If we strip away the emotion for a brief moment, it is an interesting idea – acknowledging where certain kids are at and using that as a basis for your measuring stick, instead of measuring every single child starting at the same place. In science this kind of makes sense; you have several different groups with known variables (including a control group with no variables) and you measure to see how much each group changes according to where it started. You probably do the same thing if you watch stocks; if a large-cap option only improves by 1%, how does that compare to a small-cap that grows by 6%?
Now going back to the story as reported. Looking through both articles, the little gem of “good intention” (emphasis on little) I can find comes from the Virginia folks; the state superintendent of public instruction makes a statement about wanting to reduce the achievement gap, and a state board member is emphasizing the need to take stock of where kids are at.
But man, the way these ideas are pitched… I can see why folks are angry and frustrated! These two states, as reported, have cast their good intentions in a really bad light, exacerbated by grouping kids by the color of their skin. Having said that, I am disheartened that these two media outlets have failed to acknowledge or even shed light on any kind of alternative. It’s one thing to critique, but flat-out griping isn’t that productive all by itself. If the proposed direction is so bad, what is a better direction?
I believe (and I could be wrong) that the missing crucial and fundamental piece is the end-goal. The states are giving lip service to wanting all kids to excel, but how is that being implemented? The ideal is probably to take a “starting” measurement for each child and using that as a basis for growth, regardless of any other variable. Some children are going to “underperform” by some standard metric – I can guarantee you they are not all in the same bucket. I can imagine that if common variables are found to influence growth and progress, one can use that information to change the approach used to spur said growth and progress. But to say all kids of one group (or three) are expected to perform at a certain arbitrary level is just wrong.
At the end of the day, we all want to pat ourselves on the back with the reassurance that we are not failing to educate our children. Let us instead focus on what the learners need, instead of making ourselves feel good.
I still love the quote I heard while reading Badash’s effort with “No Child Held Back”
A child is not a vase to be filled,
but a fire to be lit.
– François Rabelais