Monday, April 21, 2008

A Trio of Good Posts

I was just surfing around some homeschooling sites earlier today, and I happened to come across the Crimson Wife's site, Bending the Twigs. I've visited this site various times before, although it's not one of my usual stops; but there were several good posts right on top, so I thought I'd send her a little of my traffic.

(Like she actually needs it. I suspect she gets more than I do. And if it weren't for the single-handed heroism of Jarrod W. PhD., she'd be getting a whole lot more comments than me, too.)

First, this post talks about the current state of That Court Case. There's not a whole lot of news, except that all the Amicus Curiae briefs are currently being written by HSLDA and a bunch of other organizations, and are due in mid-May. The re-hearing will happen sometime in June, and the verdict probably won't be out until fall sometime. But in the meantime, there is a resolution supporting the right to homeschool (ACR 115) currently in the Assembly Education Committee--and there may at some point come an opportunity for Sacramento-area homeschoolers to drop in on a committee meeting. This would be an excellent field trip idea--if nothing else, to let the wee ones see how the sausage gets made.

The next post talks about the Teach for America program. According to Wikipedia, "TFA recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in schools in low-income communities throughout the United States." These teachers are not required to possess standard credentials; instead, they are issued "alternate certification" as they complete their TFA coursework. Wikipedia lists several conflicting studies that have been done to determine whether the TFA teachers are effective; some of these studies suggest that TFA teachers get better results than traditionally-credentialed and hired teachers, and some say they get worse results.

The latest of these studies was published last month by the Urban Institute. This was the first study to look at the impact of TFA teachers employed at the high school level. The report's abstract declared:
We find that TFA teachers tend to have a positive effect on high school student test scores relative to non-TFA teachers, including those who are certified in-field. Such effects exceed the impact of additional years of experience and are particularly strong in math and science.
This study made quite a splash in the homeschooling community.

Anyway, the Crimson Wife's post speculates about what factors could cause a young, fresh-faced, idealistic (but inexperienced) recent college grad to get better results than a veteran educator. The results have to do, in a way, with social class and the differing worldviews that members of these social classes possess. But I'm not going to try to summarize her (rather controversial) thesis any further: read her post. And as of this writing, you still have the opportunity to be the first to comment over there!

Her third post discusses a topic near and dear to my heart: bright kids often can't abide busywork. Bright kids are often willing to work very hard at academic topics of interest to them, but if the work is uninteresting, and they are just being assigned it to keep them occupied while the rest of the class catches up, they have this way of rebelling, chucking the homework, going off to do something that interests them, and getting bad grades (which many of them don't care about anyway, since they're already in rebellion).

I remember in Junior High, going to a district-wide English competition, placing second and going to State levels--the same quarter that I got a D in English. I was quite capable of passing any test or doing any assignment the teacher gave me; I just simply couldn't be bothered to do the homework, since it didn't interest me.

How do we deal with kids like that? This is much more than an academic question for us, since our Pillowfight Fairy is exactly like that, even at age 5.

The trouble, of course, is that these kids who check out during High School often damage their chances of getting into precisely those kinds of careers and higher education settings where they would best thrive. To paraphrase Paul Graham, The only way to escape the system is to submit to it.

Crimson Wife discusses this problem. She doesn't come up with any definitive answers. She does point out that homeschooling is a bit better at dealing with these square-peg-in-round-hole situations, but acknowledges that not everyone can homeschool, so a solution needs to be found in the traditional schools as well.

Anyway, she's been on a roll lately, so go check her out.

1 comment:

marshymallow said...

On the third post - i think a lot of the problem stems from the lack fo trust between parents, students, and teachers.

I was homeschooled through most of elementary school, but since then have found it very helpful to discuss it with my teachers. Most of them were more than happy to assign me more difficult work, or to allow me to do semi-independent study type things. Or i would do all the classwork ahead of time and spend the class doing homework for my more worthy classes.

My youngest brother was less fortunate, though. He was in 2nd grade, and had skipped ahead in math. He was enjoying it very much. After only a couple months, the teachers pulled him back without informing my parents because they were afraid he was becoming a "monster." They literally said that. Because he wasn't acting out in class. And when he did get sent to the Principal's office, they again did not inform my parents because he was finally acting "normal" and they didn't want him to get punished for it. I can't even begin to say how weird this situation was.