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Bernie Driscoll

Surprise! West End Middle Schools Honors program is wonderful. The number of students making the transition from Elementary to Middle is growing. Why? Predictible programs in place and parents and local administrators selling their schools from K-12.

At some point the district must understand that we need to move to a K-5-9 lottery system with no feeders. This only creates false perceptions / alienates families and dilutes peer groups. Far too often people choose schools at the middle school level for where they lead/feed as opposed to the middle school itself. This has a domino effect among all a child's peers... it only takes a small amount of children to leave to have the whole spectrum begin to unravel and all you have is what is left very quickly.

By followng this path especially considering high achieving students, it would actually create more opportunities for students and build stronger schools and maintain these wonderful diverse groups of children that we develop from K-4 and pushes schools to push it's standards higher when many standards are actually falling.

Private schools understand that if they can attract a child at grade 5, they can retain them till grade 12. MNPS needs to get on that same page.

I'm a firm believer in public schools and our cluster is working together to reach a common goal.


Chris, I didn't mean to impute value judgement on your part, simply that you focused your argument on that one aspect.

Chris C.

I'm not valuing education of low-achieving students over gifted students or vice versa.

I just wanted to point out that there's some reason to believe there are negative effects on schools when gifted children leave.


Chris points to the benefit to the lower performing students of having the higher performing students stay in the original schools but doesn't dwell on the same principle applied to the high performing students. They too would benefit immensely to be in the presence of an intelligence stratification.

Once you are classifed as gifted that doesn't mean that stratification stops.

Look at one of our posts on the Center for Talented Youth.

The skeptics, especially skeptics of testing, should consider these take-home points:

1. A one hour test given at age 12 is sufficient to predict outcome statistics more than a decade later. In particular, it can identify a group of individuals more than 50-times more likely than the general population to obtain doctoral degrees.

2. As the paper shows, the top 1 in 10000 population is overwhelmingly European and Asian. (78% European, 20% Asian).

3. The threshold effect postulated by some investigators like Gardiner - which supposes that a 180 IQ does not afford much advantage over a 130 IQ - does not stand up to statistical investigation.

The dual missions, education and citizen preparation, of the public schools have shifted terribly towards preparing citizens shaped into form by the Axiom of Equality which looks with anathema upon excellence and elistism, (not used as a pejorative) and seeks to squash inequality by holding back those on the upper bounds.

The gift of high intelligence in some of our children should be nutured and further developed and not depressed in the aim of lifting dullards to a marginally higher level.

Chris C.

I don't really think of this as 'definitive' research, but exploratory - he does a good job of analyzing the issue withing the constraints of the data he has, and it opens up more questions for future study.

The effect of teacher moves is probably negligible. The author notes that only 0.6% of the district's high school teachers moved to the magnet school.

You're right that teacher/administrator attitude changes probably play a role in the changes, but it's also probably omre than that. There is some research out there on classroom peer effects that suggests a student with high-scoring classmates will perform better than students with average classmates (after controlling for prior differences, of course). This is probably due to some combination of teachers' expectations or students, different classroom environments for learning, and different expectations among classmates.

Dave Shearon

Chris, do you really think this research suggests anything at all? One high school, in 1985, and Thomas Jefferson High at that. First I'd note that this researcher NEVER DISCUSSES TEACHER MOVES. Was it the kids leaving, or the teachers?

If TJHS was started as a clean state and the principal got to choose faculty who applied to teach high-achieving students, is it possible that the faculty who left other schools were those most proficient with those students? If so, the value-added for high achieving students overall may not have changed, except to the extent that concentrating those teachers in one school and letting them focus on the needs of high-achieving students allowed them to become even better than they were before.

Also, what happened to the attitudes and relationships of the teachers and principals "left" in the zoned schools. How much did it suffer. Could this be the cause of a drop in value-added for those schools (if there was a drop)? This kind of "research" is what gives "education research" a bad name -- it's worse than useless, it's biased. Maybe not intentionally, but it's hard to see how such research could have gotten published unless a number of folks in the design and review process were completely blind to the glaring holes in the research design.

Admittedly, I'm not a researcher, but I am a lawyer and my cross-examination skills are quivering to get at this research. I don't think it holds up well at all.

Chris C.

The children left behind in the other schools can also "hurt" when magnet schools draw high-achieving students. Last week, I linked to some recent research that suggests average and below-average students suffer when above-average students leave for magnet schools.

This research was based in one city and I think every situation is unique. However, peers' influence on one another is profound and it's possible that magnet schools can lead to negative effects on the students who don't attend them.

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