Friday, March 28, 2008

If a Genie Gave Me One Education Wish

If a genie said, "Marty, I'll give you one wish for improving the schools," I'd wish for an experiment:

Take two large public elementary schools that are as similar as possible.

In School 1, assign students to classes as is currently done: by age-level.

In School 2, place students into classes without regard to age, but instead by both sex and performance on the state's achievement test.

So, in a school large enough to fill six classes, School 2 would have a class for:
  • the highest-achieving girls
  • the highest-achieving boys
  • average-achieving girls
  • average-achieving boys
  • the lowest-achieving girls
  • the lowest-achieving boys
Then, over a few year period, see which district's students grow more in achievement, emotional development, social development, etc. Break out results by age, race, gender, and initial achievement level.

What do you think of this idea?


Anonymous said...

This is a very good idea. You would indeed need a genie to make it happen because in the real world, every possible excuse would be employed to make it not happen.

People would say it would cost too much, or parents wouldn't want their kids to be in any class marked "lowest achieving," or they would resent that their child is being used as a guinea pig, or they would think that other schools need improvement, but not their kids' school, or they would want other factors indicating high achievement to be taken into account, or diversity at any cost, or about a million other things.

And if you were able to clear all the hurdles, compromises would be made, parents would protest or otherwise complain, and who knows what the media would say. And the minute something went wrong, concerned parents would call for the suspension of the experiment.

Despite my negativity, I really do think this is a great idea. It would prove once and for all whether or not segregation (by factors that might actually make a difference) works. And it might prove that there are other educational possibilities in the world where one size does not fit all.

Marty Nemko said...

I think Anonymous makes good points. On reflection, I suspect that the experiment would get subverted for the reasons that Anonymous suggests. Also, there is such an anti-ability-grouping bias today, that the D.O.E. would likely not fund it. Oh well, I think it's on to thinking about a better solution for education.

Marty Nemko said...

OK, my next idea for reinventing education is to wrest control of the curriculum from the academics and elitists. Before we should require all students to learn Shakespeare, the Pelopponnesian Wars and the halide series of chemical elements, we should teach them conflict resolution, how to be a wise consumer, etc. Students would be more motivated to learn and would learn things more central to their lives. After those things are learned, you can move on to Shakespeare. I'd rather the nation's kids have great tools for conflict resolution even if they can't understand Shakespearean imagery.


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