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ASPartOfMe
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13 Oct 2021, 5:50 am

The Injustice of ‘Equity’ by Christine Rosen for Commentary

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Remember “No Child Left Behind?” If “equity” advocates have their way, today’s educational slogan will soon become “No Child Gets Ahead.”

This week, outgoing New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that the city’s public schools will no longer offer gifted and talented programs for its students. They will be “replaced by a program that offers accelerated learning to all students in the later years of elementary school.” In other words: Everyone is gifted and talented now!

DeBlasio and his fellow equity advocates spared no thought for those who might be harmed by the elimination of such programs. Rather, they make a different claim, one that shifts the focus from the students who need these more challenging programs to the students who don’t qualify to get into them. The equity narrative insists that the existence of racial disparities in these programs is evidence of discrimination and justifies their elimination.

The Times didn’t even try to be subtle about pushing this narrative. The subheading of its story described gifted and talented programs as “racially segregated” (The paper later altered this to say that the programs were “a glaring symbol of segregation”). If equity advocates want to start calling organizations or programs that fail to achieve perfect racial balance “racially segregated,” then the National Football League is also a racially segregated organization, as is the National Basketball Association, because their players don’t reflect the demographics of the nation.

In fact, equity advocates are eager to make this a black and white story, because the reality is more complicated—and undermines their narrative. These programs are already dominated by a minority student population, just not the “right” minority, according to equity ideologues. According to Chalkbeat, “at 43%, the greatest share of students in gifted classes are Asian.”

Equity advocates like to claim that they are challenging “systemic” inequalities. In fact, as has become clear with this most recent abolition of gifted and talented programs, they want to challenge systemic problems by taking the easy way out and simply blowing up the system.

There are numerous reforms that could be introduced to New York’s gifted and talented screening system, such as offering more points of entry to gifted classes throughout K-6th grade or doing more to identify gifted and talented children among underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups. Those kids are out there; they deserve more challenging educational opportunities. They won’t get them from DeBlasio’s new plan.

it is far easier to punish high-performing Asian and white students than it is to tackle the thornier problems that lead to lower rates of admission by black and Hispanic students. Many of these problems are cultural and economic (students from low-income families fare worse on the screening tests) for which there is no easy fix.

The truly equitable thing to do would be to redouble efforts to support these underperforming students well before they have the option to be sorted into gifted and talented programs. Eliminating gifted programs does nothing to help those still-struggling students. They will continue to struggle. The only difference now is that so, too, will the gifted kids (or at least the ones whose parents can’t afford to send them to private school), who will be stuck learning at the level of their underperforming peers.


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firemonkey
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13 Oct 2021, 11:24 am

You can't make all students intellectually equal,but you should have a system that does its utmost to maximise the potential of each child.That requires a holistic approach. One capable of teasing out the reasons why a student may not be living up to their potential.

I'm all for students being educated at their ability level and not how old they are. However that requires an education system better equipped to spot potential,and why it isn't being fulfilled.

Having said that I do readily accept that, comparatively speaking,things are significantly better than when I was at school from 1961-1975.There was very little help for the academically underperforming student back then.


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Fnord
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13 Oct 2021, 11:38 am

This kind of 'equity' crap was going on during the 1960s, as well.  I think it was/is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure for cash-strapped school districts to avoid having to spend money on the 'accelerated' teachers and classrooms needed by intellectually gifted students.

I could have graduated a year or two earlier but for the fact that, in my hometown's school district, the only 'special' education funding involved buying a short bus to take the slower learners to and from school.



ExcelsiorMom
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13 Oct 2021, 11:53 am

This does not help anyone and in fact punishes both the fastest and slowest students.


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13 Oct 2021, 12:25 pm

Fnord wrote:
This kind of 'equity' crap was going on during the 1960s, as well.  I think it was/is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure for cash-strapped school districts to avoid having to spend money on the 'accelerated' teachers and classrooms needed by intellectually gifted students.

I could have graduated a year or two earlier but for the fact that, in my hometown's school district, the only 'special' education funding involved buying a short bus to take the slower learners to and from school.


The legendary short bus. My school also had one. I noticed that schools rarely go particularly above and beyond to help those who are high achievers. My school did however let students sit some their GCSE's early but nobody ever left school any sooner.

Education for the slower students seemed to have the lion's share of attention and achieved absolutely nothing. Almost nobody from the special ed classes in my school left with any meaningful GCSE's....other than me.

To this day nobody knows why I was in Special needs.



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13 Oct 2021, 12:37 pm

I remember this short story I read years ago about a dystopian society that made everyone equal in every way. How did it work? They made beautiful people wear props and makeup that made them look ugly. They made people with talent forced at gunpoint to do terribly. The intelligent got it way worse. They were given some dampening implant that would send a shock every thirty seconds to make sure their train of thought was constantly disrupted.


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13 Oct 2021, 1:47 pm

I wish they'd bring back tracking so that teachers didn't have to differentiate so much in each classroom. Students that could be ahead can resent the slow students. And I imagine the slower students may resent those more ahead in turn. And it should not be on those ahead to tutor/help those who are slower.

I do think it should be easier to switch tracks tho within such a structure. And that most subjects should be tracked individually vs assuming a child is always ahead, on-track, or slower for all subjects equally.



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13 Oct 2021, 8:06 pm

A maths classmate in the 4th form. It was for those who were seen as not being too good at Maths. My Achilles heel? Geometry. Probably at 'borderline intellectual functioning' level for it. At that point there was nothing to suggest my classmate was particularly intelligent. As you'll see he improved dramatically.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Tyrie


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Dox47
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14 Oct 2021, 3:01 am

Fnord wrote:
This kind of 'equity' crap was going on during the 1960s, as well.  I think it was/is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure for cash-strapped school districts to avoid having to spend money on the 'accelerated' teachers and classrooms needed by intellectually gifted students.

I could have graduated a year or two earlier but for the fact that, in my hometown's school district, the only 'special' education funding involved buying a short bus to take the slower learners to and from school.


My brother and some of my friends are teachers in the Seattle area, which has been aggressive in going after these programs, and I have to tell you that it's not a cost cutting smoke screen, they genuinely think these programs are racist because they result in disparate outcomes. I have my own bones to pick with how these programs were historically administered in the area, as they operated on the "magnet school" model where they would put the gifted programs in poor (read: black) neighborhoods on some sort of 'intelligence will be transferred through osmosis' theory, which in practice meant schools within schools and a lot of hostility between those in the programs and those not in them in the same building. My middle school was particularly bad, they actually had chain link fence gates installed around the building so they could physically separate the two tracks of students during lunch and passing periods, it felt like a prison.


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14 Oct 2021, 4:21 am

Our local elementary and middle schools are extremely diverse, and what they offered for GATE students was extremely limited. And ... none of the super bright students were held back by it.

I don't know all the buzz words, but there are teaching methods specifically designed to teach to multiple levels within one classroom. Motivated students might do independent study, or they might help other students. Both of my kids (including my ASD child) were often assigned to do the later, and it was something they found really enriching on multiple levels. For my ASD son, it forced him to find new ways of thinking and pushed him on his communication skills. You will never understand material better and deeper than when you've tried to find a new way to explain it to someone who isn't getting it the standard way.

Also somewhat similar to a yoga class where the instructor suggests different variations and students pick which one they want to try.

In middle school, the schools started to differentiate math.

In high school, students had the option of taking AP classes, which is obviously a differentiation.

With the young kids, a merged system can really, really work. I saw it. Once you get past all the assumptions and all the prejudices and actually see how it works with properly trained instructors (KEY: PROPERLY TRAINED), it's pretty cool.

And I'm speaking as a parent to two officially tested gifted kids.

PS - I also have to confess that worrying about kids being held back academically is sometimes (often?) a cover for discomfort with racial and economic differences. Wanting the best for your own child is socially acceptable in well off areas, regardless of politics, despite the fact that it inherently means a person has to be willing to leave someone else behind.


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kraftiekortie
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14 Oct 2021, 8:09 am

I passed the tests for "SP--Special Progress," which was what the "gifted" program was called in my junior high school in the 70s. But it was determined that I wasn't "mature" enough to be successful in the program.

I feel like there should continue to be enrichment programs for the "gifted." I also believe the "gifted" should learn about Gardner's notions of "multiple intelligences." And learn that somebody who might be inferior in physics could actually be superior in that this person could save your life through the knowledge of practical skills.



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14 Oct 2021, 8:17 am

It doesn't seem like a big issue.

If a 10 year old can do Calculus, then she can take the high school Calculus class.

My high school even permitted students to take college classes while in high school.


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14 Oct 2021, 8:22 am

We supplement our kids with home-schooling-like techniques. If I see my kids have an interest in something i try to stimulate it. My youngest is interested in electronics right now. We build a refrigerator using a thermo-electric cooling device - no gases to explode or poison us - but not as efficient as a regular refrigerator. We are trying to build an arduino robot now. I will buy educational dvds - and even books. The schools can only (and will only) do so much.



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14 Oct 2021, 8:26 am

Dox47 wrote:
Fnord wrote:
This kind of 'equity' crap was going on during the 1960s, as well.  I think it was/is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure for cash-strapped school districts to avoid having to spend money on the 'accelerated' teachers and classrooms needed by intellectually gifted students.  I could have graduated a year or two earlier but for the fact that, in my hometown's school district, the only 'special' education funding involved buying a short bus to take the slower learners to and from school.
My brother and some of my friends are teachers in the Seattle area, which has been aggressive in going after these programs, and I have to tell you that it's not a cost cutting smoke screen, they genuinely think these programs are racist because they result in disparate outcomes...
The 'racist' label has been used to justify anything from banning books and children's entertainment to cancelling people who speak out against socialism.  It is the new bogey-word.  Label someone a racist and watch them fade away (some faster than others).



ExcelsiorMom
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14 Oct 2021, 3:27 pm

I have thought about this a bit with the gifted and talented program getting gutted and removed by De Blasio.

De Blasio is essentially taking the fastest ox and tying it to a wagon being pulled by oxen. That wagon will have to go at the pace of the slowest ox.

I am glad he will not be NYC's mayor any longer soon, though the new contenders leaves much to be desired.


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14 Oct 2021, 5:08 pm

ExcelsiorMom wrote:
I have thought about this a bit with the gifted and talented program getting gutted and removed by De Blasio.

De Blasio is essentially taking the fastest ox and tying it to a wagon being pulled by oxen. That wagon will have to go at the pace of the slowest ox.

I am glad he will not be NYC's mayor any longer soon, though the new contenders leaves much to be desired.


That really isn't how it plays out, if teachers know how to do a mixed level classroom right. See my post; my officially gifted kids went through a school system that did not track or differentiate.

Remember that most learning is a spiral, not a straight line, where students return to the same material but at increasing levels of depth. Instructors can use that to move one class along at multiple different paces.


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