No Recess For White Kids:
Merrow Takes On Achievement Gap Thinking

In his weekly email to friends and colleagues, PBS's John Merrow takes an interesting swipe at our short-sided fixation with the achievement gap, which, taken to their logical extreme, should lead to things like ending recess for white kids so they can catch up to Asian kids.
"People who obsess about the Black-White achievement gap are either ignorant, intellectually lazy or mendacious." I can't remember who said that, but I am inclined to agree.

I'm not sure I agree with every word or every conclusion -- help, Kati, I don't know what to think! -- but I love how fierce it is. Let's shake this thing up, people.


Here' the rest of the email:

"Our public education system has THREE gaps: in opportunity, expectations and outcomes. The OPPORTUNITY gap is obvious--rich schools have the most experienced teachers, the most up-to-date equipment and facilities, smaller classes and other advantages. the EXPECTATIONS gap is real, because some teachers simply do not expect their poor disadvantaged students to be excellent--and, guess what, the kids often live down to those expectations. Given those two gaps, a pronounced difference in OUTCOMES is inevitable.

"To focus only on outcomes is self-defeating. Even when schools do get those scores up, it's often the result of mind-numbing drill, cuts in PE, art and music, and long classes in 'reading readiness' (instead of real reading).

"This week's podcast, a video, shows what happens when enlightened leadership addresses the first two gaps--and eliminates them. The school in question is in the hard scrabble city of Mount Vernon, NY. Against all odds, virtually every student in the school passes the state tests, a feat unheard of in the inner city.

"For more evidence of our foolishness regarding the Achievement Gap, ask yourself why educators and others aren't wringing their hands over the gap between Whites and Asian Americans? It was 'only' 30 points in 1981 (513-483), but it's widened to 44 points (580-536) in 2005. That's in math. It's 'only' 18 points in English Language Arts. Doesn't that call for more drill for the white kids, and no more recess?

I urge you to put down whatever you are doing (especially if you're obsessing about the achievement gap) and watch this video (produced by my colleague Tira Grey), because it's a road map for school success.

Go to www.pbs.org/merrow, click on the picture, and follow the simple directions.



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