A thought on education

Not sure if this belongs in IMHO, but we’ll see…

It seems to me that there is a gap in the way we educate people these days. It is possible to break students down into three large groups. First, there are the average students, the largest group. They range from not too bright to quite intelligent. Part of the balance comes from what their work habits are like and similar factors. These students are reasonably independent in their abilities, and don’t need special attention to get through school.

The next group are the students with special needs. For whatever reason, these children have greater difficulty with learning, and need to be carefully nurtured. Some are low in intelligence, some are extremely intelligent, most fall in between, but for whatever reason learning is a challenge.

The final group are the gifted students. These students may have higher than average intelligence, or exceptional work habits, but for whatever reason, they show immediate potential, and are greatly encouraged and nurtured.

So, here are my thoughts on how our educational system handles these three broad groups (and these groups are very broad, I will admit). We pay very careful attention to making sure special needs students are well taught and cared for, to give them a good education. This is very important, and teachers in Special education deserve lots of respect.

The gifted students are immediately strongly encouraged, put in special groups, given tutors, more interesting and challenging material, and given access to special groups and organizations. They are given special attention when it comes to grants, scholarship money, etc.

Now, this is all wonderful and good, but the question is, where does this leave all of our “average” students? I think when we encourage our gifted students and give them so much opportunity and attention, we are forgetting about our majority - the average students. The problem isn’t that we are nurturing the fast learners, but that aren’t doing the same for those who seem to fall more in the middle. Your “average” student is effectively told that they do not have great potential; that they are not worth spending so much time and effort on, because they are not going to have a great effect on the world.

Change, of course, is always affected by the majority. I think that this hyper-focus on the more advanced is cheating a lot of average level students out of getting the attention, the “push” that they really need to realize that they CAN be as successful as their IQ 160 classmate.

Naturally, we can’t turn attention away from gifted students; they need to be encouraged and helped along. But so do the average to poor ones. They need encouragement, greater opportunity, and the kind of dedicated, strong teaching that is mostly available only to either gifted or wealthier students. I think that this inequity in quality of education is one of the problems with our system today. The idea is a level playing field of educational opportunity for all students. Gifted students can advance as quickly as they need to; so can more average students. But encouraging the more gifted students will not draw anything away from the average ones, as it seems to now. Essentially, there should be an understanding that a strong effort needs to be put into teaching ALL students across the board effectively, rather than restricting the good teaching and education to those that show a greater aptitude for working within the current educational system than others.

So, that’s my rant… I hope it made sense, but it’s late. I get the feeling that I probably explained myself incorrectly, but oh well…

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

And mods, if this should be moved to GD, feel free (not that you wouldn’t feel free, but I’m inviting you…).

-Grolby

I think the biggest problem with education is funding. It doesn’t get nearly enough funding. Bush is spending money beefing up our country against nothing, instead of spending money educating young people so they don’t make the same mistakes.

Also, alot of teachers leave or never even become teachers because the pay is so crappy. I’m sure we would have alot more teachers of higher quality if they simply got paid more.

I just finished my 12 years (well, more like 11 1/2, anyhoo…) of public education and I have to say that the system sucks.

In my experience, I the biggest problem was that nobody ever taught students how to think. Instead it was just endless drills, mindless repetition and regurgitating information for use on a multiple guess test. I was boring as hell and I’m just glad to be out of there.

What is even worse is that schools are now focusing on state-mandated standardized tests so they can hopefully inflate scores just enough to earn that coveted “exemplary” rating in whatever bullshit caste system they have set up. We actually had a small class period (40 minutes a day) devoted to teaching lower classmen how to get a better score on the TAAS. Upperclassmen had nothing to do but sit around and wait. This class was originally started in response to the Columbine tragedy as a sort of mentoring session to prevent future tragedies from occuring. Priorities change, I guess…

I really hate to rail against my school like this, as I know there are some teachers and administrators who really do care about what direction our schools are taking. It is just too bad that they are weighed down by so much procedure and protocol that they can’t do their job.

ssj_man2k you are absoluely correct. There’s a reason why many of our best teachers are in the private schools, rather than the public. It’s a real shame.

I don’t believe it’s true that gifted students receive better opportunities everywhere. Gifted education is mandated here (under handicapped laws, actually), but it’s not so elsewhere. Even if there are special opportunities, it usually ends up being a pull-out program to do busywork. I remember being among the top even in the gifted program in elementary and middle school. How does that program help challenge me?
The programs that I’m familiar with aren’t very helpful at all. There is emphasis on schoolwork, yes, but how does that help a student who secretly thinks they’re losing their intelligence because they have to work for their grades for the first time? I don’t think that’s much of an issue for students who don’t have their self-identity hung on their grades and test scores because that’s all adults have ever emphasized and praised.

I don’t feel there is a hyperfocus on advanced students. There’s a focus on three or four students at the very pinnacle of achievement occasionally, and then the rest of the attention is focused on low-achieving students. An equal emphasis on achievement for all students would be fantastic and very much a good idea. But you have to work with the community first. Unless there’s an emphasis on educational achievement among everyone, it won’t happen.

I think this might be a bit confusing. I think I agree with you a bit, Grelby, but I disagree with your views of gifted education.

jessica

What school system is this where you feel there is a hyper focus on gifted education? I want to transfer my sisters there now.

I have not found a focus on gifted students in my experiance, not for me and not for my little sisters. When I was in elementary school my “advanced” educational status allowed me to tutor the LD kids. No extra classes, no cool projects, I taught my peers and went suicidal.

When we moved to a system with actual seperate classes for gifted students it was a little better. But you were still not allowed to go faster than the “system”. Even there advanced students were told to slow down, be normal, fit in with everybody else because its a PITA to teach kids who aren’t in the middle of the bell curve.

From my experiance education is focused on normalizing kids, bringing the slow kids up to pace and pulling the quick kids back.

Hey, now-sometimes LD students are actually above average intelligence.

I think in a society where athletes make more than educators, we’ve misplaced our priorities. Hell, look at the raging injustices in school sports.

I SO much agree.

My (public) high school allowed all the average students to completely fall through the cracks and paid most of its attention to the ‘gifted’ students. Not only did they get extra attention in academics, they were encouraged to be in academic clubs and got extra help in applying to colleges. I tested once and qualified for gifted, but I refused to be in the program. Basically, the kids got an advantage over the rest of us, but they were almost separated off from the rest of the school. It was really odd–they honestly didn’t know how to relate to average people, which is a very important life skill that I wanted to be able to keep, thank you very much.

Here’s why I wouldn’t be in the gifted program. In my school district, you have two options to get into the program. 1) You are tested by a school official and get the ‘gifted’ label that way, or 2) You are tested by another, non-school affiliated psychologist. Guess what happened? All the children with well-to-do parents received the ‘gifted’ label. Hell, if all you have to do is keep paying for private psychologists to test your kid over and over until you get a ‘gifted’ label, why not?

So a large segment of the ‘gifted’ kids in my school were simply the rich kids. This amounts to discrimination and I refused to be party to it. I don’t understand how this is/was legal anyway. Anybody else have a school with a system like this?

I teach high school. I teach average to lower performing students. Of course, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have had so much pressure from various Department Heads to get my Gifted Certification because, “Those gifted kids deserve a teacher like you.” Screw that. I love my students, and I am not about to “trade up” for a bunch of snotnosed know-it-alls. I was a Gifted and A.P. kid all throughout high school, but I never treated my teachers the way I’ve seen some of the gifted kids where I teach treat their teachers. A friend of mine teaches Honors and A.P. classes, and she hates her kids.

Grelby, were you implying a few posts back that private schools pay more? If you were, then you’re insane. I wouldn’t make a fraction of my salary if I were to teach in a private school, nor would I get the excellent benefits that the state provides. Don’t get me wrong; the pay still sucks, but it doesn’t suck as much as private school salaries.

Damn skippy.

Hmm…I had to take a psychological examination before entering my (special public) high school, along with standarized tests and a complete transcript of all my grades. I sometimes wondered what happened to the examination, I remember I was given the sobresaliente label(sorry, I don’t know how that concept is translated, overachiever is not the word, and above average…it still not what he meant). At that school, thanks to my grades in elementary school and the test, I was placed in the advanced courses, were I did well(in fact, some where easier than the regular courses). During my last 2 years of high school, I was able to take college courses(which my current university refuses to accept…but that is another issue). Unluckily, only 2 courses were honors(English and Math), and not much electives or courses were taught other than the basics.

Also, the public school I went to is a magnet school of sorts. Even the students who were in the regular program did better and knew more than the students at the same age in another public schools.

I went to a private, small elementary school, where the students were not separated according to their abilities. Maybe because it was small, and the teachers could dedicate a bit more time to students, many kids I believe received a good education that prepared them for high school. When I was in sixth and fifth grade, I remember they even had a girl with Down syndrome taking classes with the rest of the regular kids(but she was in first grade or so, and there was talk that maybe she would not be able to advance with her group through the rest of the school years).

The only education system I remember that I truly like is the Montessori one, maybe because I did what I wanted at the pace I wanted and could. Too bad a program similar to that is not more available.

are only better than the salaries of public school teachers if they teach at Ivy League Preparatory School. Also, at least where I lived, some private school teachers are still in the process of getting a Master’s Degree, while public school teachers are required to have one in order to be considered a full time teacher with a bit more stability and security.

The problem is that in many private schools they may not give as much money, but they do offer more resources, manage money better, take care of infrastructure, and overall offer a better working and studying environment than public schools where teachers get paid more but have to pay for all the materials they want to use with their students…each year.

Well, I stand corrected on salaries. Sorry about that, I really should make sure I know what I’m talking about before bringing stuff like that up.

It looks like this really depends upon where you are; some people disagree with me, others agree. I think that what JessEnigma talked about is another valid concern; children with more of an aptitude for learning not being allowed to advance at an appropriate pace. However, I do not feel that the gifted programs we are using now are the solution to that particular problem.