Letter to editor

Bright teachers close achievement gap

The “average” performance of American students on international testing is not “good.” If you rank the countries tested, we come in 14th in reading, 23rd in science, and 25th in math.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, declared we are out “educated.” On average maybe we are, but on average you can not drown in the Mississippi River. It is only six inches deep.

Averages obscure more than they reveal. When we compare students from similar income and class background, our relative performance improves dramatically. suggesting that our education problems may be as much about our sheer number of poor families as our supposedly poor schools.

How do we manage to be so strong over the years, with such poor average scores on international tests? The United States never did “average” comparatively well on these tests.

When it comes to raw numbers , the U.S. generally has far more top performers than any other nation tested. The U.S. claimed a third of high-performing students in both reading and science, far more than our closest competitor, Japan. On math we claimed only 14 percent of the high-performers compared to 15.2 with Japan and 16.2 with Korea.

The U.S. is a far larger country than Japan and Korea. We claim 27 percent of the 15- 19 year olds; Japan has 7 percent. In two out of three subjects, Americans are over-represented among the “best” performing students.

If we have so many of the best minds,why are our average scores so disappointingly average?

Our high scorers are balanced out by a very large number of low scorers.

Chinese students in Shanghai have recently been tested for the first time. Their scores were impressive. It seems likely that China has more young math and science geniuses at its disposal. Is this a concern? China has over a billion more people than we have.

I do not believe you can replicate a country’s style of education without replicating its culture. Instead of looking abroad for ideas about how to teach our kids, we should look at what is succeeding here. No question, we should/can do better. Change is not an event. It is a process.

There is a strong correlation in the United States between socioeconomic factors and test scores. Federal and state educational and funding programs may unintentionally lead to regression to the mean with emphasis on the lower scorers.

The question becomes how do we bridge that achievement gap? There seems to be some schools, teachers and principals throughout the land that do bridge the gap better than others. Ah! Here-in lies the rub — outstanding bright teachers who have teaching in their DNA.

John Rajcic


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Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=23996

Posted by Maureen Robertson on May 27 2013. Filed under Editorial, Letters to the Editor. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 Comments for “Letter to editor”

  1. big bird

    "It is only six inches deep."

    bull. cite a credible source for that. you can't, can you?

    • that is not the point…I did read it some place however…if you start from the source in Northern Minnesota "average" the width …it is close ..at one point leaving Lake Itasca it is a dribble…do not know for sure…Rajcic

    • MWorkman

      The average depth of the Mississippi River is 120 feet to 130 feet deep with the maximum depth being 150 feet. Source: The New American Cyclopædia. 16 volumes complete..

      I applaud bright and resourceful teachers and we have been blessed to have had several of Ramona's best.

      The problem here is "your point." It makes no more sense than your "present" vote. Again, a clear failure to those who voed you on to the board.

      • rajcic

        thank you for the correction…my point was that "averages" do not tell the entire story about testing. …about the riiver……not if you average width of the river I believe in determining depth…I think. also the river at times exceeds two hundred feet at points.
        My present vote made a lot of sense…. for the record I did not cast one vote that got us into this financial situation. I was a voice in the wilderness speaking against the financial direction the distrist was headed….check my recent votes where I voted no on purchses without bids and a salary increase for an individual…..I mean this in all sincerity, that is , that you are engaged. raj ps..who made the votes that got the district to this point fiancially……….

      • rajcic

        thank you for the correction…my point was that "averages" do not tell the entire story about testing….I learned a lot about the river..thank you.. average width a factor… the river at times exceeds 200 feet….?
        My vote of present makes a lot of sense…..see prior article…I never cast one vote that got us where we are financially….I was a voice in the wilderness guarding against the present situation….I did cast one vote against one Person s salary increase ,,,,,.
        I think it is great that people are engaged …they should stay engaged at all times not merely when their interest is a stake….kids first ….raj

      • rajcic

        ffthank you for the correction…my point was that "averages" do not tell the entire story about testing….I learned a lot about the river..thank you.. average width a factor… the river in places exceeds 200 feet at times. I did not cast one vote getting us into our fiancial situation…I did cast one vote against the salary increase of one person…I visited many classrooms and all our schools and more ..since the short time i have been on the board and saw a lot of great teaching. I am agnostic about a lot of things in education ..but not the value of a teacher….kids first rajcic

  2. Jane Tanaka MD

    In Japan and China there is a lot of pressure put on elementary school to study very hard, late into the night, studying above and beyond what their teachers ask of them. They are putting in the extra hours so that they can earn high marks to get into a good middle school. And the middle schoolers likewise compete for spots in the top high schools,in the students chosen speciality. The high school students compete for the coveted spots in colleges…. any college.
    Imagine that Poway Unified School District, especially west of the the 163, all competing for Ivy League Universities , cloned through an entire nation… that is what it would be like. And its not just the teachers and students who work extra hard… the parents put an immense amount of pressure/time/effort into their kids education… probably too much.
    The downside of this…students staying up till 2am on regular school nights doing homework, a higher rate of high schoolers dying… not from accidental heroin overdoses .. but from suicide attempts due to perceived failure, from too high a bar.
    I would rather see the more of the overacheiving PUSD students I see happier and well balanced like the majority of the RUSD students.

  3. Jane Tanaka MD

    Clarification of above: Those Asian students living in Taiwan, Korea and Japan who are not excelling enought in their schools are sent over to the US, sometimes with a parent ( thus called an Astronaut Family) or without a parent ( thus called a Parachute Student), to come to the US where academic standards are not as strict and availability of a college education is abundant . Doing well on the SAT or ACT is not as arduous, even for a foreign born student, as passing the college entrance exams for their native universities.
    Education comes first , in the minds of these parents and students… even if it means sacrificing the family unit via thousands of miles of separation.
    In Ramona… we can't get a Bond passed. If Insolvency occurs, the kids with potential may not have the most talented teachers, and programs in Industrial Arts, Advanced Placement Classes, Art, Music may not be available either.

  4. Guest

    Tanaka states: "I would rather see the (sic) more of the overacheiving (sic) PUSD students I see (sic) happier and well balanced like the majority of the RUSD students." What hat did you pull this statement out of? Thanks for your wisdom. ;-{

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