Disqus

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Worthy Reading about Education

 From NPR, a superlative story about a gifted math teacher.

Here's an op-ed from the New York Times - High School Doesn’t Have to Be Boring - written by two writers who spent six years traveling in the U.S., observing schools.
When you ask American teenagers to pick a single word to describe how they feel in school, the most common choice is “bored.”
When the two of us — a sociologist and a former English teacher — began our own investigation of this question several years ago, we made two assumptions. Both turned out to be wrong.

The first was that innovative schools would have the answers.

Our second mistake was that we assumed the place to look for depth was in core academic classes.

It turned out that high schools — all of them, not just the “innovative” ones — already had a model of powerful learning. It just wasn’t where we thought it would be.

Before the final bell, we treat students as passive recipients of knowledge whose interests and identities matter little. After the final bell — in newspaper, debate, theater, athletics and more — we treat students as people who learn by doing, people who can teach as well as learn, and people whose passions and ideas are worth cultivating. It should come as no surprise that when we asked students to reflect on their high school experiences, it was most often experiences like theater and debate that they cited as having influenced them in profound ways. 
And, Middle School is Becoming the New High School and It’s Ridiculous from the Grown and Flown blog.
What is beginning to happen in our middle schools has already toxically permeated our elementary and high schools, but middle school (not unlike the middle child), has contentedly remained ignored (and immune somewhat) to the overachievement insanity that has taken hold of the other schools. 
And now this insanity has reached middle school, where once joyful fifth graders who loved to learn are not only walking into a brand new “social” environment they have to navigate, they’re being told on day one that if they’re not seriously and 100% properly prepared for high school (which we now plan on banging into their heads daily during grades 6-8) well, then they can just forget about college, which means they’ll never reach any level of success whatsoever because college is the only path to success. And now, evidently that path starts in 6th grade, where the option to enroll in high school classes even exists at this point. STOP. PLEASE STOP.
I will be clear on the point that whoever the Democratic nominee is, I'll be supporting that person with all that I have.  There are many choices at this point and hopefully, the Dems will refuse the impulse to tear them all to pieces, in search of the "perfect" candidate.  (Raise your hand if you think you are just as or smarter than Trump.  Yeah, I feel that way as well.)

But, if you were asking me who I would probably not support in the primary, I already have two people - Cory Booker and Beto O'Rourke.  And it's because both of them are ed reform supporters (especially Booker).  Here's an interesting article from Town and Country magazine about O'Rourke's wife, Amy O'Rourke. She taught school for a short period of time but, in the ed reform world of TFA, that's good enough. She then opened a charter school.
These days, Amy is the "choose to excel director" at CREEED, a nonprofit focused on helping students in El Paso County public schools.  
 If you hit that link, you'll see another ed reform effort, this one in El Paso, Texas where they live.

Is Mr. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke?  Of course not but seldom do presidential spouses stray far from each other politically.

From Ed Week, a story that is right out of the Gates Foundation playbook (remember InBloom, the $100M experiment/failure for Gates for K-12 data storage):
Google is starting to provide cloud storage for K-12 districts, helping them warehouse the massive amounts of data they collect on their students, then offering artificial intelligence-as-a-service to help districts analyze the information and use it to generate visualizations, recommendations, and predictions
There's money in them there clouds.   Just say no.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, I'll reprint this one time but please, next time give yourself a name/moniker as we don't print anonymous comments.

"The overachievement push is ridiculous - starting in Kindergarten parents are pushing their kids to be already reading and writing. Crazy! No wonder there is an epidemic of anxiety among kids."

W. W. said...

Kids learn to roll over at different ages, start walking at different ages, learn to ride a bike a different ages. It is perfectly sensible that kids also learn to read and write at different ages.

Parental pushing probably can cause anxiety. But you'd be surprised who's pushing and who isn't. Parents push on all kinds of things—sports, appearance, music/dance, religion, manners, academics, etc.

But some kids love sports and are great at them without their parents pushing. Same with music or dance. Some kids dance (gasp!) for fun. Some kids lip sync and figure out how to make real music. Some are just naturally really, really good at something. Some kids pick up reading lickity split, easy peasy. For others it's much harder. Some kids love reading. They beg to be read to. They ask to be taught to read. They pick it up fast. They read voraciously.

You just can't universalize. Kids develop anxiety for all sorts of reasons:
1) Brain factors like serotonin and dopamine issues
2) Being raised by a parent with anxiety
3) Trauma (such as a divorce, illness, or death in the family)

Anne said...

Anxiety and depression are common in kids who learn to read and write early on their own, not because of parent pushing but because of inborn neurological development differences and precocious awareness and understanding of existential issues.

Anonymous said...

@Anne

That's quite the generalization. My reading of the research shows that gifted children are not prone to more depression except for those who are creatively gifted (writing and arts).

Where's your evidence?

Please share

:-( Facts said...

Risk factors for anxiety disorders: female gender, low household income, family genetics, physchobiology, negative affectivity, behavioral inhibition, parenting style/family climate, childhood adversities (abuse, neglect, separation from parents, death of parent), life events.

Anxiety has also been linked to intelligence.

Risk factors for depression: Self-devaluative thinking, Poor school performance, Bullying, Co-existing medical illnesses, Death of close relative, Death of a pet, Obesity, Community disasters such as war, famine and infections, Personal assault, Acute brain illness, etc.

But usually one single event does not trigger depression with the exception of a certain percentage of people who are already at high risk due to multiple other risk factors.

Factors that help protect individuals from depression:
A good sense of humor
Positive friendship networks
Close relationship with one or more family member
Socially valued personal achievements
High normal intelligence

Hard to find good data specifically on the effects of abnormally high intelligence. But anxiety and depression both clearly affect large enough percentages of all students that SPS should be more aware of these conditions and what they might look like than I feel like they are. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 teens experience depression.

Anonymous said...

@Anne, @Please share, @Facts

Thanks to all three of you for bringing up this important issue. Anxiety and depression have only recently been studied well in gifted populations. Believe it or not, gifted children have historically been excluded from most research in the areas of child development, social-emotional development, inclusivity, etc., so we make a lot of assumptions about what gifted children are like or what they need by inference from studies that focus on neurotypical, and often white male, subjects. Thankfully, this is starting to change.

The idea that depression and/or anxiety are more common in "creatively gifted" children is the sound-bite message that the NAGC publicizes. However, "creatively gifted" is not a defined term, and there are no real metrics underlying that claim.

Part of the problem is that "gifted" itself is not well defined, so every study that looks at it defines it uniquely. Meta-analyses are essentially impossible.

Another part of the problem is that anxiety and depression can look different in gifted and highly gifted individuals, so diagnosis and misdiagnosis are common. And certainly, there are major differences in neurodevelopment and presentation of mental health conditions in children depending on how high the IQ is. A child with an IQ 130-140 will usually have very distinct presentation compared to a child with an IQ of 150-160 or 160+.

In clinical practice, there is evidence that the higher the IQ, the more common anxiety and depression are, especially "existential depression," as Anne aludes to.

Another factor is that students with high IQ often mask their symptoms, making diagnosis and research quite difficult. Masking is a major issue in all 2E work, since educators and clinicians without professional development erroneously see performance at grade level as a counterindication of the presence of a mental health issue or disability, but a differential diagnosis taking IQ into account must always be done to consider 2E status.

Here is a good intro to some of these factors from 2003.
http://psych.wisc.edu/henriques/papers/Jackson.pdf

-Simone

In practice, most clinicians