Gifted kids are left behind

Gifted children are left behind if they don’t have “education-minded, ambitious, pushy,” connected and confident parents, writes Checker Finn in Defining Ideas. High-ability students need someone to “work the system” or buy a place in suburban or private schools, he writes.

Smart poor kids seldom have sufficiently pushy parents. Their neighborhood schools are apt to concentrate on educating low achievers.

Poor parents may not know what their children are capable of and probably lack the resources to purchase supplemental courses, educational software, weekend and summer programs, and much else that similarly gifted youngsters from more prosperous circumstances are apt to have showered upon them.

Worry less about elitism and more about identifying and educating high-potential children — including those without pushy parents, Finn argues. Even then, “surprisingly little is known about what strategies, structures and programs work best in educating high-ability youngsters to the max.”

Top grades open door to school dance

Straight-A students were invited to a last-period dance, with free pizza and games, at a Maryland middle school, reports the Washington Post. B and C students can join in after school, when the pizza is gone. D and F students — about 35 percent of the student body — aren’t invited at all.

Some parents are complaining the “academic achievement celebration” is elitist.

“The students that don’t get to go end up feeling bad,” said parent Karen Hanlon, whose daughter has learning disabilities and was not invited to the party. Hanlon said the dance “separates the students into groups” in a school already divided between a highly competitive magnet program and the students who come from the immediate neighborhood.

“You’re creating a caste system that could easily result in bullying and victimization, which is what we’re trying to prevent, especially in middle school,” said Barbara Marinak, an associate professor of education at Mount St. Mary’s University. 

The A students are going to bully the D students? Really?

Critics hit elitism of White House summit

President Obama’s White House summit on higher education sidelined community colleges and other non-elite institutions, critics charge. Most lower-income college students enroll in community colleges, which already are trying the ideas promoted by the White House.

If your nanny isn’t a chef . . .

If your nanny serves mac and cheese instead of citrus-glazed salmon and a gluten-free kale salad, hire a nanny consultant to turn the sitter into a chef, advises the New York Times in its Style section.

Don’t have time to sneer at the affluent kale-snappers? Allison Benedikt will handle it — free! — on Slate’s XX blog.

For $2,500, the upper-class New York City family gets 30 to 40 recipes based on their child’s eating habits and “areas for improvement,” plus shopping and cooking instruction for the nanny.

(A consultant will) come to your home for a two-day cooking demonstration, during which your nanny, who up until now has been eating all the wrong peaches, will learn how to debone a fish, cook Tunisian couscous with braised carrots, and make cinnamon ice cream with toasted almonds.

Erela Yashiv, 5, “likes pizza and cupcakes,” reports the Times. Mom wants her daughter to “adopt a more refined and global palate, whether it’s a gluten-free kale salad or falafel made from organic chickpeas.”

Both parents work and don’t have the time. And their Wisconsin-bred nanny “does not always know the difference between quinoa and couscous.”

Some nannies “are throwing chicken fingers in the oven, or worse, the microwave,” a consultant tells the Times.

So how did Erela’s parents even let it get to this point, where their young child actually likes pizza? asks Benedikt.

“We were too basic with her food in the beginning, so we want marc&mark to help us explore more sophisticated food that has some diversity and flavor,” [Johnson] said. “I don’t want her growing up not liking curry because she never had it.”

“Thankfully, Johnson and her husband caught the curry deficiency in time and were able to get the outside help they need,” writes Benedikt.

When the nanny moves on, she’ll be able to command a higher wage because of her skill in quinoa identification, adds Matt Yglesias.

Commenter Chris Hayes suggests the New York Times rename its Style section “First Up Against the Wall.”

Secrets of a Princeton marriage

Princeton women should look for a husband on campus, advised Susan Patton, a Princeton alum and mother (of two sons), in the student newspaper.

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

The advice aroused and annoyed pundits), writes Walter Russell Meade on The American Interest. “For both women and men—even the over-achievers among them—happiness is about more than professional fulfillment,” he writes.

Too many elite collegians are marrying each other, writes Mead, citing a New York Times column by Ross Douthat.

Of course, Ivy League schools double as dating services,” wrote Douthat. It’s just considered gauche to say it in public.

That this “assortative mating,” in which the best-educated Americans increasingly marry one another, also ends up perpetuating existing inequalities seems blindingly obvious, which is no doubt why it’s considered embarrassing and reactionary to talk about it too overtly. We all know what we’re supposed to do — our mothers don’t have to come out and say it!

We need a national baccalaureate to recognize students’ knowledge rather than their ability to impress an admissions officer at age 17, Meade argues.

Today’s blue meritocracy, the degenerate descendant of the upper middle class Progressives of the early 20th century, has a problem: it is formally committed to ideas like equality, social justice and an open society, but what it really wants to do is to protect its own power and privilege. The Ivy League system of elite colleges is a key element in the system of exclusion and privilege that helps perpetuate both the power of the American elite and its comforting delusion that because elite status is based on ‘merit’ it is therefore legitimate.

America “needs to become a more open society”  that can recognize the Princeton kid who’s “an empty polo shirt” and the hard-working Ohio State kid who’s “a serious person,” he concludes.

Exam schools from the inside

Exam schools — public schools for high achievers — attract far more applicants than they can take, write Fordham’s Checker Finn and consultant Jessica Hockett in Education Next.

Some school officials are uneasy about the practice of selectivity, given possible allegations of “elitism” and anxiety over pupil diversity. Still, most rely primarily on applicants’ prior school performance and scores on various tests.

. . . Their overall student body is only slightly less poor than the universe of U.S. public school students. Some schools, we expected, would enroll many Asian American youngsters, but we were struck when they turned out to comprise 21 percent of the schools’ total enrollment, though they make up only 5 percent of students in all public high schools. More striking still: African Americans are also “overrepresented” in these schools, comprising 30 percent of enrollments versus 17 percent in the larger high-school population. Hispanic students are correspondingly underrepresented, but so are white youngsters.

Exam schools are “serious, purposeful places” with motivated, well-behaved students. Teachers have high expectations for students. Most schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, their own  advanced courses and/or actual college classes. In addition, there are literary magazines, robotics competitions, sophisticated music and theater offerings, most of the usual clubs and organizations, plenty of field trips, and no dearth of sports—though champion football and basketball teams were rare!

But exam schools are under heavy pressure to get graduates into top-tier colleges. The “AP tiger” frustrates teachers, exhausts students and discourages  “experimentation, risk-taking, unconventional thinking, unique courses, and individualized research, as well as pedagogical creativity and curricular innovation,” write Finn and Hockett.

While exam school students excel, it’s not clear the school added value to students who already were high performing, they write.

Should the U.S. have more exam schools for high achievers? Here’s the poll.