • [quote]There is still a substantial achievement gap in Britain, with blacks at the bottom and whites/Asians at the top.[/quote]

        Oh, let’s bring some facts into the argument, shall we?

        http://tinyurl.com/ygzxx8v

        • I said there is still an achievement gap. Nothing in that link denies it.

          GCSEs aren’t just tests, but also course work. Entirely different. Cognitive ability has to be pure tests, the GCSEs are not. Moreover, see my post about black immigrants in England. But of course, you can’t quite understand it.

  12. Anthony Daniels, who writes under the pen name Theodore Dalrymple, would blame the white working-class culture. His essays can be found on the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal website.

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_3_oh_to_be.html

  13. Ummm…Cal, this thread started because you practically asserted that the reason an entire school district is below average is more plausibly race rather than teacher effectiveness.

    Ummmm, wrong. I posted it three times in a row–cognitive ability is a more plausible reason than teacher quality. After pointing it out three times, I *then* said that cognitive ability is not distributed proportionately by race, *which is why cognitive ability is a controversial subject.*

    As for reading material, I suggest you go get a reading primer. See Spot Run is about your speed.

    • As luck would have it, I do happen to have a copy of See Spot Run on the shelf. Good way to spend a couple of minutes with some hot chamomile, that. And some friends.

  14. Roger Sweeny says:

    If you take all the horses in the world and average their weight, you get about 1,000 pounds. If you take all the cows in the world and average their weight, you get about 900 pounds.

    Can we all agree:
    1. That does not mean that all horses are heavier than all cows.
    2. That does not mean that “weight is a function of cowness/horseness.”
    3. If you randomly picked horses and cows, more often than not the horse will be heavier than the cow.

    • 4. If then a large herd of cows weighed in at 850 on average, one might first reasonably suspect a problem with the cowhands and/or the farm rather than the cows.

      • No, you would first wonder if something was different about the cows. Way to completely miss the point, by the way. I fear I was optimistic about your ability to grok Run Spot Run.

        • Yeah, I was never into the group sex thing (unsubtle reference to Stranger in a Strange Land, since you went lowbrow on us–I really do prefer Run Spot Run to that trash). And no, Cal, you have missed the point.

          • I must hasten to add that I do have a soldier’s appreciation for his other works:-)

          • “Grok” is in the dictionary. It’s decades away from being a literary reference. I would not, at this point, credit you with clearly understanding Heinlein. Based on your reading ability here, at least. But hey, there’s still hope.

  15. Cal is way too willing to use race as THE major variable for school effectivness.

    “Wrong. I said very clearly, in my first post, that cognitive ability is the culprit, not race. It’s certainly not poverty. Poor whites outscore non-poor blacks and tie non-poor Hispanics in every cognitive metric going.”

    But then Cal makes sure that everyone knows the correlation to race. It’s certainly not poverty, or curriculum, or pedagogy or anything else. Cal is not intereseted in separating or calibrating the variables because it’s “obvious”.

    IQ fanatics seem to think that they have some sort of golden nugget of truth and love to get on their soapboxes to rub it in everyone’s faces. That nugget tends to lose its luster if you have to concede that there are other important variables, or if you have to specifically calibrate what level of IQ students need to take algebra. What about the effect of hard work? Out come the ideas of abstract understanding as if there is some magic IQ point where abstraction can take place. Still no calibration. In spite of many specific examples of problems with curricula and assumptions, like full inclusion, the IQ fanatics are bound and determined not to lose their main soapbox issue. When challenged, people like Cal backtrack in many different ways and keep pointing to their only nugget of truth.

    IQ is a non-issue. It’s only used as an excuse. Those who haul it out know that the system will never call their bluff. Many parents who re-teach at home or provide tutoring know that it takes much more than IQ. I saw exactly how much it helped my son. Urban parents are desperate to get their kids into charter schools. There are lots of problems that can be analyzed and resolved without resorting to the IQ excuse.

    Everyone knows that some kids are smarter than others. Everyone knows that hard work can provide academic success far beyond what one might expect. What’s the point of talking about IQ and race when specific IQ versus hard work versus academic levels can’t be established? IQ is used as an excuse.

    “It’s possible for a highly effective teacher to be unable to raise students to proficiency, especially if they’re years behind at the start of the school year.”

    Here is the problem screaming out from the post. Why are kids in the same classroom when they are years apart in results, whether it’s from IQ, hard work, or help from home. Why is this model OK for K-8 but not for high school? It doesn’t help that discussions of education seem to be driven by a steady stream of superficial articles written by journalists more interested in pushing hot buttons.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      There is no height cut-off to play in the National Basketball Association. Lots of very tall people fail while shorter people succeed, whether through better coaching, harder work, mental toughness, physical gifts, or whatever.

      However, ceterus parabus (other things being equal), a taller person stands a better chance of making it to the NBA than a shorter person.

      It is not pointless negativism to talk about height in relation to playing basketball. It is not pointless negativism to tell a person who is 5 foot 6 that he should not plan on a career in professional basketball, and that he should develop other skills instead.

      • I think the problem with your analogy to basketball, as with Engineer-Poet’s analogy to machinists turning a lathe and as with Cal’s entire position, is that it goes to the extremes. I must admit that I am making a basic assumption: If a school district in America is turning out below-average students, and the average for America already has the bar pretty low, then there’s probably something wrong with the district rather than the student population. My analogy parallel to yours would be this: If an average NBA team with an average NBA height were turning out below average performances (i.e. losing more than 50% of the time), the owner more than likely will fire the coach.

        • Or, in the case of your earlier analogy, the owner will more than likely fire his cowhands, unless the owner thinks like Cal, in which case he’ll blame his cows and just suck up the loss.

      • In high school, we track students by their basketball ability. The best are on the varsity, then the JV and Freshman teams. However it is illegal to track those same students by their cognitive abilities or performance in the classroom.

        • Some of those cows are better at producing meat, some are better at producing milk, and some aren’t very good at either. Perhaps that has some bearing on their weight?

          • Again, I think that’s a poor analogy. My analogy would be: In this subset of cows, none meet the minimum standard for producing meat and none meet the minimum standard for producing milk. Do you interpret “despite student achievement getting an “F” from the state in 10 of the 16 measured categories in the four elementary schools and in the junior high and high schools” differently?

  16. How about 5’7″? How about 5’10″? Who is doing the telling, parents or the school? How are resources being allocated? How are kids being separated? Who is doing the separating? Should a basketball team have a height cutoff? When do you apply this cutoff, in junior basketball or for the high school team?

    How would this work for academics in schools? Do you use IQ ignore improvements because it’s “obvious”? Too many make these assumptions way too early for other people. Many won’t need to know algebra when they are adults, but decisions made in the early grades guarantee it for many. Is this for their own good?

  17. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    The most talented architects and construction workers can only do so much with low quality raw materials. A building without a solid foundation will not be sound, no matter how dazzling the facade.
    The most talented chefs can only do so much with low quality food products. Dazzling technique and creativity may only marginally improve lousy meat or produce.
    Insert any number of analogies you want, the main idea is the same–even the best teachers cannot bridge the so-called “achievement gap”, when students come to school unready or unwilling to learn. A return to common sense and realistic expectations–stop demanding that teachers be all things to all people. .Teachers cannot, and should not, substitute for the family. The breakdown of the family is much harder to fix and there is no panacea.. Lastly, not all students can or should go higher education–we need a clear dual track system, where vocational ed. is strong and provides a real choice for all types of students.

    • “Insert any number of analogies you want, the main idea is the same–even the best teachers cannot bridge the so-called “achievement gap”, when students come to school unready or unwilling to learn.”

      And you’re too willing to lump all kids into that group as a blanket excuse for not even trying to separate and calibrate the variables.

      • nailsagainsttheboard says:

        Since the Progressive Era of 100 years ago, all the education establishment and the larger society have been doing is to “separate and calibrate the variables”. The point is that exactly–humans are variables, and we are not currently in an Age of Wisdom. You didn’t respond specifically to any of my points. Of course teachers should be held accountable–but now, that part of the education triangle is the only group being focused on–not students and their families. Social promotion and platitudes are all we get. ‘Nuff said.

        • I think many of us have miscommunicated in this thread because Cal started out with “It’s the genetics, stupid dim-witted idiots!” and then we were off to the races. To be concrete: I don’t think your statement that some students come to school unready or unwilling to learn is the same as Cal’s statement that some students just have low cognitive abilities. I don’t think many people would say it’s totally fair to evaluate teachers against a student/home culture that devalues learning and all the baggage that comes with that, and if the debate is framed as “There’s a large segment of American society that is self-destructive and that’s a problem that we need to recognize and take into consideration when evaluating teachers,” I would say Amen. And so I do say to you, Amen!

          Now I’ll stand by for more name-calling from Cal.

          • I said nothing of genetics.

          • Cal, I don’t think I was being particularly dense or obtuse to assume that “Could just be that the kids have very low abilities…Cognitive ability is not evenly distributed by race. No corporate perfidy required” was an explicit nod to race, hence genetics. From there we had references to Downs, height comparisons for basketball teams, weight comparisons between cows and horses, and comparisons of material suitable for turning on a lathe. Oh yeah, and also shots at my own intellect:-) All of these analogies were (in my mind, at least) genetic analogies, and I fought against them. If we’ve miscommunicated, my apologies. My shoulders are broad enough to accept all the blame. Have a peaceful night.

        • “Since the Progressive Era of 100 years ago, all the education establishment and the larger society have been doing is to “separate and calibrate the variables”.”

          No they haven’t. Full inclusion hides them. Progressive education assumes that learning is natural. Schools don’t separate students by willingness or ability to learn. Schools either can’t or won’t separate the variables even when they are from the parent/society side of your “triangle”. Many educators in our area fight tooth and nail to prevent urban parents from doing it themselves. Parents get more than platitudes. We get no choice.

          • nailsagainsttheboard says:

            Sorry, but you are dead wrong. “Full inclusion” is a recent phenomenon. Classes in American schools, excepting the little one-room type schoolhouse, have traditionally been tracked up to the 60s/70s and beyond. Read Ravitch’s seminal work “Left
            Behind–A Century of Failed School Reform” as a primer on this subject.

  18. I must admit that I am making a basic assumption: If a school district in America is turning out below-average students, and the average for America already has the bar pretty low, then there’s probably something wrong with the district rather than the student population.

    Good of you to admit it. And it’s an absurd assumption.

    Without question, academic achievement is dependent–not determined by, but dependent on–cognitive ability. This is indisputable.

    Therefore, if two different populations differ in academic achievement outcomes, you have no basis for dismissing cognitive ability as the *first* determinant unless the populations were controlled for cognitive ability–and they are not, since *both* race *and* income (less so, as discussed) predict cognitive ability (which is not the same as determine it).

    So your assumption is utterly flawed. You have no basis for assuming that academic achievement should be equal, therefore no basis for blaming teachers when it is not.

    What’s the point of talking about IQ and race when specific IQ versus hard work versus academic levels can’t be established?

    Because we are discussing groups, not individuals, and if we are going to evaluate people based on outcomes, then you are wrong in asserting that specific IQ vs. hard work vs say, teacher quality can’t be established. They can be established. If I have two groups of Americans, one entirely black and poor, the other entirely white and poor, then the white group will score substantially higher, on average, than the black group on any cognitive ability assessed. This does not mean that individual blacks won’t score higher than the white average, and higher than individual whites in the group. (this is also probably true in other countries, but the immigrant selection bias reduces the gap).

    So it *is* possible to make these predictions, and your entire “Why bother when it can’t be determined?” is wrong.

    Finally, I did not back down “when challenged” (as if anyonne of the naysayers has the basic knowledge to do it). When the naysayers can’t understand basic Engish, I tell them they’re wrong. I haven’t backed down from anything.

    • Cal, when you are challenged, you strike back by questioning your opponent’s intellect and ability to grasp your argument and end with name-calling. That is generally perceived as backing down in the sense that you throw tantrums to get your point across when you have lost. I say this with the utmost respect for you, as you do have great points.

      And so to your point: You are talking about high and low, and I am talking about average-low and lower.

      “If I have two groups of Americans, one entirely black and poor, the other entirely white and poor, then the white group will score substantially higher, on average, than the black group on any cognitive ability assessed.”

      Sure, but if you have two groups of Americans, both entirely Black, and one scores significantly below the other, then what do you do? At what point do you begin to look at the instructional environment?

      • You look for other factors in the two groups that would explain it. For example, income.

        It’s a long way down before the instructor is the determining factor. Cognitive ability varies by a number of factors, so it’s a long way to teachers being an indicator.

        I do not always call people stupid for disagreeing with me. In this case, you consistently portray ignorance of my point–which is laid out clearly–and cognitive ability. I see no reason to be polite when someone is engaging in an argument without the basics down.

        • Yes, I often have to guide students’ thinking to get from “My point is clear to me; why don’t you get it” to “Oh, maybe my point wasn’t so clear, and maybe my thinking wasn’t either.” But perhaps yours is a more sophisticated position–it is certainly emotionally easier on the thinker. I shall consider it.

    • “…then you are wrong in asserting that specific IQ vs. hard work vs say, teacher quality can’t be established. ”

      It was a question, not a statement. You’re the one making judgments as if you know the answers for all variables. You’re the one talking only about IQ and race, but never show any indication of the influence of other variables.

      “They can be established.”

      “They”?

      You didn’t do it. You only talk about race. It’s not poverty, but race. Why is that?

      • Because progressives always bleat about poverty and demand more money spent on schools as the solution. While income is a predictor of cognitive ability, it’s only relevant after race–that is, wealthy blacks outscore poor blacks, on average, but not poor whites.

        If you are going to argue about cognitive ability–and that, remember, is my point–you start with the factor that has the most signficant predictive ability, and that’s race.

        Again, it’s predictive for groups. Not individuals.

        • “Because progressives always bleat about poverty and demand more money spent on schools as the solution. ”

          Why don’t you go find them and argue with them.

          “If you are going to argue about cognitive ability–and that, remember, is my point–you start with the factor that has the most signficant predictive ability, and that’s race.”

          This thread is talking about effective teaching and learning, not the major factor of cognitive ability.

          “Start?” Still no calibration, and you’re so willing to give up after that variable. If fifth graders don’t know the times table, is IQ the major reason? If they can’t tie their shoes, is IQ the major reason? Are good behavior and a proper attitude not critical variables? How about class disrupters? How about the grade-level range of abilities in a full inclusion classroom? Kids with higher IQs are often ignored. Is IQ the major variable in a classroom where the material is well below their level? My son would never have reached his potential without my specific help at home, and I’m talking about the basics.

          • If fifth graders don’t know the times table, is IQ the major reason? If they can’t tie their shoes, is IQ the major reason? Are good behavior and a proper attitude not critical variables? How about class disrupters? How about the grade-level range of abilities in a full inclusion classroom? Kids with higher IQs are often ignored. Is IQ the major variable in a classroom where the material is well below their level? My son would never have reached his potential without my specific help at home, and I’m talking about the basics.

            You appear to think you have a point here. You don’t.

            Of course all of those issues could matter. We are talking about very broad groups. “Steve’s son” is not a demographic.

    • Of course you backed down when challenged. How could you not when positing, as an excuse for the racial divide in education, that black kids are dumber then white kids?

      I know, I know. You’ve got your little excuses for why blaming the racial divide on the lower average IQ of blacks isn’t even a little like saying black kids are stupid but see how that artful dodge flies in front of a bunch of black parents. Oh yes, do.

      As for the rest of your sophistry, selling the proposition that teachers are both crucial to education and that all teachers are above average in ability is a losing game. I know it was a winning game for a long time but that time is coming to an end.

      • Where on earth did I mention anything about teacher quality?

        And I’m uninterested in “selling” reality to anyone. I agree that IQ or cognitive ability is a real problem to discuss.

  19. Roger Sweeny says:

    African-Americans differ from Africans. Their distant ancestors were taken centuries ago and their more immediate ancestors survived decades, perhaps centuries, of slavery. Is there any good data comparing IQ of African-Americans and IQ in various areas of Africa?

    Perhaps the lower IQ scores of American blacks are not racial but historical, the result of a process that selected against smart uppity colored people.

    • African IQs are considerably lower than African American IQs.

      This thread is talking about effective teaching and learning, not the major factor of cognitive ability.

      You can’t judge teacher effectiveness on learning without accounting for cognitive ability.

      • Oh. So since every principal and teacher in the Hazel Park School District was judged to be highly effective, you believe that the district evaluated their student population’s cognitive ability, decided that under the circumstances their teachers and admin were doing a fabulous job, and awarded high evaluations accordingly?

        • Again, it’s kind of hard to avoid calling you a bit dim when you make illogical leaps.

          The issue under discussion, the one I raised, is “is it possible for teachers to be highly effective despite a low or non-existent student proficiency rate”? Answer: Yes.

          The question at hand is not “How did the evaluations take place and what criteria were used”? I haven’t addressed that, and race has nothing to do with that answer. So where you get that logical leap is beyond me.

          Moreover, if you can’t understand that a teacher can be a talented, innovative instructor and run an impressive class, even given the students’ low cognitive ability, you don’t know much about teaching.

          • Yes, it is beyond you. A man came to a Zen Master and asked to be his disciple. The Zen Master poured the man a cup of tea. When the cup was full, the Zen Master kept pouring and the cup overflowed. “Master,” the man said, “My cup is full.” “Yes,” replied the Master. “Come back when it is empty.”

          • Congratulations Norm, you’re no, official, stupid as well.

            Sorry Cal but the question at hand is “why aren’t there evaluations and why are defenders of the status quo trying so desperately to prevent even a discussion on evaluation”.

            That’s the question.

          • Thanks for the compliments, Allen. I’ve never been called no AND official in the same sentence.

        • OK wise guy, NOW OFFICIALLY stupid as well.

  20. “You appear to think you have a point here. You don’t.
    Of course all of those issues could matter. ”

    That’s my point. And you are dismissing them as being far down on the list of importance with no proof.

  21. “You can’t judge teacher effectiveness on learning without accounting for cognitive ability.”

    You’re accounting for nothing else, and you offer no calibration. You can also test other variables on a relative basis.

  22. “The issue under discussion, the one I raised, is “is it possible for teachers to be highly effective despite a low or non-existent student proficiency rate”? Answer: Yes. ”

    But you go so much farther than that.

  23. “We are talking about very broad groups. “Steve’s son” is not a demographic.”

    He is part of the broad demographic of kids whose parents had to ensure mastery of basics at home. Basics that make schools look good on state tests. Few schools want to examine that variable.

    • North of 49th says:

      “Basics that make schools look good on state tests. Few schools want to examine that variable”

      This is true. Our provincial, rather than state, tests for Grades 3 and 6 have included a parent questionnaire where parents answer questions about whether they read with their kids, go to the library, are involved with the school and so on. It has *often* been suggested that a question, or several questions, about whether parents pay for tutors, or provide after-schooling instruction themselves, should be included. Reasonable parents have asked, should we not know how much of a school’s stellar results are at least in part due to parental tutoring or paid providers?

      Somehow these questions never make it onto the questionnaire. Ignorance is bliss.

      However, good teaching can certainly make a big difference even with a “challenging” demographic. My school is 95% nonwhite (hardly any east Asians either), low income, and consistently produces strong results both in tests and in quality of student work, without much assistance from families who do not have the resources or knowledge of English to provide it. We outperform many middle-class mostly white schools. The staff are oustanding.

      Even low-ability students can be taught effectively and can often surpass their apparent limits, especially in elementary school. Learning basic reading skills and math facts is not demanding of cognitive ability; later grades demand problem solving and text comprehension that does make such demands, but basic decoding and the times tables are not among them. For statistics junkies, the correlation between early reading skills and IQ is only .3, rather low, see Stanovich et al in RRQ and other peer-reviewed research reports..

      So SteveH is right, we could do a better job of ensuring mastery of basics earlier on. However we might need to provide more practice and instructional time to accomplish this, whether it is through afterschool programs, Saturday school as one school in my district is doing, or other options. Some kids need more practice to mastery than others do.

  24. “We are talking about very broad groups.”

    How do teachers like it when the IQ of the “broad group” of teachers is raised? How would they like it if someone claimed that you have to start with that, because, of course, that’s the major variable. Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether the material being taught is simple.

    It doesn’t matter if kids don’t learn the times table. It must be their IQ. Never mind that the problem was fixed in a trice at Kumon. Never ask exactly what parents do at home.

    Many K-8 schools use full inclusion. They hide the variables. They assume that if you spiral through the material, kids will learn naturally. The onus is placed entirely on the student. How can you talk about teacher effectiveness when the system claims that there is little correlation with results? Of course they don’t like it. I wouldn’t, but then again, I don’t like full inclusion.

    Schools don’t separate the willing and able from those who are not. They don’t separate out the disrupters. Many try to stop parents from sending their kids to other schools. They can’t have it both ways. They can’t completely ignore key variables and then point to them as excuses.

    • Schools don’t separate the willing and able from those who are not. They don’t separate out the disrupters.
      That is an administration problem, not a teacher problem. Moreover, the cause is the fact that effective discipline produces unpleasant demographic realities that must be avoided at all costs. (including the inability to effectively teach)

      Many try to stop parents from sending their kids to other schools.
      Again, an administration problem, not a teacher problem.

      They can’t completely ignore key variables and then point to them as excuses.

      Why not? They and the rest of the government has been getting away with it for decades.

    • How do teachers like it when the IQ of the “broad group” of teachers is raised? How would they like it if someone claimed that you have to start with that, because, of course, that’s the major variable. Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether the material being taught is simple.

      Research is pretty conclusive–and unlike the IQ of students, there’s been tons of research on the relationship between teacher cognitive ability and student outcomes. Answer, again and again–very little.

      Also, the cognitive ability of high school content teachers is comfortably in the top half of the college grad population.

  25. “That is an administration problem, ..”

    But it’s a major variable. This thread has gone way past the simple issue of what is the responsibility of the teacher. In fact, full inclusion and spiraling curricula ensure that there is little to correlate between what teachers do and outcomes. If teachers are only guides on the side, and kids are supposed to struggle and create their own learning, what correlation do you expect? The onus is on the student, not the teacher. How convenient. Just point to their IQ as an excuse. You will see the relative correlation you expect, but will not be able to answer any questions about calibration to an absolute scale.

    “Also, the cognitive ability of high school content teachers is comfortably in the top half of the college grad population.”

    But according to your studies, this doesn’t matter.

    There are huge differences between educational problems in K-8 and high school. Discussions rarely get to that level due to hot button and simplistic articles. I also find the teacher/administration/parent triangle very interesting. Many teachers complain about administrations and their policies, but when outsiders compain, teachers tend to think they are personally attacked and then circle-the-wagons. When parents ask for choice to solve the problems themselves, many want to deny them that choice. It reminds me of siblings who fight. As a parent, don’t get me involved in your teacher/administration fights. Fix it or let people send their kids somewhere else.

    • “But according to your studies, this doesn’t matter.”

      I know. I was just pointing out that from two different perspectives, your objection is unfounded.

      Just point to their IQ as an excuse.

      But if we start dealing with IQ meaningfully, we will start to know what’s realistic to achieve by IQ. It’s not about saying “your son doesn’t progress because he’s stupid”. It’s about understanding that it’s quite possible to be an effective teacher with an entire class of low IQ kids who will never test as proficient.

      • But if we start dealing with IQ meaningfully, we will start to know what’s realistic to achieve by IQ.

        Yes, if only had some idea what IQ was other then a score on an IQ test. Then we might be able to tease out what’s ascribable to nature, what’s ascribable to nurture and to what degree either is determinative.

        Gosh, I sure wish I was smart enough to understand what I just wrote and you, Cal, were honest enough to respond substantively. Alas, defense of the public education status quo requires sacrifice and the most common sacrifice is of self-respect.

        • I did answer. I gave a cite. IQ is a valid metric, one of the most robust there is. You just don’t like it.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          Yes, if only had some idea what IQ was other then a score on an IQ test.

          I teach physics and one of its great mysteries is, “What is gravity.”

          The easy answer is something like, “what makes things fall down.” But that just pushes back the question, “What makes things fall down?”

          Nobody really knows what gravity is or just how it works. But we do know that the gravitational attraction between any two objects is going to be proportional to their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers of mass.

          That turns out to be very useful. IQ can be useful even if we don’t know exactly what it is.

          • Cal would like to take on the cloak of credibility of science by aping the language of science. But that’s only to defend a political institution and the privileges that flow from that institution among which is the freedom from accountability teachers who work from the public education system enjoy.

            That’s really about all this amounts too. Cal’s ideologically wedded to the idea that teachers mustn’t be held responsible for anything having to do with education and is trying desperately to shore up that inherently silly position by finding something, anything else to foist off responsibility upon. In this particular case it’s the kids and in particular, poor, black kids.

            As to the value of IQ tests and their validity, don’t try to teach your grandpa to suck eggs. P

            Psychometrics is accounting, not science. Not only isn’t there a theory of intelligence from which to determine the arrow of causation inherent to an IQ test there isn’t even a reasonably well thought-of hypothesis of intelligence. So it’s really anyone’s guess what IQ tests measure and the exceptions to the results IQ tests are legion. A scientist with a lick of honesty would admit a theory that has to live with as many exceptions as the correlation between IQ and academic success has to contend with would be a theory waiting to be knocked down by the first passing breeze.

            But Cal doesn’t care about any of that stuff. Cal’s just throwing scats against the wall hoping something sticks. Unfortunately for Cal parents don’t give a damn about IQ tests and given an opportunity to ignore those IQ tests with which they find fault will take that opportunity. That’s why charters have waiting lists.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            I live in eastern Massachusetts. It would be unfair to hold me responsible for the failure to grow banana trees in my back yard. That does not mean I deny a link between my gardening skills and everything that happens in the yard.

  26. “But if we start dealing with IQ meaningfully, we will start to know what’s realistic to achieve by IQ.”

    So now you’re willing to separate the variables and try to look for some absolute calibration. But “what’s realistic to achieve” is NEVER just about IQ. It’s tied directly to hard work, curricula, teaching pedagogy, teacher effectiveness and many other variables. What would be the purpose of isolating the IQ variable? What SPECIFIC public policy would it drive? How, EXACTLY, would that work? Would you limit money to schools based on IQ statistics? Would you lower CCSS standards based on IQ statistics? How do you provide for individual initiative and hard work? How do you define and fund education so that all INDIVIDUAL kids have equal opportunity? How do they escape the tyranny of statistics? As it is now, many kids are swept under the rug by low statistical expectations. More likely, individuals might decide to use IQ tests to protect themselves. Parents already demand school choice to find some path that cares about individuals and hard work.

    • I was always willing to separate the variables. But you have to start with the right ones. Cognitive ability is the first control factor.

      Besides, I’m not the one proposing solutions. The people who look at low results and say BAD TEACHERS, FIX EVALUATIONS are the ones proposing solutions. I’m pointing out that they are controlling for a variable so far down the list that it’s irrelevant compared to cognitive ability.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      SteveH,

      You are absolutely right that “‘what’s realistic to achieve’ is NEVER just about IQ. It’s tied directly to hard work, curricula, teaching pedagogy, teacher effectiveness and many other variables.”

      However, “what’s realistic to achieve” can be constrained by IQ. No matter how good the coaching, hard work, etc., a 5 foot 2 inch adult will never play professional basketball.

      With good data, IQ may help in setting policy. Try this made up example: Historically, only one out of a thousand people with an IQ lower than 95 (something like 40% of the population) have succeeded in Algebra 2. A school system is thinking of requiring all high school students to take Algebra 2 on the grounds that Algebra 2 is required for many STEM courses and it would be wrong to deny anyone the opportunity to go on and take advanced STEM courses. Should you support the policy or not?

      • Where is the data about effective teaching and hard work? Where is the data on how much help kids get at home or from tutors? What about curricula? You are assuming that there aren’t systemic problems with these other variables. (There are.) So go ahead and not support CCSS. I’m not a fan of CCSS pushing algebra II, but what about algebra? Where is the percentage cutoff? But then what? Do you give up and assume that everything is just ducky fine? What do you do for those the remaining percentage of students and those willing to work hard? Why do states want to stop kids from going to charter schools? What about the variable of no separating disrupting kids?

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          As far as I know, there are no good data sets including all those things together. One of the things wrong with this business is that we don’t try to gather such data.

          As to Algebra 2 in real life, my impression is that if below 100 IQ kids were in a homogeneous classroom with a curriculum designed for kids at that level taught by a teacher who was good with kids at that level, a few more would succeed but most still would not (I am leaning a lot on education realist here.).

          So what’s wrong with “giving them a chance”?

          1. If you force them to take the course, you’re not “giving them a chance.” You’re forcing them to “take a chance.”

          2. That chance will probably end badly. They will be in a class where they are not “getting it.” They will be frustrated and bored, no matter how good the teacher. They will end the course as failures. That is not a nice thing to do to young people.

          3. It makes us feel good without doing good. We force young people to take courses they will never use while failing to develop programs that provide them with skills they really will use. Pretending that we are giving everyone a chance allows us to screw the academically non-adept with a clear conscience.

          • “So what’s wrong with “giving them a chance”?”

            “You’re forcing them to “take a chance.””

            Who are you quoting?

            As I’ve said so many times in so many posts, many teachers see the problem ONLY as what walks into their classroom. But what has happened since Kindergarten? You assume that there are no systemic problems in spite of so many clear examples. Go ahead and argue that some of what teachers are expected to do in upper grades is almost impossible, but you assume that the problem belongs with the kids just because you see some sort of expected IQ correlation.

            Schools should not put kids into classes for which they are not ready. For many math courses in our high school, you can’t get into them unless you get over a certain grade in a previous course. We have regular, honors, and AP classes. Teachers will make recommendations, but students can override them. Of course it’s wrong to force kids into classes where they know they will flunk. Our high school does well with algebra plus skills labs, but they don’t address clear, systemic problems in the lower grades. They see bright kids coming into their classes who have big gaps in their skills. You can’t just complain that (of course) forcing kids to take algebra in 8th grade won’t work all by itself. But you can’t just point to IQ when STEM (and other) parents are yelling and screaming (!) that there are huge systemic problems with teaching math in the lower grades.

            Rumor was that our high school math teachers used to trash the kids feeding in from our middle school. After our middle schools replaced CMP with proper Glencoe textbooks and more traditional teaching, the complaints have been reduced. However, nothing is putting pressure on our lower grade Everyday Math curriculum. Everyday Math is systemically flawed. Sure, you will still see an IQ correlation in high school, but the absolute level of that correlation should be much higher. By the time kids get to high school, all problems look like they belong to the kids. Even some kids will believe it.

            If my son didn’t get my help at home in math, he would be struggling with Algebra II in high school and people like you would think that was normal. With my help, he is taking AP calculus as a junior. In my son’s fifth grade class, bright kids were still unsure of the times table. Nobody was complaining that they just weren’t up to the task mentally. The teacher decided to not “trust the spiral” and spent time fixing those problems (which worked), but she didn’t complain about the curriculum. Systemic problem NOT solved.

            Feel free to complain about teacher evaluations. I might agree with you, but probably not in a way you would think. Complain about forcing kids to take classes for which they are not ready. I would agree with you. (You have to remember that many teachers love full inclusion … as long as they are not evaluated based on results!) If you complain about the CCSS pseudo-algebra II requirement for ALL, I might agree with you. But if you start using IQ as a reason for ignoring huge issues of educational assumptions and pedagogy, I will strongly disagree.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            SteveH,

            I think we may be “in violent agreement.” (No, I’m not quoting anyone, just emphasizing the phrase.)

            I think we should not use IQ as an excuse for lousy elementary math (or reading) curricula. Some kids are indeed sabotaged by bad decisions that professional “educators” make regarding the content of their early years. Those students should be provided the opportunity to fix those mistakes.

            I would go even further. If I ruled the ed world, I would make middle school graduation mean something. No one would get out of middle school without a consistently demonstrated ability to do math up to fractions and to read and write at a level consistent with functional literacy. Hopefully, this would make decision-makers more realistic in their adoption of K-8 curricula.

            This would also eliminate the worst problems associated with heterogeneous classrooms at the high school level (though I would have no problem with different kinds of classes based on preparation, interest, etc.).

            On the other hand, I don’t think we should automatically assume that “anybody can learn anything” and that our goal should be to have as many young people take as many academic courses as possible. Many don’t have that kind of brainpower and/or just aren’t interested.

            I would like to see us try and succeed in getting all young people up to a realistic, basic level of literacy and numeracy. I hate the way we try and fail to make all young people pre-college students. By focusing on things like “algebra for all,” we take money and attention away from things that matter more.

  27. “I was always willing to separate the variables. ”

    No you weren’t.

    “Cognitive ability is the first control factor. ”

    Says who? What will you do with that information? You’ve already decided that the other variables don’t matter much. It’s easy to find fault with others, but quite another thing to back up your own opinion.

    “I’m pointing out that they are controlling for a variable so far down the list that it’s irrelevant compared to cognitive ability.”

    Yes, you’ve already decided. Apparently, teachers are irrelevant.

    • Yes, I was. I’ve always been. You are the one refusing to acknowledge its importance.

      “Apparently, teachers are irrelevant.”

      Until you control for cognitive ability, in populations? Yep. Individually, at the kid level, which is the picayune level you’re obsessed with, it matters a bit more, but not much.

      • “You are the one refusing to acknowledge its importance. ”

        I’m the one refusing to accept your opinion. Once again, you claim that you already know the answer. Prove that teaching is irrelevant.

        “Yep. Individually, at the kid level, which is the picayune level you’re obsessed with..”

        Teaching is not picayune.
        Curriculum is not picayune.
        What some parents do at home is not picayune.
        Full inclusion is not picayune.

  28. “Some kids are indeed sabotaged by bad decisions that professional “educators” make regarding the content of their early years. Those students should be provided the opportunity to fix those mistakes.”

    The onus is on the students!?! How about the opportunity to pick other schools that get it right the first time?

    “Many don’t have that kind of brainpower and/or just aren’t interested. I would like to see us try and succeed in getting all young people up to a realistic, basic level of literacy and numeracy. ”

    But you’ve already decided on what that level is. And in the process, you never fix the problem of properly teaching those who do have the “brainpower”. You don’t even know who those kids are. You throw away the hard work and curriculum variables like they are nothing. And if schools teach badly, they create kids who are just not interested, especially when they get to high school.

    “By focusing on things like “algebra for all,” we take money and attention away from things that matter more.”

    Your complaint about “algebra for all” (not just algebra in 8th grade) clearly shows your low assumptions about kids’ abilities.

    How would you better use the money? If you don’t fix lower grade math curricula for all, then how is the money going to be used? What are those other things that matter more? Many educators think that curricula like Everyday Math “matter more” than ensuring mastery of the basics on a grade-by-grade level. If you lower the CCSS standards to not require algebra for all, you will just allow the lower grades to create more kids who seem dumb and/or disinterested.

    We seriously need to get the parents into this decision-making loop. Most of them will make much better decisions about their individual kids. All parents need to read this thread, especially urban parents.

    “Many don’t have that kind of brainpower…”

    Apparently, it’s not the schools, teachers, curricula, or assumptions, because those variables are just not that important. Some say “irrelevant”. “Highly effective” is meaningless if brainpower is the most important variable.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      SteveH,

      To paraphrase a line from The Princess Bride, I do not think I think what you think I think.

      When I say “schools should provide the opportunity to fix those mistakes,” I put the onus on schools. When I say I don’t want people to be able to graduate middle school without a consistently demonstrated basic level of literacy and numeracy, I mean that middle school people will no longer be able to say, “Oh, this ‘matters more’ than literacy and numeracy. We’ll pass this kid on to high school. They can fix any problems there.” A school system will look pretty bad if a significant number of students never get that certification. I see nothing wrong with allowing parents to move to a different district or to send their kids to a charter if they think it would be better for their kids.

      I think there are lots of variables and I believe that students should demonstrate what they know and we should work with that. Everyone who demonstrates the preparation and has the interest in taking algebra should be able to take it, but we should make no prior assumptions that “everyone can learn it” or that “half will never learn it.”

      What I don’t want is something like this: it is school policy that everyone can and will take algebra. So everyone is forced to take it. Many are lost from the first day. They are bored and frustrated, and some of them disrupt the class. In order to keep them at least somewhat engaged, the curriculum is dumbed down. Teachers are generally nice people and a lot of failing students looks really bad, so most of the students will be given (barely) passing grades. The students won’t be fooled. They will consider themselves failures and school something they endure. I don’t know how athletic you are but imagine having to go to football practice 5 days a week for 9 months of the year, whether you have any desire to play football or not.

      Such a situation is mean to students–and is especially mean to the students who have been forced into something they are not interested in and are not good at.

      • “I put the onus on schools.”

        You do? What, exactly, is that onus? What is the responsibility of schools to ensure that it’s not their own problem? There is a conflict over whether schools see it as their problem or the student’s problem. Is the onus to give students opportunities to fix mistakes, or to identify and fix their own mistakes? Are schools able to identify their own mistakes when it’s too easy to blame the student, parents, and society? When it contradicts their own educational philosophy?

        “I believe that students should demonstrate what they know and we should work with that. ”

        The onus is on the students? If students don’t show interest in every subject, then it’s “especially mean” to force them to learn the material? In third grade? How do you know whether the students really don’t care or if it’s bad teaching and/or curriculum?

        I don’t believe you when you say that you want to separate the variables when you so quickly put the blame and onus on the students.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          If I ran the schools, no one would get out of eighth grade without basic literacy and numeracy. These would have to be demonstrated over time to an outside authority (not some two hour test at the end of the year). Right now schools have a tremendous conflict of interest. We both teach students and grade ourselves on how well the students have learned. Not surprisingly, we pass along a significant number of young people who have not mastered what they are supposed to have mastered.

          In my system, a student who could not demonstrate that acceptable level would not be able to graduate middle school and would not be able to go to high school.

          This would provide an objective metric to parents and others in the community to show how well students are doing. They can then fight about how much is the students’ fault, how much is the teachers’, how much is the curriculum, how much is anything else. They can also fight about how to fix it.

          This requirement to demonstrate basic skills would, of course, apply to all schools, including charters.

          The onus is on the students to demonstrate their skills (how else can we know what they have learned?) and the onus is on the schools to provide them the opportunity to develop their skills.

          (And, yes, it is mean to set young people up for failure. It is mean to beat a dog that will not meow like a cat. It is mean to force an unprepared, uninterested young person to spend 150 hours in an algebra classroom.)