Teachers confuse diligence, achievement

Teachers who base grades on homework confuse obedience with academic achievement, writes Education Realist.

Boosting hardworking students’ grades just a bit (say from one grade’s “+” to another grade’s “-”) is fine. While some may raise an eyebrow at the idea of giving a failing student a D- because he shows up and tries, I not only forgive this, but engage in the practice frequently.

Giving a student with mediocre math skills an A or B simply because they work hard and finish all their homework is quite another matter and worst of all, giving a low grade to students with excellent test performance—in many cases even failing the student—is outright fraud.

At many colleges and universities, remedial classes — especially in math — are filled with kids who got B’s in high school. Some of them didn’t even do all the homework. They did “extra credit” projects.

Quirky kids shut out of 'gifted' classes

Gifted classes exclude very smart children who are good at math and science but weak on social skills, wrote Katharine Beals of Out in Left Field. Kids who are good in reading, writing and group work are preferred. Girls are much more likely to be placed in gifted classes, reports the New York Times.

. . . research has shown many gifted children (male and female) to be developmentally skewed or “asynchronous” (see, e.g., here and here), and, in particular, often socially, emotionally, and/or organizationally immature.

As I discuss in my book, the reasons for considering global maturity may have more to do with current fashions in education than with what academically challenging programming intrinsically requires. Today’s classrooms, and gifted classrooms in particular, increasingly emphasize collaborative work, reflections about personal feelings, and organizationally demanding projects. At the same time math–an area of relative strength for boys–has become less and less mathematically challenging (and increasingly infused with language arts).

In a follow-up, a reader adds the story of twin boys tested for the gifted program in elementary schools. Only one boy was accepted. The mother was surprised to see that the rejected boy had higher scores than his brother. He was “more socially shy and awkward.”

Another mother writes of her school:

Good behavior was “rewarded” by being admitted into gifted classes. When I subbed in emotional support and autistic support classes, I would see lowered expectations and some very brilliant insights. When I taught in gifted classes, I would see well-behaved kids who were great at regurgitating concrete facts.

It takes highly quirky, intelligent teachers to work with highly quirky, intelligent students, Beals writes. They may not be the sorts to make it through “dissent-crushing education schools, much less avoid getting fired for insubordination by today’s line-toeing principals.”