Educational Spending and Inequality

by WCE

I enjoyed this map detailing the difference in educational spending between typical and high poverty rate schools by state. Missouri has the biggest gap in spending. What I found more interesting than the within-state gap, however, was the gap between states. Wyoming, Alaska and some New England states have per capita spending in the high teens. Most southeastern states, Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho have below average spending, around $7000. I would guess the national population-weighted average (not the average of 50 states) is $10,000/student, without knowing how technicalities like the need for new buildings being greater in some states is handled.

The site notes that some states have determined that unequal funding between districts within a state is unjust, but this gap is negligible compared to the gap between states. Do you think the inequality between states is unjust? What, if anything, do you think should be done about it? Other than New York, it appears that many states with the poorest students and the most ESL students have the lowest funding.

Map: 41 States are Shortchanging their Neediest Students

Advertisements

248 thoughts on “Educational Spending and Inequality

  1. I think the amount we are spending on education as a whole is a travesty and we are seeing the results of the last two decades of underinvestment in teachers and students and overinvestment in testing regimes across the board. We are in Texas which is one of the states that historically underinvests in education. We also have Robin Hood, which causes rich districts such as ours to pay its school taxes over to the state and get back less than 40 cents on each dollar paid in. We fund raise every year for the rest. There are probably 15 or more non-profits set up to raise funds for specific purposes to support our local schools. Great education and I wish that we could have every child in Texas receive a similar education. However, we are serving nearly no low income or ESL students. Our special ed kids receive well more than the bare minimum needed to keep the student in the least restrictive environment. It is why we moved to this district.

  2. I never paid attention to this before we moved here, maybe because small town 11pm news is really local and school funding has been an issue in the large-ish anchor city here. ~50% of kids below poverty line. City issue only; not an issue in the suburbs, generally populated by white-flighters beginning in the mid 60s.

    I mention white flight because I think that’s the big cause for funding disparities within states/counties. I realize there were lots of problems (redlining, if not de jure segregation both meaning worse funding for black schools) before Brown vs Board was confirmed in 1954, but until that started being enforced with busing in cities to increase integration 10-15yrs later, the cities that today do not have a large enough tax base to sufficiently fund fair education for all (due to reduction in populations of as much as 50% compared with the 1950s-1960s*) were able to fund their school districts. And no one thought of regional school districts a la Charlotte/Mecklenburg County (now) as a pre-requisite for forced integration. (White) People of enough means moved to the suburbs and/or put their kids in private schools.

    Even if there were a tax-funded level-funding mandate per student, say $10k/kid, within a state, there would still be the problem of my suburban-district PTA being able to raise a ton more money for specials that would not be afforded to kids in districts with high concentrations of poverty.

    Funding differences between states are very difficult to address, since we’ve decided education is generally a matter for the states. Until that becomes a federal-funding item I don’t know where we go.

    * forced integration is not the only cause. Shifts in the economy away from a larger manufacturing-based one to a service-based one also have had significant impacts on large/medium city populations throughout the northeast US.

  3. I can’t quite wrap my head around Florida and how they can spend so little. I can sort of understand Nebraska or Kansas where the cost of living is very low. But, Florida is spending 30% less than that? Is there something missing? I can see HI’s numbers being off because so many people send their kids to private schools. The same doesn’t seem to be true of Florida.

  4. I can wrap my head around it – no income tax in Florida. Seems to be a theme among low-funded schools.

  5. Let me clarify – states with no income tax seem to have low levels of funding, independent of local cost of living.

  6. Ada – no income tax in Texas either, which would go with the low funding theme. However, property taxes here are much higher than Florida.

    The schools in Florida are set up with each county being a school district, which should generally increase the efficiency since you don’t have multiple school districts in a small area each having to hire a superintendent and senior level administrators with proper certifications. That would produce some cost savings over the microdistricts you see in the Northeast. I believe in my current county in Texas, we have 17 school districts that partially operate in this county. The smallest of these has about 7,000 students. The largest has 160,000 students, almost all high need. Most underinvesting areas also pay their teachers a lot less. No teacher unions in Texas also and no tenure.

  7. I wouldn’t trust that data, Rhett. Those numbers are heavily manipulated. I combine two classes and have a TA roaming about helping the IEP/504 plan kids and now it counts as only having 18 students per “instructor”. Reality is you have 35-36 students regularly in classes. I worked for a rated company whose rating relies heavily on the metric of assets per asset manager. The number reported is no more than 20 per asset manager, which is still higher than any peers. Reality is you never had less than 35 assets to work on and I think even the janitor was counted in the denominator in that calculation.

  8. No teacher unions in Texas also and no tenure.

    It doesn’t seem to produce the educational utopia one would imagine.

  9. Utah has 5% state income tax (23rd highest per capita collections) but still has low spending per student because of the ratio of kids to adults. Oregon has 9% state income tax (well above average, no sales tax) and still has below average school funding. Both state taxes and the demographics of the state (ratio of kids to taxpayers) matter.

    I can’t remember the link now, but I was surprised by how close and high Massachusetts and Utah were on educational achievement/adult stability for children who grow up in those states, given their different political situations. I attributed it to high levels of two parent families in both states and the benefits of state control of tax/education policy when states make good choices.

    This Atlantic article notes that Utah has over 3 births per death, compared to 1.25 in Massachusetts.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/waitutah-is-the-fastest-growing-state/511331/

  10. My DD#1 goes to a private high school with roughly 400 students. The cost of her education as we are not of the religious denomination as the school runs roughly $15K. My DD#2 goes to a public high school with roughly 2200 students. Like Mia we are in Texas where roughly $10K is spent, but I don’t know the high school breakout for the public school.

    I think part of the difference in funding has to do with the difficulty of what is offered. For example, a district over from us is considered high poverty. Things they don’t spend money on are AP courses or upper level math and science courses as the parents don’t demand them. Those course generally require teachers with higher credentials and in science require supplies for labs. The few kids that even need anything past Algebra 2 are enrolled in dual credit courses with the local community college. The other variable is variety – at a lower income school they may offer only Spanish and sign language as foreign languages, but at other schools they also offer French, German and Chinese.

  11. This is fascinating — the differences in spending are interesting. Are there any similar maps that track educational success compared to funding? I’d be interested in a map that would tease out reasons for differences in educational success by area. It could have nothing to do with spending within a certain range of spending. Of course, defining and measuring “educational success” then becomes the problem. There’s no national achievement test that all students take, is there?

  12. Allie, the NAEP is the most nationally representative achievement test. You can see reading and math data here, though it’s not a pretty map with correlations.

    In short, educational spending is secondary or tertiary to socioeconomic status, which correlates with parental age at birth and family status. One of the reasons for my conservative views is that I think it is impossible for government to “close the gap” between disadvantaged children and advantaged children. Currently, “closing the gap” is my district’s main goal, and the easiest way to do that is to bring the top down.

    http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015/#mathematics/state?grade=4

  13. WCE – would think the homogeneity of the population in Utah schools may have an impact on the educational outcomes.

  14. One of the reasons for my conservative views is that I think it is impossible for government to “close the gap” between disadvantaged children and advantaged children

    You don’t really believe that because if you did you’d oppose free universal public education.

  15. WCE – the societal problem is what happens when you fail to close the gap and stop trying. What is the alternative? Not educate the poor kids? Personally, I think the error is in waiting until kindergarten to close the gap. We could spend less with better outcomes if we spent our tax dollars more wisely with 0-5 and helping create more stable home life, improved job and childcare opportunities for young families.

  16. I believe that federal funding is excluded in the map figures. The numbers I’ve seen indicate the share of educational spending that comes from federal money ranges from about 4% to 18% of total spending, depending on the state.

  17. I support universal public education with the goal of “helping each child reach their potential”. I think that’s a much better goal than “closing the gap”. And I’m a strong support of bilingual education programs- I wish they were implemented better. Being bilingual is a great advantage, and our current metrics don’t reward that at all.

  18. WCE – the issue with that is that children will likely be denied opportunity and profiled. So if my mother has a 6th grade education and we live in a poor area, I don’t have the same chance even if I have the potential to perform at a higher level. It would depend on my parents or teachers recognizing that I am smart and capable of more and fighting for that opportunity. The kids living in the neighborhood of college-educated parents will presume to be capable and intelligent.

  19. WCE, thank you for the map. How depressing that on a 3 level scale of basic, proficient and advanced, most states only have between 23% and 43% of students at or above proficient in each subject at each grade level tested.

  20. MiaMama, but in the current system, people choose their school/district mostly based on socioeconomic level and classes are, to an extent, targeted accordingly.
    ]
    What if rather than sorting kids by “above, at or below grade level”, where we do nothing for anyone above grade level, we looked at where *each child* is performing and asked the school (assisted by computer based education) to help *each child* advance by at least a grade level, with extra help for children working 1+ grade levels below their age level? My mom was a reading specialist, and the school got no credit for advancing a child two grade levels in reading over a summer, if that child was still performing below grade level.

  21. most states only have between 23% and 43% of students at or above proficient in each subject at each grade level tested.

    What do you think the theoretical maximum would be?

  22. WCE – to have full choice, you have to first have means. There are areas in my city with $9,000-11,000 per capita income and households that are generationally poor with no adult working. Exactly zero affordable housing has been built in North Dallas in the last 20 years (where there are better schools or at least more school options). So I can recognize that my child needs better but I am on disability and live in supportive housing because that’s where it was built and there is a spot available. I am in a food desert with no grocery store within 3 miles and have no car. If I want to take public transportation, hopefully I am near a bus stop but the average person in this area is about 3/4 of a mile to the nearest transport stop. It would take about 1.5 hours each way on public transport to reach the better school that will serve my child and put them in a better position for success. Putting aside the bandwidth it takes to provide for basic essentials like food and electricity before I even attempt to get to the bus stop at 6 am to make sure my kid can get to a better school, how easy does this scenario seem to overcome? .

  23. WCE – I think you are reversing the order. I think people live in housing they can afford and the school district comes along with the package. Only when you get to higher incomes can you make housing choices based on school/district choice. This is espeically true in my area where housing costs are high and pushing people further out and in to “worse” districts.

  24. MiaMama, are you and your spouse both disabled? This sounds like a very tough situation with components of both behavior and bad luck.

    I think many Totebaggers think the “close the gap” model works because you live in non-diverse districts. In contrast, I live in a “diverse” district where the model that no one advances in math until ALL children in the district can count to 100 is alive and well.

  25. It’s not just higher spending, but how the money is spent. For example, the link between smaller class size and higher achievement levels is not all that clear. The best studies showed a link when class sizes were reduced to 15 pupils, an expensive proposition unlikely to be adopted in most school districts. Also, other factors like lowered teacher quality and lost opportunity costs if smaller classes were implemented must be considered. Maybe proficiency grouping of classes would be a more cost-efficient way to raise overall achievement levels, but that change would not be acceptable to most in the educational establishment.

  26. I agree that if you want to close the gap, you need to start earlier. It was very clear to me when DD#1 started kindergarten which kids had either day care and/or parents who spent time ensuring they were kindergarten ready and had been prepared for both the social/emotional side and academic side of school. If you have a large gap at kindergarten, you have to expend more resources into catching up the kids who are behind. And for that to be effective it needs to be done at home and in school.

  27. No – we aren’t disabled. We live in an affluent district and moved here out of the poor district because we have the means and opportunity to do so. I reject the notion that children should be written off because they had the dumb luck to be born to a poor person in the wrong neighborhood. However, the scenario I described is daily reality for more than 20,000 households in Dallas County.

  28. AustinMom – I read an interesting article in Southwest Air’s magazine that discusses this issue and the article subject is linked below. Most children in lower socioeconomic households are exposed to fewer books and hear thousand’s less words in early childhood. Changing how parents interact with young kids in 0-5 seems like a relatively inexpensive way to help close the gap.

    http://thirtymillionwords.org/publications/

  29. MiaMama, I would need more data to be convinced that having a disabled parent has that result. I’m thinking of my resident assistant during college, who had a disabled father and minimal family income. She worked more than other students, but she still achieved at a high level. The daughter of my friend with a colostomy after cancer and an austistic son just earned a 4.0 in science at our state university. (Admittedly, we went to community college first and didn’t have the college choices of a Totebagger.)

    And to the comment about homogeneity as the key to Utah’s success, if homogeneity were a key variable, we should see extraordinarily high levels of achievement in universally poor neighborhoods such as housing projects. Instead, we see negative influence from poor choices within the disadvantaged community, which is not an argument that ALL disadvantage is due to poor choices.

  30. Rhett, I don’t know what the maximum would be — I would not expect 100% of students to be proficient. I wouldn’t even expect 100% to meet basic levels, especially if all students were tested. But 23-43% seems low. Wouldn’t you expect something more than 23%? I’d certainly hope for at least 50% of the students to hit proficient on each subject at each grade level, and maybe 66-75 to hit basic levels. Wouldn’t the standards have been designed around the expected achievement levels and not set far too high? It would be odd if the structure of the test was set up to make the standards too high to reach.

  31. WCE – you are ignoring basic facts of people’s lives that live in daily poverty. There are more resources available to people who are actually homeless than there are to the working poor.

  32. Miamama- Increased funding in cities like Washington DC suggests that increased funding doesn’t have much effect on the outcomes of people who grow up in poverty.

    Utah has a high Hispanic population that does pretty well, in part because the Hispanic families who move there probably choose it in part for the family emphasis. Most western states don’t have a large African American population, so I don’t see desegregation as a big factor in achievement differences in western states. My district, for example, is 0.6% African American.

  33. Here’s a study on the effect of poverty stress on cognition: https://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S37/75/69M50/index.xml?section=topstories

    An article on poverty stress / educational issues with children in Denver: http://www.cpr.org/news/story/where-kids-poverty-and-education-intersect-daily-uncertainties-remain

    A family in daily poverty stress has less leeway for making school changes, for dealing with a long bus ride, paying for a bus ride, and dealing with the effect on work schedules, etc. Navigating all of those changes takes incredible planning and stress.

  34. I didn’t see increased funding period. I am in favor of changing what and how we fund things. More 0-5, less juvenile justice, less prisons. Be mindful of how you spend your dollars.

  35. I definitely agree on less money on prison and fewer people in prison. Depending on how juvenile justice is defined, I might like to see more spent on that. I think really good group homes, with a house parent program similar to Teach for America, might work well for teens in foster care/poor group homes now, and I would be willing to more spend on that. I’d also spend more on mediators/people to provide guidance and oversight in the family court system.

  36. Also, MiaMama, I grew up at least sometimes qualifying for reduced price lunches, which may be part of why I don’t see being “working poor” (half of kids qualify for free/reduced price lunches now; it was less when I was a kid) as a limit on achievement.

  37. If you spend more money on 0-5 and help people be better parents with more stable households, you will end up spending less on foster care and juvenile justice. Enough that it will pay for itself. People just don’t like to spend money on positive programs and early intervention because we have a fend for yourself mentality and prefer to spend money once things are broken.

  38. Curious – is there not a loss of middle class jobs where you live? Income inequality here is worse than Detroit. And we are in one of the faster growing states with relatively low unemployment. The outcome for me and my family personally is fine but I am deeply concerned about the generations of undereducated kids that are being produced by this country’s educational system ill-equipped for college or jobs.

  39. “People just don’t like to spend money on positive programs and early intervention because we have a fend for yourself mentality and prefer to spend money once things are broken.”

    Do we know what type of government programs would work? Head Start was demonstrated to be ineffective. I remember reading that attempts to improve the vocabulary of pre-K children had not been successful. I think people favor spending money on positive intervention programs that would actually work, and would save money down the road. But I don’t think the government has a good track record on this.

  40. MiaMama, most kids in foster care/juvenile justice here are affected by drug addicted parents. That problem is getting worse independent of recent higher spending on the 0-5 age group.

  41. “I remember reading that attempts to improve the vocabulary of pre-K children had not been successful.”

    I can’t find it now, but I seem to remember that technology, maybe AI, was looking promising. I shudder to think this, but maybe in the future we will use parent robots to help in this regard. (We have an AI post coming up soon, so maybe this will be discussed then.)

  42. “People just don’t like to spend money on positive programs and early intervention because we have a fend for yourself mentality and prefer to spend money once things are broken.”

    Totally disagree. We the people have poured BILLIONS into Head Start, which was supposed to help close the gap for poor kids. It hasn’t.

    “We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.

    According to the Head Start Impact Study, which was quite comprehensive, the positive effects of the program were minimal and vanished by the end of first grade. Head Start graduates performed about the same as students of similar income and social status who were not part of the program. These results were so shocking that the HHS team sat on them for several years, according to Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution, who said, “I guess they were trying to rerun the data to see if they could come up with anything positive. They couldn’t.” http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2081778,00.html

    It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, but it does take two minimally invested parents. Head Start and other well-intentioned programs can’t make up for the widespread breakdown in family structure among the poor.

  43. Low levels of funding in FL are most likely due to the number of retirees and snowbirds in the state. I lived in AZ for a time, and the situation was the same. While I was living there, there was a school funding bond up for vote. It was easily defeated. Retirees don’t want to pay more to fund the education of others kids, vote more than the general populace, and are usually in southern climates for election day in November. Also add in higher levels of immigrants (and their kids) to keep the per capita rate spending low.

  44. Ok so, what would you do, Scarlett? How would you improve the outcome? What if everyone had access to free preschool, not just poor kids. Do we only educate kids with two parents? We don’t have a time machine and the kids exist today.

    COC – that is the issue. A lot of people looking at the issue in the social impact space and trying to come up with different models. Personally, I don’t believe the amount of testing we introduced into public schooling helped anything just diverted funds to testing corporations and deprofessionalized teaching, I am not sure that leaving it up to every state and local school district to decide is producing the best outcome either even though I am generally a person that prefers to keep the federal government as small as possible.

  45. MiaMama,

    If I knew the answer to that question, I would not be spending my time posting here.

    The answer is clearly NOT “spend more money.” I would probably focus more resources on the mothers, including group housing arrangements that would enable the putative adults in the family to learn adult behaviors, such as finishing school, getting/keeping a jobs, and breaking the abusive parenting cycle. There was an interesting piece in the Post the other day about one such experimental program, which pairs young moms with seniors who need assistance in daily living. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/she-was-raised-in-dozens-of-foster-homes-can-she-keep-her-own-son-out-of-the-system/2016/12/24/0b70a46a-beec-11e6-ac85-094a21c44abc_story.html?utm_term=.852fef9cb0ba

  46. Closing the achievement gap is a terrible goal, because the easiest way to achieve that goal is to get rid of programs for kids who are at or above grade level. If there is no GATE program, then there is no achievement gap between the kids who are in GATE and those who aren’t.

    WCE – the issue with that is that children will likely be denied opportunity and profiled

    Children are already denied opportunity and profiled. If there are no programs for high achieving kids in diverse schools, because the optics might be bad, then all the children at that school and denied opportunity. And, the parents with resources either hire tutors for their kids, or pull them out and take them to private school. And then the liberals who have their kids non diverse squawk about white flight, when all that is happening is that parents are trying to provide some level of decent education for their kids.

  47. Also, MiaMama, I grew up at least sometimes qualifying for reduced price lunches, which may be part of why I don’t see being “working poor” (half of kids qualify for free/reduced price lunches now; it was less when I was a kid) as a limit on achievement.

    WCE, you are also in the top 1% in intelligence/IQ/whatever you want to call it, if not the top fraction of the 1%. You needed much less help than the kids in the middle third of IQ, especially those who don’t get much support at home.

  48. Scarlett – I totally agree and think that sounds very interesting. We are wedded to programs and policies that don’t work and are generally ineffective. I think we have to “blow up” the current system and test out smaller, scalable innovative programs and see how they work. The investment in 0-5 in a format different from head start should work if it involves re-training the family system (changing behaviors and interactions within the family and helping them formluate goals as a family). I think there is a danger, however, in writing off kids who are born to unfortunate circumstances.

  49. Closing the gap, in my mind, is ensuring that kids are performing at grade level and bringing the kids underperforming up to grade level. If we could get to that point in education, it would be a rousing success compared to where it is today.

  50. One of my brothers teaches high school in an inner city school. He is very well suited for this job and finds it to be interesting. Based on what he has observed, there needs to be a strict grandmother or similar figure keeping the kids on the straight and narrow. Those kids tend to do ok. He also thinks lead is a huge issue in his student population.

  51. “Closing the gap, in my mind, is ensuring that kids are performing at grade level and bringing the kids underperforming up to grade level. If we could get to that point in education, it would be a rousing success compared to where it is today.”

    What about the kids who are at or above grade level? Do they get any share of the teacher’s time of public education dollars?

  52. Also, MiaMama, I grew up at least sometimes qualifying for reduced price lunches, which may be part of why I don’t see being “working poor” (half of kids qualify for free/reduced price lunches now; it was less when I was a kid) as a limit on achievement.

    You should. You’re the one who wasn’t aware that there were careers in finance in New York and in consulting and in all kinds of high-paid areas that you might have pursued if you’d perceived them as “real”, i.e., open to you.

  53. if it involves re-training the family system (changing behaviors and interactions within the family and helping them formluate goals as a family).

    Hugely dangerous move, because you’re treading on family autonomy, and also insisting that certain cultural norms and practices are better than others. (Of course they are, but there will be people who fight you on that.)

  54. RMS, I think “open to you” ties into previous discussions about class, desired family size, arguably race and winning the geography lottery at birth more than it ties into the quality of public education.

    Having all children read at grade level isn’t going to change how leaders in finance/consulting recruit. We have relatives in that sphere, and DH and I are not willing to work that hard. We read the Christmas letters and say, “Go, Cousin!”

  55. I was true middle class and wasn’t aware of those jobs, either. There is a reason that those of us (me and my siblings) who were good at school became doctors and a lawyer and not I bankers or hedgies

  56. RMS – I went to a good state school but it is in a podunk town and the opportunities that were talked about in our upper level finance classes were being a branch manager at SunTrust. I was like WTF? Have you not heard of Wall Street? The career services even at strong schools can be woefully inadequate. Zero outreach to investment banks. The upper level program exposed kids to about 20% of what you can do with a degree in finance and the real estate program still focuses primarily on construction because a concrete company is a major sponsor. Kind of sad.

  57. RMS – I understand that. But how should we expect a 17 year old to parent two children as well as a 26-year old with a stable job and supportive spouse? Everything has strings – if you want low cost quality childcare so you can finish your degree, maybe it comes with one on one financial planning and some counseling to help the adult out. There are some broken family dynamics out there.

  58. My DD#1 had a friend in elementary/middle school who came from a low income family. Due to their friendship, we had a more initmate view of the family than anyone else at the school. My observations of what was making it harder for the friend to succeed in school are:
    1. When you have a single parent working full-time plus, and paying the least amount possible for safe day care, the child is not getting very much attention either at home or in care. This means they aren’t being read to, spoken to with anything higher than a high school vocabulary, and the tv they are parked in front of is more likely to be whatever the adult wants to watch vs. Seasme Street or any PBS-type kids show.
    2. Food insecurity led to more stockpiling of food that would keep (canned/dry goods) and what was available at the food bank and/or food stamp eligible. It was actually worse when the mom made just over the amount to quality for assistance. They ate a very high carb diet with foods that were cheap and filling vs. heathly. Protein was very limited. I know a vegetarian diet can be healthy, but not one that is limited to canned corn, peas, and green beans.
    3. Lack of sleep – on the mom’s side from the commute and work hours then the hours to keep up at home, the child with being dropped off the moment care opened and usually being picked up just before it closed and then going with mom to the store or waiting up until dinner was made, etc. Care and/or school not conducive to sleeping once kindergarten age. I don’t think that child ever had more than 7 hours sleep except on days the mom had off.
    4. Healthcare – not treating illness until there was no other option because it required taking off time that wasn’t paid or they didn’t have cash for the copay, and then they might not have the copay for the drugs that were prescribed. The child was frequently give OTC meds to be well “enough” to stay in school/care all day. Again, when just above the income level to qualify for Medicaid things were worse.
    5. No homework support due to time and/or education of the parent. Assignments like reading out loud 15 minutes a day often weren’t done, but the parent signed off anyway. Parent/teacher conferences frequently not attended because required taking off time that wasn’t paid.

    These are things that changing what you do just during the school day can’t completely reverse their effects.

  59. What about the kids who are at or above grade level?

    Ideally you want those kids to move ahead at their own pace. Under such a system if you were 12th grade proficient in 10th grade and college sophomore proficient in grade 12, you could start college as a junior. But, no one seems to want to do it that way.

  60. Readiness for college depends heavily on where you go to school and your major. I think computer-based education (the computer prints individualized worksheets for each child, based on their past reading/math/whatever performance) could be at least part of the solution.

  61. “Under such a system if you were 12th grade proficient in 10th grade and college sophomore proficient in grade 12, you could start college as a junior. But, no one seems to want to do it that way.”

    It almost does, what with AP courses and dual enrollment allowing some students to enter college with enough credits to be more advanced than a freshman. Hopefully we’ll see a trend that allows more of this.

  62. It almost does, what with AP courses and dual enrollment allowing some students to enter college with enough credits to be more advanced than a freshman

    I’ve heard that’s very hard to do in practice especially at HSSs.

  63. “These are things that changing what you do just during the school day can’t completely reverse their effects.”

    And do you think other things government could do outside the school day would completely reverse the effects? Or do you share this view?

    “One of the reasons for my conservative views is that I think it is impossible for government to “close the gap” between disadvantaged children and advantaged children.”

  64. Well, we the people, or at least a majority of voters, have clearly decided the status quo is just fine. Otherwise there would actually be fewer barriers to entry into teaching and the pay would be such that someone like me who could do a pretty good job of teaching a few different subjects would actually be interested in stepping into teaching at this point of my career vs doing what I’m doing for the next <10 years until I ride into the sunset. Sure some teachers in my / Lauren's / MM's / probably where Kerri grew up districts make ~$100k after 20-30 yrs. It would take that kind of pay, clearly a pay cut, with summers off and the good benefits for me to jump in. But I'd never start at that rate.

    Also we're never going to level the homelife playing field which seems to be the biggest issue IMO.

  65. Fred – I don’t understand how towns in the Northeast are ok with the microdistricts and paying multiple superintendents of small districts very close together geographically. It seems so inefficient. I have a friend who is a teacher in New Jersey. She has been to Europe and on cruises more times than I have! And she will have a guaranteed retirement income that is more reliable than mine.

  66. We are a highly developed super power but we can’t ensure that every person has access to reasonable, basic healthcare and every child has a good education and food in their belly. That’s just sad and pathetic. We should be kicking our legislators out of their seats for not getting their act together to figure out how to do it.

  67. I don’t think better pay will necessarily attract better teachers. One of my favorite Christmas letters/posts was from my cousin’s wife, a reading specialist, who posted a touching note of appreciation from a student. Part of it said, “Yu blev in me.” She is a loving, caring person who really DOES believe in her students.

  68. Mia – yeah, well, me either actually. Where I grew up, my HS was part of a HS district (the same one as Bay Area Mom) that covered 4 different towns, so there were some economies. But here, people are just afraid of losing their local control.

    The governor is still gung-ho about consolidation, but all there has been as far as I can see is nibbling around the edges as in purchasing office supplies together.
    – No consolidation of bus operations into 1 “garage”, so each still has their own # of just-in-case vehicles.
    – clearly no districts around here have merged and eliminated one superintendent salary + benefits at ~$200k PLUS, not to mention his/her direct reports who make almost as much. Even when there have been retirements, so effectively no one would be losing a job.
    – The property tax cap for schools in 2017 is something like an increase of 0.13% (13 cents for each $100 of tax) without a supermajority of voters, 60% I think. Maybe that limit will push some districts to do more than what’s been done so far.

  69. Warm fuzzies are nice, but they’re not legal tender. Of course raising the pay in for a limited time in one area will only tend to retain the people already there and attract the best of the pool of applicants who are qualified and in the right area — you’d need teaching to be thought of as a high-paying profession for a long period of time if you want the most talented students to be thinking of it and planning their educational and career paths around it instead of shooting for medicine or law or finance or what have you. But over the long term, why wouldn’t consistently higher pay attract more people to the field?

  70. And do you think other things government could do outside the school day would completely reverse the effects? Or do you share this view?

    1. Provide two or three nutritious meals per day at school.
    2. Provide easily-accessible, low-cost health care, some of it at schools.

  71. I’m not sure attracting more people to teaching is the right thing to do. I think attracting the RIGHT people- often people with high EQ and sufficient IQ- giving them autonomy and not expecting miracles (close the gap or you’re fired) would be a good start.

    And of course, I’m always a fan of tracking/readiness-based learning/whatever the term-of-the-day is so everyone who is eight years old doesn’t have to read the same book and complete the same math worksheet, in the belief that if we don’t measure the gap, we have successfully closed it.

  72. But over the long term, why wouldn’t consistently higher pay attract more people to the field?

    I think it would help a little. But there needs to be a big change in the attitudes towards teachers to make it a more attractive profession. Why would anyone want to go into a field where they will be blamed for all of society’s problems? Not to mention all the crap that they deal with on a daily basis.

  73. I think increasing teacher pay in the first five years of teaching, in low paying states and in high-need schools might be worth trying.

    But my math teacher friend near the university has several colleagues who financially don’t need to work and still teach because of their commitment to helping kids, including disadvantaged kids, learn. Lots of very good teachers aren’t motivated by the money.

  74. COC – I think just looking at school (what happens inside those 4 walls) in isolation will not produce the desired results if you have a child who at any given time is a combination of tired/hungry/ill.

    Our current K-12 system is set up to spit out kids who are all college ready. But, they aren’t and some never will be. A high school diploma without some marketable skills will not get you out of the situation of the family I described earlier. If you say, we’ll you can do trade school after graduation, then you mean you will pay to go to trade school – either directly pay as you go or through loans. I think getting kids who are clearly not college bound and in middle school/high school today to be employable upon graduation is a good start.

    My state has hidden a vocational program in some districts inside the requirement to have an endorsement on your HS diploma. Some endorsements allow you to get a certificate from the community college at the time of HS graduation that also aligns with the requirements of an AA and then can apply towards a BA later. A few result in a AA upon graduation. The idea here is that upon graduation you have the skills to work, such as an accounting clerk when you get the certification. Then you can take one more year of school to get your AA as an accounting specialist. This year might take you two if you are working full-time. Then you would be half way to your bachelor’s, but able to work as you go.

  75. Austin – I wish they would bring back more vo-tech programs. Someone can make good money right out of high school in industries that have potential for upside and with jobs where you could go to school at night if you wish to finish your degree. There could be people trained as CNA’s, property management (leasing, renting, operational oversight), hotels (start at the back of house and work your way up), etc. Welding is another job ready skill. A good work ethic and ability to write coherently and grade school math would go a long way for many positions.

  76. I have a teacher friend who would like to see teachers rewarded on progress per pupil. What he means by that is at the beginning of the year you test all your students and they are given a score such as 3.0 would be a child ready to start third grade, a child with a 2.5 would be one who still needs to learn the second half of 2nd grade material, while a child of 3.5 has already mastered half of the third grade. If at the end of the year when they are tested, the benchmark is that at least 90% in your class have increased at least one grade level from the beginning of the year. He doesn’t believe it is fair to ask a teacher to bring a child 6 to 12 months behind up to grade level, but you should at least get them one grade level up. If you can get more of them caught up, then you should be rewarded for it. His idea also means that if a child is at 3.5, they would end up at 4.5 by the end of the year.

  77. “Closing the achievement gap is a terrible goal, because the easiest way to achieve that goal is to get rid of programs for kids who are at or above grade level.”

    As I’ve said before, the corollary to NCLB is No Child Gets Ahead.

    “What about the kids who are at or above grade level? Do they get any share of the teacher’s time of public education dollars?”

    Yes, that appears to have, in many places, been a casualty of NCLB and the way it’s caused schools to prioritize the laggards.

    “What about the kids who are at or above grade level? Do they get any share of the teacher’s time of public education dollars?”

    IMO, one tweak to NCLB would address a lot of these issues.

    IMO again, the big problems with NCLB are the grouping of students to determine whether any have been left behind, and the use of grade level proficiency, rather than year to year progress, as the primary metric.

    Switch instead to individual students, with the baseline metric of advancing at least one year of proficiency per year as.

    This will require schools to pay more attention to the advanced kids, and also gets away from a lot of unrealistic goals. E.g., it’s unrealistic to expect an immigrant 4th grader who does not read at all to be reading at 5th grade proficiency a year later; a school that gets that kid to 3rd grade level in a year should be rewarded, not punished.

  78. Mia – Some of those are possible if your Texas ISD links up with the community college to create an endorsement track for that skill/trade.

  79. Temp, I think we were typing at the same time. I’m glad to hear my thoughts confirmed by a real teacher.

  80. “Direct instruction and scripted learning are what has proven to work best.”

    Yes! Unfortunately DI goes against educational bureaucracy and the current favored approaches of schools of education, who want teachers to have more autonomy, classes to be heterogeneous, and want students to “discover” their lessons. They want the teacher to be the “guide on the side” not the “sage on the stage”.

  81. Direct instruction and scripted learning work best for disadvantaged kids. They are not proven to work best for children who already know the material being taught.

  82. Finn – totally agree about NCLB. It was a system entirely based on flawed data about the “Texas Miracle” in education. Didn’t actually work in Texas and should not have been rolled out across the nation. I often referred to it as “few children get ahead”. They have taken things from Rhett’s direct instruction and turned it into drivel churned out by the testing companies. Our majority hispanic, 95% high need/low income district was using kindergarten math workbooks that had lots of english sentences and pictures that might have made sense in the workbook but were illegible once copied (our district was too poor to send home workbooks and only bought one classroom set used for multiple years). Math is the one thing that kids of every language can learn. 1+1=2 in every language. They would have been better off counting to 20 in four languages and counting rocks on the playground.

  83. “They are not proven to work best for children who already know the material being taught.”

    Uh, those children don’t need to be taught at all if they already know the material. I don’t think most students fall into that category.

  84. “They are not proven to work best for children who already know the material being taught.”

    If they already know the material, then why does it matter?

  85. They are not proven to work best for children who already know the material being taught.

    You’ll have to explain that one.

  86. “I have a friend who is a teacher in New Jersey. She has been to Europe and on cruises more times than I have! And she will have a guaranteed retirement income that is more reliable than mine.”

    Were I in her shoes, I’d be hedging my bets about the guaranteed retirement income. A lot of local governments who promised great retirement benefits are now facing the reality of those promises, and some are likely to be unable to keep all of their promises.

  87. “DI goes against educational bureaucracy and the current favored approaches of schools of education, who want teachers to have more autonomy, classes to be heterogeneous”

    I don’t know of any schools who continue heterogeneous classes through HS, which makes me wonder why it’s preferred at lower grads but not at upper grades.

    Actually, I really wonder what logic or studies justify heterogeneous grouping at any grade level. I can see it from a practical standpoint in small schools, but in schools large enough to support ability-based grouping, what’s the justification?

  88. “It almost does, what with AP courses and dual enrollment allowing some students to enter college with enough credits to be more advanced than a freshman

    I’ve heard that’s very hard to do in practice especially at HSSs.”

    It is true that many HSS do not accept AP credits, as well as many transfer credits, which would be the case for DE classes. Some HSS do accept AP credits with a lot of restrictions, e.g., only certain subjects, with higher than just passing scores (e.g., Harvard requires 5s).

    On Xmas we were talking to my nephew, who’d just finished his first semester and a school a tier or two down from the HSS (depending on how you define your tiers), after transferring from a much less SS. He had to repeat a class he’d taken at the less SS, and could see why– even having gotten an A at the less SS, he found the class with the same name at the SS to be much harder, and he came out of that class having learned a lot.

  89. “Actually, I really wonder what logic or studies justify heterogeneous grouping at any grade level. I can see it from a practical standpoint in small schools, but in schools large enough to support ability-based grouping, what’s the justification?”

    Social justice, character education? In the words of one administrator I had to deal with, grouping by proficiency in the early grades does “irreparable harm” to a child.

    One kid I know was able to graduate in less than four years from a top ten university because of his AP credit. Some schools (Dartmouth?) have eschewed credit for APs in recent years.

    Over the holidays I heard a parent complaining/whining that her snowflake (she shared stats, which were top notch) was deferred from her first choice college, ranked in the mid-twenties.

  90. coc – people brag about things here (it’s Dallas!) and we live in a helicopter parent community but by and large the HSS is not a “thing” here and I, for one, am thankful. People much more concerned with whether you make the 8% cut to get auto admit to UT.

  91. Direct instruction works well for things like phonics, where there is a clear message (letters, letter sounds) or multiplication tables. In the study Rhett cited, the percentage of children who were “proficient” increased from 10-20% to 50-60% in disadvantaged Milwaukee public schools.

    That means 80-90% of the disadvantaged kids measured are starting without the skills for proficiency, and that’s why direct instruction works well in disadvantaged schools. Nationally, roughly 1/3 of kids are working below grade level, 1/3 at grade level and 1/3 above grade level. That means you are starting with roughly half of kids who are “proficient” and already know the material that is being taught by the direct instruction, and why I think direct instruction is not a good general approach.

    Direct instruction with grouping might work OK, but any educational method works better with grouping. :)

  92. The “money quote” from Rhett’s link:

    Direction Instruction has been developed and refined for decades, particularly at the University of Oregon. It offers detailed packages and training materials suitable for almost any teacher. It is not for elite kids with healthy families, but was “shaped to succeed in the educational killing fields of urban America.”

  93. That means you are starting with roughly half of kids who are “proficient” and already know the material that is being taught

    Then why are we paying someone to teach them things they already know?

    Are we getting back to the totebag ideal where your snowflake is always a few chapters ahead but still somehow challenged by going over material they already know.

  94. I think y’all are talking past each other. What about direct instruction for stuff your kids DON’T already know? E.g., WCE, if your 5-year-old twins need to learn vector calculus, which I expect they haven’t entirely mastered yet (though will by late May, I have no doubt) perhaps direct instruction would be helpful.

  95. “Actually, I really wonder what logic or studies justify heterogeneous grouping at any grade level.”

    Heterogenous grouping solves a number of problems:

    1) The kids who are working above grade level are not identified, so everyone can say that their kid is in the high class.
    2) Since the kids who are struggling are not identified, the schools don’t have to explain why Susie didn’t learn a year’s worth of material or what needs to be done to get her to grade level.
    3) Since the high kids do not make progress consistent with their ability (it is really hard to learn if you don’t have access to material or instruction and you have to spend much of your energy not getting into trouble because you are bored out of your mind) the achievement gap doesn’t get wider.

    Grouping kids by achievement or skill level would make evident all sorts of unpleasant realities.

  96. What about direct instruction for stuff your kids DON’T already know?

    That would be WAY cool. Any idea about how to get that done?

  97. “In the words of one administrator I had to deal with, grouping by proficiency in the early grades does “irreparable harm” to a child.”

    I was in homogeneously grouped classes all the way through school. However, I believe I’ve been able to overcome the irreparable harm that did to me and make a good life for myself.

  98. There’s a lot to be said for learning to go to the end of the line when the student-referee says you are “Out” in soccer shed, whether or not you think you are. This skill is independent of reading level, as far as I can tell.

  99. Our school system has a pull out day for the gifted kids once per week at the elementary school level, but that’s being done away with going forward because it doesn’t fit in with the IB curriculum. They say they’ll be able to accommodate the advanced students by training all of the homeroom teachers in gifted education but I’m guessing that will be difficult with 25 kids in the classroom.

  100. “One kid I know was able to graduate in less than four years from a top ten university because of his AP credit. Some schools (Dartmouth?) have eschewed credit for APs in recent years.”

    Dartmouth got a lot of publicity recently for its decision to not give credit for having passed AP tests:

    However, others had done so previously. From https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/04/22/penn:

    “We recognize that AP and its cousins are the markers for the most rigorous courses that students take in high school, and they’re very important in that regard. But those courses are not the same as courses here, with professors who are professional practitioners in their field and with students who were the best in many high schools.”
    He adds: “It gets AP back to what it literally is — advanced placement, rather than advanced credit.”

    This is consistent with what I related earlier from my nephew. A HS AP class is not the same as a similar course at a HSS. It may be equivalent to a similar class at a local CC.

    OTOH, Harvard has a 3 year Bachelor’s program based on APs (5s only). I believe some rank them as a top ten university.

  101. “Over the holidays I heard a parent complaining/whining that her snowflake (she shared stats, which were top notch) was deferred from her first choice college, ranked in the mid-twenties.”

    Most of DS’ classmates who applied early to HSS were deferred, except for those who applied at LSJU, most of whom were rejected.

    Brag alert on: I first heard about DS’ acceptance from DD, who explained to us that DS didn’t want to make a big deal of it because so many other kids got deferred. That made me as proud of him as his acceptance.

  102. I’m not usually in the position to defend heterogeneous classes (math was hetrogenonized this year at my children’s elementary, much to my dismay) but it is obtuse to think that the only reason teachers/administrators advocate against ability grouping is to hold back your snowflake and mask their utter failure with the other not-so-special snowflakes.

    Montessori is all about the heterogeneous grouping, and I know that The Totebag has fully endorsed that. There is a much larger difference in math ability between a below average three year old and an above average six year old than there is between the two ends of the second grade spectrum.

    Again, I’m all for tracking the low performers right into their CNA destinies around first grade. And I’m totally against “honors for all”. http://garfieldhs.seattleschools.org/news/honors_for_all

  103. Ada, I think heterogeneous grouping could work with small classes, which I think are typical of Montessori, but it doesn’t work with class sizes of 25-35.

  104. It depends partly on culture. Here’s a graph from a 2009 NY Times article of class sizes around the world.

  105. Since the high kids do not make progress consistent with their ability

    How does the timeline run in a perfect world where they are progressing consistent with their ability? College at 14?

  106. Ada, it appears that only the humanities track involves “honors for all.” That’s how my high school was set up, too.

  107. Finn, I’ve been reading sporadically recently – did you share what school your DD was accepted to? Whether you choose to share or not, congratulations to him.

  108. MBT, I’ve not shared that because it might out me.

    Perhaps this is another reason to rethink my prior decision to not do Facebook– this is the type of thing I could share with a closed group with whom I’m already out.

    And HM, if you’re reading, it’s all over the place locally, i.e., among people connected with his school, so I’m sure the people we know in common already know.

  109. Ada, my kids went to a Montessori preschool, and heterogeneous grouping there worked because the kids were all working individually, at their own paces, most of the time. They did have reading groups, and were divided into those groups by reading ability.

    Related anecdote– DD’s best friend in preschool, who was also in her reading group, went on to a different elementary school and lost contact, but transferred to DD’s school for MS, and was in DD’s class in 7th grade, and now they’re best friends again.

  110. Finn – congratulations to your DS. Let us know where he decides to attend.

    Kids school has reading groups. They used to publicize their separate “enrichment” (gifted) program. They don’t but it still exists. Usually kids at the highest reading and math levels are in their separate group. Kids are tested every year in the beginning of the school year to determine their groups. As things change they can move between groups. That said, there has been a group of kids who have been in the highest group since kindergarten. There is also learning support class which does almost one on one instruction with students who are struggling.

    Some Parents at the school send their kids to Kumon so that’s where those kids are probably ahead of what’s being taught in class. If that’s the case the kids will have to sit through the same explanation and do the school homework in addition to Kumon. We had tutorial classes in the home country. Students who attended those were always ahead of what was taught at school.

  111. “That means you are starting with roughly half of kids who are “proficient” and already know the material that is being taught by the direct instruction, and why I think direct instruction is not a good general approach.”

    No.  Roughly half the kids are proficient, meaning that they know material expected for their grade level.  But they do not necessarily know the new material that is being taught.

    ——

    ‘The “money quote” from Rhett’s link:

    Direction Instruction has been developed and refined for decades, particularly at the University of Oregon. It offers detailed packages and training materials suitable for almost any teacher. It is not for elite kids with healthy families, but was “shaped to succeed in the educational killing fields of urban America.”’

    Let’s give this more context, with my bold added.

    Direction Instruction has been developed and refined for decades, particularly at the University of Oregon. It offers detailed packages and training materials suitable for almost any teacher. It is not for elite kids with healthy families, but was “shaped to succeed in the educational killing fields of urban America.” Yet it has been proven successful with students of virtually any background.

    Inquiry/discovery/constructivist (all basically the opposite of direct instruction) learning can work for some kids and for some teachers.  But it doesn’t work as well for most.

    ——

    “it is obtuse to think that the only reason teachers/administrators advocate against ability grouping is to hold back your snowflake and mask their utter failure”

    So what do you think the reason is?

  112. “They used to publicize their separate “enrichment” (gifted) program. They don’t but it still exists”

    That’s horrible. Our school also had “secret” programs and opportunities hidden from many parents.

    “Some Parents at the school send their kids to Kumon so that’s where those kids are probably ahead of what’s being taught in class.”

    IME many Kumon (and other similar) kids are there to be taught what they don’t learn in school, not necessarily to get ahead of their class.

    Related to this, I have a friend who likes to say that no parent of a struggling child knowingly hires a constructivist tutor. They hire someone who will provide direct instruction.

  113. My sister the special ed teacher used to say that the research showed that heterogeneous grouping worked better for the slower kids — it brought them along. I suspect it doesn’t, actually, but that is one reason for heterogeneous grouping.

  114. I’d vastly rather have direct instruction myself. It used to drive me crazy when teachers would get all cutesy and coy and tell us to work it out for ourselves. Just fucking tell me. What do you think you’re getting paid for?

  115. “It used to drive me crazy when teachers would get all cutesy and coy and tell us to work it out for ourselves.”

    Sitting through discovery learning lessons also made me realize how inefficient it is, especially in the hands of a teacher who is not an expert (and I believe that most are not). A lesson that should take 20 minutes would take an hour or more.

  116. Coc – just to clarify. It is not a secret program. It just means it is no longer a stand alone program. It has just become the highest level grouping of students.

    Also, from what I can see the school does a good job of teaching Math but some parents feel their kids would do better if they went to Kumon.

    I am visiting family in the extremely far out bedroom community in a North east state. Per my relatives their specific community is not that competitive but nearby communities with lots of Indian and Chinese families are very competitive.

  117. My observation from lower income parents in the home country. If a single poorly paid adult is trying to work long hours, plus commute plus take care of the home and kids it is very tough. Even with one modest income if there is someone at home to care for the kids the outcome is much better. Also, prioritizing education plays a big role. The messages kids get from their families and their larger community is very very important.

  118. Louise +1 (prioritizing education) – I am surprised (as is DD#1) about how many of her peers have been put in private parochial school because the parents are more concerned about a Christian environment and less concerned about educational attainment. By this I mean her peers who have the ability to do better are barely passing at an additional cost to the parents of $15K per year.

    I think peers of both my DDs see sports or other extracurriculars and social life as higher importance than school.

    We have always told our girls, money follows your priorities. For us that is food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education.

  119. I think people advocate heterogeneous grouping for a variety of reasons – a genuine commitment to diversity (and the belief in its benefits), a distrust (perhaps well-founded) of biased testing practices, a belief that it mimics the real world and therefore teaches useful skills in cooperation.

    As I said, I’m usually a huge proponent of tracking. I would choose to send my kids to a tracked environment. The history of this is fraught with examples of people with very high IQs who were tracked in to low performing groups because of learning disabilities, or discrimintory testing practices.

    We are having one of the snowflakes tested for the local gifted program (one snowflake has tested in, but we have not sent them to the school the district has designated). Snowflake had an appointment on a Saturday morning for round 1 of testing – at a school 1/2 hour away. She passed that level and now has an afternoon appointment and another distant school, for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon when I am working. Appointment times cannot be changed (we’ve been sternly told). Thankfully, we have resources and good English skills and can figure out how to juggle multiple children, transportation, and a parent working on the weekends.

    However, I think the district is purposefully throwing up barriers to enrollment in the gifted class. If I was a single parent or not a native speaker, I would have a much harder time pursuing this. In the past few years they have made the process occur outside of school hours and really helped weed out all those non-totebaggy parents.

  120. Ada – If it were during school hours, but still at the distant schools, wouldn’t that be a bigger hardship on working parents without flexible PTO? But, I agree that many special enrichment programs (both gifted and special ed) require a lot of time and effort for parents/guardians. Only if it is in the best interest of the school in some way does the path become less difficult.

  121. Louise +1 (prioritizing education) – I am surprised (as is DD#1) about how many of her peers have been put in private parochial school because the parents are more concerned about a Christian environment and less concerned about educational attainment. By this I mean her peers who have the ability to do better are barely passing at an additional cost to the parents of $15K per year.

    (sarcasm) But they are protected from all the bad influences at the public school, and that’s much more important than getting a good education. We all know that kids who go to religious schools never drink alcohol, do drugs, or have sex. (/sarcasm)

  122. @AustinMom – 2 years ago when snowflake the eldest was tested it was done during school hours at her school – the same way that other special needs testing is done.

    “Only if it is in the best interest of the school in some way does the path become less difficult.”

    Exactly.

  123. Ada – If it were during school hours, but still at the distant schools, wouldn’t that be a bigger hardship on working parents without flexible PTO? But, I agree that many special enrichment programs (both gifted and special ed) require a lot of time and effort for parents/guardians. Only if it is in the best interest of the school in some way does the path become less difficult.

    These programs cost the school (and/or the school district) money. It’s in their best interest to make these programs difficult to get into. If these programs were cost-neutral (the schools received extra funding for each student placed in them), the schools would be eager to place students appropriately. I believe most administrators really want to do the right thing, but they have to deal with the realities of their budgets. If they have a student who probably requires special services but maybe could do ok in a regular class, the incentive is to keep the kid in a regular class.

  124. DD and Austin – from what I have seen at my kid’s religious school, from Middle School on, the parents who were very into the academics for their kids, step way back. They feel that they have paid for their kids to go to that school and a miracle will occur on the academic side without their kids putting in the effort or the work. The teachers and the administration continue to be diligent, teach apporiately, enforce good behavior but the attitude of quite a few parents and kids towards academics has changed (or maybe it will change back in high school and middle school is just a phase ?).

  125. I agree with you on principle, DD, but not on the specifics of our situation. We are in a huge district and have dedicated schools for kids testing in the 98th percentile. these schools are relatively understaffed (higher student:teacher than other schools). While testing is expensive, pulling kids out into a dedicated school (in our situation) is cost neutral.

  126. DD – Exactly. I went to private school, I know what happens. Plus, sometimes having more money can make it worse.

    Like Ada, other than the testing cost, the state adds more funding for special ed and for gifted education. The school funding from the state is very complex. Rural districts get more transportation money due to the distance between kids and schools, and the list goes on.

  127. Tracking fell out of favor starting in the 1960s because it was considered inconsistent with equality of opportunity, and is still viewed that way by the government and by education bureaucrats.

  128. “I am surprised (as is DD#1) about how many of her peers have been put in private parochial school because the parents are more concerned about a Christian environment and less concerned about educational attainment.”

    The headmaster of the Catholic school our sons attended in the DC area told parents that the school’s goal was to help students get into heaven, not into Harvard. Parents whose *primary* objective was to win admission to a HSS were advised that another school might better meet their needs. Perhaps the parents of your DD’s peers are making their decisions with full knowledge of the tradeoffs involved.

  129. CofC,

    To what degree is tracking now handled by the IEP system at the elementary school level?

  130. I think peers of both my DDs see sports or other extracurriculars and social life as higher importance than school.

    They are not totally wrong.

  131. Doesn’t tracking still occur by middle school for determining whether kids will be pre-AP? My older DS is in 6th grade and they decide whether your child will be in 6th math of 6/7 math based on the cutoff of scores from the year end state testing. They send a letter home and you can push for them to be in the higher level math if you missed the cutoff but the letter clearly discourages it. I didn’t push for him to be in the advanced math. To my dismay, my kids don’t really like math and it is not where their natural abilities lie. As a parent of a child that needs special education, I am quite happy with heterogeneous classes. It would be a travesty for him to be tracked into a “special” class when he can get A’s and B’s in a general ed class with appropriate support.

  132. “The headmaster of the Catholic school our sons attended in the DC area told parents that the school’s goal was to help students get into heaven, not into Harvard.”

    That would have me headed for the exit….

  133. lol! That reminds me of the AP history teacher who told parents that her goal was not for the students to score high on the AP test but for them to discover a love for history.

  134. CofC,

    There is a strain of totebaggery that eats that up. Learning for the love of learning not for the sake of something so common* as a grade.

    * In the British sense.

  135. When my kids were in middle school, the administration resisted tracking except for 8th grade math and maybe science iirc. When parents inquired about tracking during 6th and 7th as well as other subjects, the administrator responded (in so many words) that those years were for the students to deal with growth spurts and emotional issues, not to have to deal with the stress of rigorous course work. That’s basically the middle school model, at least the original one.

    My observation is that heterogeneous classes often work poorly for both struggling learners and fast learners. During discovery-type classes, for example, the fast learners with their raised hands have to be ignored because they know all the answers while the slower learners are left feeling a bit overwhelmed.

  136. CofC,

    If I were arguing for the opposition I’d say that the slow learners are on an IEP and the fast learners end up doing better in the long term as they are more academically confident than they would be if they were surrounded only by those of similar academic ability.

  137. coc – that may be why I learned virtually nothing in middle school. I did learn that when the 15-year old, 6-foot tall 8th grader steals your wallet, you let him keep it.

    There was some tracking happening at the time – we had a handful of students pulled out for algebra in 7th grade and I recall it being an experiment of sorts as it was a single grade school.

  138. Weighing in late here because I haven’t been on the computer much the last couple of days….

    I definitely support grouping by ability, as long as it isn’t done in the braindead way that our district does it in middle school (aka the honors class bars). The big problem with grouping are first that kids lag in some areas and are ahead in others – how do you deal with that? And also, we do not have great ways to identify high ability kids. I went to an experienmental elementary school for a couple of years that had a novel approach to the first problem, which worked – we had different teachers for different classes, even in the first and second grade – and they tested us every quarter and shuffled us accordingly. I thought it was awesome – I was placed in 4th grade math when I was in 3rd grade while continuing in 3rd grade language arts, for example.

    The NE microdistricts are simply a way to enforce economic segregation. There is no other explanation. They are inefficient, costly, prevent us from having magnet schools and specialized programs, and are just WRONG.

    Our teachers are well paid and they are definitely of better quality than teachers in other areas. While there are some that should have retired ages ago (the elementary school orchestra teacher comes to mind), most are just so much more competent than the ones I remember growing up with. I have a couple of friends who switched into teaching through alternative certification, one in TX and one in KY, and I am sorry, these are nice people but they have no business teaching. The on in TX went from being an office manager to now being a certified teacher of advanced middle school math. The lady doesn’t know any math beyond what she learned doing office accounting. She has no love for math and no advanced knowledge. She did not take any more math in her alternative certification (which consisted of 6 months of online courses). How can she be certified by the state of TX for advanced math????? I could not see that happeing here, and that is a big difference to me.

    I also think giving teachers more autonomy, more of a sense of professionalism, more time to plan and get ready, and more time to consult with each other, would bring better people into the field. Heck, people line up to be college professors, which isn’t much different in terms of pay, because of the autonomy and feeling of professionalism. Require teachers to know their subjects and then give them room to work, and I think you will see a big improvement.

  139. “That would have me headed for the exit….”

    My guess is that most of the regulars here would never have approached the entrance of this school in the first place. Which is fine. Different strokes and all of that.

    I’m all for challenging bright kids, but IMO there comes a point when the push for academic achievement, at whatever cost, is harmful. I saw it our own family, especially with DS#1, before I realized that “good enough” is indeed that. The quest for extra credit, spending evenings and weekends doing busy-work homework for AP courses of questionable academic value chosen because of the GPA advantage, fighting to get kids into the GT programs or TJ, and the whole absurd selective college admissions angst (see College Confidential). To what end? Apart from the literal handful of students aiming for Supreme Court clerkships or the tippy top jobs in finance, by age 25 most of it won’t matter one bit. The kids who didn’t get into TJ because they didn’t get into the GT program in 3rd grade because their 2nd grade test scores were just below the cutoff will do perfectly fine with their degree from a respectable but not uber-selective university. They will get into law school or medical school or a great PhD program, or begin a productive work life, regardless of how many AP courses they took.

  140. I live in a district that has a much higher cost per pupil than the national average. The reason is salaries, benefits and pension. To Finn’s concern about the future of the NJ state funded pension, NY has rules that force the districts to make up any losses in the pension. For example, if the fund does poorly due to the markets, or investment choices…taxpayers have to make up that shortfall out of their annual budget. If pension costs soar because a lot of highly paid teachers retire…then taxpayers have to make up that difference. If you look at the pie chart for the spending in my district each year, over 20% of the budget is going to pay benefits and pension for staff that is no longer here. The cost per pupil is very high due to current salaries, benefits, and pensions. The reason that retired NJ teacher is able to go on so many trips is that the cost of her medical care is so low. Imagine if almost all of your medical costs were covered now, AND for your retirement.

    It is true that it will take at least ten years to make a six figure salary in my district, but that is for 182 days of work. They can (and do) take additional sick and vacation days. I know and appreciate how hard the teachers work in my district, but it is not a bad deal to be paid an average of 100-125K for working 65-70 fewer days that many other professionals. I know very, very few people that still receive a pension and medical/dental benefits when they retire, but the teachers and staff in these districts will have that benefit. They don’t have to save as much for retirement because they have the pension. In addition, these contracts are not like the contracts for the teachers in Texas or other states with no union. It is based on the last 3 years of income and that includes any extra income such as coaching a team, or working in the town camp during the summer for six weeks. Newsday and other local publications in NY state maintain databases of compensation for all public employees in NY state, and the teachers and staff from Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties have very nice incomes for the amount of days/hours worked.

    The quality of education in NY state is still mixed even though NY state spends more per student than most states. The system is unfair. One reason is that so many kids living in poverty live in
    the major cities, and the funding for schools is from a different source in the cities. This includes NYC, Rochester, Yonkers, Buffalo etc. Those schools are more dependent on the state and cities to fund the schools. If my district has a leaky roof, they will try to ask taxpayers to vote yes on a bond for capital improvements. It will still take a few years, but the roof will get fixed. Just a few miles away, some of the schools in Yonkers have major structural problems that are far worse than leaky roofs. The city of Yonkers doesn’t have the same control, or ability to fund building improvements. They are tied to the state, so it might never get fixed.

    You practically have to be a rocket scientist to navigate the system in NYC to get your kids into the best middle and high schools. To echo all of the points raised above, the deck is stacked against parents that don’t understand the system or don’t speak English.

  141. I agree with good enough. I am not going to push my kids to get into a HSS if they don’t have the desire for it. I probably would have benefited from a little more push in high school but I definitely had innate desire to be competitive. For my kids, it depends what they want. One is interested in military potentially and the other is likely to be happy studying some aspect of herpetology for most of his life. We don’t need HSS for either of those. If they want to stay in Texas, I would suggest a Texas school.They should take enough AP’s to be in the mix but not so much they get no sleep and burn out. I also want them to be fluent in a second language and be experienced travelers.

  142. “You practically have to be a rocket scientist to navigate the system in NYC to get your kids into the best middle and high schools. ”

    Was that the case when you were in school? I have a young friend who attended one of the top NYC test schools, yet his family played almost no role in getting him placed there. He’s super smart. I might ask him more about his experience.

    In her defense, that AP teacher had a good track record for her students scoring well on the AP test. So she was probably doing something right. Or, many of her students were getting tutored on the side, which is certainly common in affluent school districts.

  143. I think I know the school where Scarlett sent her boys. Every guy I have known who has gone there has been nice, respectful and seemingly well-educated, so they are doing something right even without a top emphasis on pushing kids to the max academically. I think that there is something to be said for really emphasizing the development of character in school. It seems like the academics then follow.

  144. On direct instruction: I was commenting on what is sometimes called “scripted direct instruction”, where the entire class learns a lesson, often according to a script the teacher is required to read, that is independent of the characteristics of the class. (If the script has Spanish, you have to include Spanish even if the class has no Spanish speakers. If the script doesn’t have Spanish, you may not include any Spanish, even if you are fluent and the class is majority Spanish speakers, as an extreme example.) More realistically, all schools in a district that has chosen that program read _Frog and Toad_ in second grade and analyze it according to the script, even though in some schools, 80% of the class is well beyond _Frog and Toad_.

    I was objecting to the lack of relationship between the “direct instruction” assigned by the distrcit and the capabilities of the class/group in the absence of grouping. I was not advocating for student-led instruction. (And yes, until ~4 years ago, every second grader in my district had to read and analyze _Frog and Toad_. We finally got a new, more flexible, reading curriculum.)

    I think direct instruction- where the teacher teaches, say, some multiplication techniques, is desirable, too.

  145. If I were arguing for the opposition I’d say that the slow learners are on an IEP and the fast learners end up doing better in the long term as they are more academically confident than they would be if they were surrounded only by those of similar academic ability.

    Academically confident doesn’t mean that the students know anything. If they are short on knowledge of multiplication tables, basic biology, basic history because the class moved along at the pace of the slow learners then when they get to college life becomes really difficult. Especially if they have learned that they are NOT the people who deserve any of the teacher’s attention.

    They are kind of like the person in the Holiday Express Inn ad. No, I’m not a neurosurgeon, but I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night and feel really confident.

  146. I am not a totebagger, my kids don’t go to totebag schools, and this

    I think that there is something to be said for really emphasizing the development of character in school. It seems like the academics then follow.

    Development of character and having the academics follow assumes that the kids are getting the academics somewhere. That concept is often used as an excuse not to teach any academics in my kids schools. “The school is a school of character and focusing on the whole child”

  147. If they are short on knowledge of multiplication tables, basic biology, basic history.

    I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with this because I always assumed this was the kind of thing a smart kid learns on his or her own. Many here seem to think that’s the kind of thing that can only and should only be learned in a formal classroom setting.

  148. Just a thought. I read almost exclusively non-fiction and always have. Many here seem to read almost exclusively fiction. Is that perhaps where the idea that basic history, science, etc. can only be learned in the classroom comes from?

  149. Rhett, I read almost exclusively non-fiction as well. I think those of us who prefer non-fiction tend not to comment, because other than history, it’s hard to find topics that are generally appealing.

  150. Fast learners in a mixed proficiency class may get bored and fail to learn how to work hard to achieve results. They’re phoning it in and getting As, which is not good. That’s what I’ve seen.

    Yeah, I wish our schools had focused less on “character” (DARE, untested/fee-good anti-bully programs, etc.) and more on academics.

  151. How/where would a smart kid learn math, science, history, writing on their own?

    In books. It’s often said the best way to learn to write is to read a lot.

  152. Seattle’s gifted program sounds similar to the one in Ada’s district. Kids test in – and their classrooms are by far the cheapest. It doesn’t cost the District anything more to run it than if the kids were in the regular classrooms. Of course there are many District administrators, teachers and parents who would like to kill it off. For some “equity” seems to mean that everyone is taught the exact same thing. And if your kids already know that material, well too bad for them. I have one friend whose kid was in elementary school, was an advanced reader, and was told not only would she not get any instruction at her level, she couldn’t bring in books to read on her own because that would make the other kids who were less advanced feel bad. My friend sent her daughter to private school after that experience.

    I don’t understand why parents think having my son in a general education classroom would help their kids. DS is easily bored and distractible. If he’s in a class where he already knows the material, he is not going to be helping other kids – he will be distracting as many kids as possible. The only thing other kids would learn from DS would be his strongly held opinions about various cars.

    I remember reading a piece by Malcom Gladwell on an experiment that the Air Force did where the paired the A students with the C students (in dorms and classes). They found the C students did worse because they looked at how quickly and easily the A students did and concluded that they wouldn’t ever be able to do it – not realizing they were comparing themselves to atypical students.

  153. Oh yeah, the other thing I’ve seen in mixed proficiency classrooms is smart kids being bullied as know-it-alls and then they clam up.

  154. I have read voraciously my entire life. I am not a good writer. Instruction might have helped. Nor have I taught myself biology or anything outside a very small range of interest. I certainly did not teach myself math well enough to continue on in college in engineering. I have the smart card. Why do you think there isn’t a swath of kids who could do much better with instruction.

  155. Cordellia,

    I think I must be misunderstanding you. Is your question really where/how a smart kid would learn science and history? I ask because as a kid (and as an adult) I love both subjects and read about them voraciously for fun. But, I take it that many smart totebaggers were busy reading fiction. Is that were your question is coming from?

  156. “fast learners end up doing better in the long term as they are more academically confident than they would be if they were surrounded only by those of similar academic ability.”

    “I don’t understand why parents think having my son in a general education classroom would help their kids. DS is easily bored and distractible.”

    Is there a correlation between ADHD and being bright? A lot of bright kids I’ve known (e.g., the kid I grew up with who became a Stanford PhD) were ADHD, and putting those kids in a heterogeneous classroom doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s best interest.

  157. Why do you think there isn’t a swath of kids who could do much better with instruction.

    I really can’t conceive of how a smart kid could get more out of a 6th grade American history class than they could reading a good book about the subject.

  158. Rhett,

    Perhaps I am reacting to the line I am often given that smart kids will be just fine, they can teach themselves. Maybe some can, but the majority are kids as well as smart and don’t necessarily have the opportunities or maturity to seek out and teach themselves the knowledge they need to keep options open for them. I didn’t. I don’t know that my daughter did.

    Maybe you and WCE had the maturity, determination, time, and access to learning materials so that sitting in a classroom twiddling your thumbs was not detrimental. I don’t think that is the case for most smart kids.

  159. Cordelia, I passed out of Calculus III by reading the textbook and doing problems since there was no course in my hometown, but I would have been much better off learning the material in a classroom- I am not someone who learns material well that way. For engineers who need to learn design packages, etc. over time, the ability to learn independently is extremely valuable, even if it’s just copying what someone else has done. (I had to make a decision outside my area of expertise at work and read the EPA report on the accidental violations of the industry leader.)

    I have an acquaintance who homeschools her 10 children and for advanced topics, on-line instruction seems to be the way to go. Her 13 year old has an interest in biomimetics and I suspect several of her kids will get PhD’s.

  160. “smart kids being bullied as know-it-alls and then they clam up.”

    Others here, especially females, have commented on having to maintain images that included playing down their intelligence, for social reasons.

    Are those bullies who deride smart kids insecure about their own intelligence, or just jerks who would find some other reasons to bully someone?

  161. “I really can’t conceive of how a smart kid could get more out of a 6th grade American history class than they could reading a good book about the subject.”

    As much as I criticize teachers and schools, a good teacher along with a class of engaged students adds tremendous depth to the learning process. And especially in some subjects like composition and math, the instruction and feedback from a person can be invaluable. I think maybe you’ve never had a really good teacher.

  162. “I really can’t conceive of how a smart kid could get more out of a 6th grade American history class than they could reading a good book about the subject.”

    Having a teacher with subject knowledge beyond what’s covered in the book or the ability to explain the subject matter in other ways, can greatly enhance what is learned. So can discussion with other kids of similar abilities.

  163. Many smart kids, if left to their own devices, will read and learn a lot on very narrow subjects. All about Pluto or cephalopods or the moon landings. But they will not learn about subjects that don’t interest them, nor will they learn skills such as writing a topic sentence or how to multiply fractions.

  164. Having a teacher with subject knowledge beyond what’s covered in the book

    The only way they could have knowledge beyond what’s in the book is if they are sharing with your their original research. I don’t know a lot of middle school history teachers who are spending their summers at the archives.

  165. jinx, Finn!

    “Are those bullies who deride smart kids insecure about their own intelligence, or just jerks who would find some other reasons to bully someone?”

    These are kids put into a group situation where they feel dumb compared to the smart kids, understandable and maybe normal. Their reaction is to bully the smart kid. It happens.

  166. “The only way they could have knowledge beyond what’s in the book is if they are sharing with your their original research”

    No … they may have read other books that have other information! Plus travel, plus lectures and other experiences they bring to the class.

  167. Finn, I have read far more than I wanted to in the past couple years about gifted vs. ADHD. Basically, our sorting mechanisms don’t distinguish between the two very well. You can Google gifted vs. ADHD or read papers on Hoagies Gifted if you want to understand more.

    I share Milo’s skepticism of therapy, but I agree with the experienced teacher (not his teacher) who sees Twin2 weekly and thinks he might have ADHD. Twin 2’s principal is becoming extremely familiar with his social weaknesses.

  168. No … they may have read other books that have other information!

    No smart kid is going to read just one book.

  169. But Rhett, it’s absolutely true that smart kids can get obsessed with just one topic. Spiders, for instance. So they know all about spiders and nothing about astronomy.

  170. “They should take enough AP’s to be in the mix but not so much they get no sleep and burn out.”

    There’s the other side of that coin to consider too. I’ve read that many kids in Texas minimize the number of classes with a maximum GP of 4 to maximize their GPA, e.g., skip electives that aren’t honors or AP.

  171. “that AP teacher had a good track record for her students scoring well on the AP test.”

    Which suggests that she had some success in instilling the love of history in her students.

  172. So they know all about spiders and nothing about astronomy.

    How much do you know about spiders or astronomy?

  173. “The only way they could have knowledge beyond what’s in the book is if they are sharing with your their original research”

    No, there are many other ways, e.g., having read other books, having taken history classes in HS or college, perhaps even having lived through the period covered by the book, or having discussed that period with someone who had, e.g., a grandparent or parent.

    And enhancing the students’ learning doesn’t even require that. A greater depth of understanding of the same material, and knowing what comes later in the book, can allow the teacher to teach the material such that the student gets a better understanding than what would be gained from reading the book. Even a simple discussion of the book’s contents can enhance that.

  174. “No smart kid is going to read just one book.”

    Perhaps, but to RMS’ point, many smart kids won’t read any books beyond the text on the subject being covered in class if the subject is not of particular interest to the kids.

  175. ” smart kids can get obsessed with just one topic”

    which is perfect for the kid who wants to be a professor of ______. Colleges/Universities may say they want well rounded students, but that’s a lie. Society wants that. Colleges want the best at ________ (a sport, an instrument, theoretical physics). So someone who knows all about spiders will be a perfect PhD candidate in that branch of entomology.

  176. Finn often says the reason there aren’t many female engineers is because many male engineers have always wanted to be engineers and female engineers are often pushed into because they are good in math.

    Michael Lewis, the author of Liars Poker, says that he was shocked by how many guys come up to him and say the reason they went into finance was because they read his book as a kid. He never said women… could that be because there are fewer women in finance? Could it be that people don’t give books like Liars Poker to girls? Or is there something else?

    82% or computer science grads are male and at the high end it’s rare to find a CS student in a top program who wasn’t a self taught coder at 12. Are there an equal number of 12 yo self taught developers?

    Why is that? I’d guess its 80% nurture and 20% nature.

  177. Rhett, you are gonna get ousted with Larry Summers. :)

    At the very high end (prestigious PhD programs), I think nature becomes a dominant variable, just like the top people at the Olympics all have the same body type. You never mistake a shot putter for a gymnast.

    For regular career level opportunities, I think women care about and enforce conformity much more than men and this disadvantages female outliers. Is there a male equivalent to the Corporette blog?

  178. I disagree that a teacher in middle school is unable to add value to what a smart kid could learn on their own by reading a textbook.

    DD is in 7th grade and they just finished a unit about the colonies and Revolutionary War. Her teacher is good, but he isn’t one of the very best in the school. I wasn’t expecting much because he generally teaches from the textbook. I changed my mind about his value because he started to bring the history to life.

    For example, he explained why local streets and towns were named for certain things that happened during this time. Most of this information can only be found at our local historical society.

    He had the kids become certain historical figures and have mock debates between the British and the colonists. He played music from Hamilton at the very end of each class when kids were packing up. My daughter has learned so much more from this teacher than she would have learned from a textbook. The reason is that he makes it fun, and she has retained the information instead of just memorizing it for a test.

  179. For someone who wants to learn a subject, almost nothing is unavailable in the internet age. But you have to actually want to learn, such that you’ll put time into it. Perhaps that’s the difference — lots of kids will spend enough time on biology or U.S. history to get the grade they’re going for in a class, but won’t put in an extra minute beyond that to really firm up their understanding of meiosis or Reconstruction or follow a side trail that’s only hinted at in the text.

  180. Oh, and for the record, you can mostly put my kids in the “Mom, shut up about Khan and Great Courses” category when it comes to extra learning.

  181. “Colleges/Universities may say they want well rounded students”

    While I remember hearing this when I was in HS, I can’t recall ever hearing it during DS’ ongoing college admissions process.

    I have heard a lot about hooks, but that’s mainly for HSS down to a few tiers below.

  182. I think women care about and enforce conformity much more than men and this disadvantages female outliers

    I think there is more to it than that. In a typical affluent totebag suburb almost all of the dads are going to have good professional jobs – software developers, consultants, finance, medicine, lawyers, etc. While many women will also have these types of jobs a fair number of them will be SAHMs. As such, any hint that a boy wants to get into finance or software development is going to be met with complete enthusiasm. If a girl hints at the same thing there is going to be at least some push-back as parents want to assure that the affluent SAHM option remains available.

  183. “82% or computer science grads are male”

    Mooshi has mentioned before that this wasn’t always the case, and there is a historical precedent of a much higher female %age of CS grads.

  184. ” If a girl hints at the same thing there is going to be at least some push-back as parents want to assure that the affluent SAHM option remains available.”

    ???

    Why does it matter what a girl majors in if the plan is to be a SAHM?

    I’m interested in what female finance and CS majors here experienced. Lauren? BAM, were you a finance major?

    I don’t see us discouraging DD from a career in CS or finance.

  185. Why does it matter what a girl majors in if the plan is to be a SAHM?

    Men (douchbags) tend not like girls that are smarter and more ambitious than they are.

  186. The students at Harvey Mudd are (preselected) super smart – but they couldn’t generate a meaningful number of CS majors without some significant change in how they approached it. CS classes were often created for the kids who learned to code when they were 12. It is possible to be successful without starting when you are 12, if there is an environment that is not hostile.

    http://qz.com/192071/how-one-college-went-from-10-female-computer-science-majors-to-40/

  187. I don’t see us discouraging DD from a career in CS or finance.

    Do you think the same holds true for the Range Rover driving SAHM’s in the pickup line at your kid’s school?

  188. I know many Range Rover driving SAHMs*. I cannot imagine any not encouraging finance of their daughters were interested in that as a career. But my view of those SAHMs seems to be much different from Rhett’s.

    *almost everyone is a former lawyer, doctor or other professional, with a heavy emphasis on lawyer.

    My experience also has not been that men don’t like smart women.

  189. Kate,

    You mentioned doctor and lawyer not finance and computer science. Which is my point.

    Not to throw stones but law school is traditionally what female HSS English majors did when they didn’t know what to do after graduation.

  190. How much do I know about spiders and astronomy? Enough to pick up guys at a bar, and enough to answer Jeopardy questions. Why?

  191. I think it is a geographical thing. DC is full of lawyers. If we lived in NYC, I suspect there would be more finance women and if we lived in SV, there would be more tech women.

  192. . I cannot imagine any not encouraging finance of their daughters were interested in that as a career.

    Ah, I may need to clarify. Would they encourage fiance or computer science to exactly the same degree as they would medicine or law? Any reasonable person would have to weigh the fact that 60% of doctors are women while only 18% of CS grads are.

  193. I’m all for challenging bright kids, but IMO there comes a point when the push for academic achievement, at whatever cost, is harmful.

    I see “challenging bright kids” and “the push for academic achievement” as two completely separate things.

  194. I am going to say no, but for the same reason that my parents did not. They just were not aware of the options. Not because they see it as a male job.

  195. I live in a neighborhood that has a ton of tech dads. I don’t know any SAH tech moms (but I know part time SAH doctor moms, and lawyer moms.

    There’s just not a lot of tech women, SAHM or otherwise, in SV or other tech hubs. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/technology/join-our-board-companies-hotly-pursue-new-wave-of-women-in-tech.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

  196. As for what kind of books we read as kids, I read a lot of fiction and a ton of books about baseball. I sure as heck didn’t read any nonfiction books about academic subjects.

  197. Probably a quarter or a third of the women engineers I’ve worked with are single. I think tech women at least were much less likely to marry and/or to stay in tech after marriage.

  198. “Do you think the same holds true for the Range Rover driving SAHM’s in the pickup line at your kid’s school?”

    I know one mom who fits that profile (Range Rovers are not common here). Her DD is planning to major in musical theatre, and was recently accepted at H. Her husband works in finance, so I’d be a bit surprised if they discouraged their DD from following his footsteps.

  199. “Would they encourage fiance or computer science to exactly the same degree as they would medicine or law?”

    We’d definitely encourage DD if she wanted to pursue medicine, partly because MDs can work just about anywhere, which leaves wide open the option to return home (not necessarily the case for finance or CS), and partly because there’s a shortage of MDs here that is projected to get worse.

    OTOH, I’ve heard a number of projections of a glut of lawyers.

  200. Finn,

    You don’t think she plans on majoring in musical theater because she plans on following in her mother’s career footsteps?

  201. “the reason there aren’t many female engineers is because many male engineers have always wanted to be engineers and female engineers are often pushed into because they are good in math.”

    As a counterpoint, we were talking to an engineer couple a few days ago, and he mentioned that he was pushed to engineering by his teachers and counselors because he did well in math and science.

    The big male/female engineering dichotomy I saw in college was among the engineering wannabes who struggled with math and physics. There were a lot of guys like that, but I can remember exactly one female like that.

  202. Yes, I studied accounting and finance – undergrad. (late 80s). I went back for my MBA in Finance because I needed the MBA in order to be considered for certain positions.

    For college, I only wanted to apply to schools with an undergraduate business program, and I wasn’t willing to travel more than 300 miles from NYC. In the 80s, it wasn’t as common for girls to apply to undergraduate business programs, but my school was probably 60/40. I didn’t know anything about specific careers, but I wanted to make a lot of money, and math was my strongest subject. I really didn’t know what these large firms did, but I knew I wanted to work in one of those buildings. My interest in money was sparked by reading Money magazine. I convinced my father to get me a subscription in HS. I didn’t have any close family that was involved in finance, but I just knew that I liked learning about the markets.

    It is totally different now because so many kids want undergraduate business degrees because they think they will have an easier time finding a job after graduation. There still aren’t that many top tier schools that offer undergraduate business degrees. Some state schools will not admit directly to their undergrad business schools until the end of freshman year. It is very competitive to get into the undergrad business schools at Wisconsin, UVA, Maryland etc., so kids have to work very hard to get high grades and to have the right extra curriculars.

  203. Rhett, I think she really aspires to perform on Broadway.

    And when that doesn’t work out (and it won’t) she can marry a hedgie, move to Darien, and become an affluent SAHM like her mom*.

    * that sounds way too harsh and judgy. I mean more in the sense that people have, in the back of their minds, the sense of what various options are open to them.

  204. If it doesn’t work out, she can get her MBA and take over managing her dad’s clients’ money.

  205. “I only wanted to apply to schools with an undergraduate business program, and I wasn’t willing to travel more than 300 miles from NYC.”

    Wharton?

  206. If it doesn’t work out, she can get her MBA and take over managing her dad’s clients’ money.

    You don’t honestly think that’s the most likely scenario, do you?

  207. “You don’t honestly think that’s the most likely scenario, do you?”

    I don’t know her well enough to know.

    Another of DS’ classmates, and a very close friend, is also really into MT and plans to major in it, but I think she also plans to take classes in education, so she can teach MT.

  208. I didn’t get accepted to Wharton. It was my top choice. I dated a guy during my sophomore year that went to Penn so I spent a lot of time there for a few months.

    I was happy that I wasn’t accepted because I didn’t like the social life/dorms/apartments etc. I thought I wanted a city for college, but I don’t think I would have liked living there. I ended up at more of a campus school, and it was better for me.

    I went back to Wharton for many years to do recruiting for associate programs. It’s a great program…especially for finance majors.

  209. One reason there are fewer women in finance and in tech is because as they marry and have children they are more likely than their husbands (who likely earn big bucks) to drop out of the work force. Is this because they saw their mothers do this? Because they never received a copy of Liar’s Poker? Is there overpowering social pressure to do this, or overpowering personal desire to do this? Nurture or nature? Maybe some women here who are in that position can comment.

  210. I’ve seen firsthand from a relative’s perspective how common it is for women in finance to cut down their work load when they have kids. I would ask this relative, how’s so-and-so (female who started on the fast finance track) doing? The response would typically be that they moved to HR, marketing, or dropped out when they had kids.

  211. Oh, man I really really want to comment, but I am afraid I will out myself. I think I can say this. I started in tech (my undergrad degree is in Applied Math with heavy emphasis in CS) I did consulting and slowly gravitated to Finance clients so I went for my MBA and then ended up doing tech for Finance. VERY LUCRATIVE. That’s why we retired early. But the juggle was CRAZY, and my husband was making multiples of what I was making so it started to seem a little selfish to hold on to my career. But I stuck it out, and we both retired very early as a result. Now I am a private investor and do a lot of investing in FinTech. I search of female entrepreneurs to support in this and I have at least one in my portfolio.

  212. Oh- so I’m trying to answer the question of nature vs. nurture- I don’t know It wouldn’t have occurred to me that I shouldn’t pursue something that the men were pursuing. My mom was a SAHM, but she was different generation! My sisters and I were told that we should be able to support ourselves so we could always be financially independent. When I wanted to go to boarding for a more challenging academic environment, my parents said OK. They had no comments on what we chose to study. My sister who was the “cool, popular” one ended up being an awesome sales person and then top sales person and then head of sales for her company. My sister who was more artistic did marketing and advertising and is now a big time marketing exec in her big company and I was more “math and techy” and ended up running Tech departments for global banks. So is that nature or nurture? One of us got divorced and had to support herself and her children, One of us married a very brainy PHD research type who doesn’t earn nearly as much as her, so the advice to make sure you can support yourself was wise indeed.

  213. One reason there are fewer women in finance and in tech is because as they marry and have children they are more likely than their husbands (who likely earn big bucks) to drop out of the work force. Is this because they saw their mothers do this? Because they never received a copy of Liar’s Poker? Is there overpowering social pressure to do this, or overpowering personal desire to do this? Nurture or nature?

    I would say nature is at the root, in the sense that women tend to not marry down. So a married woman in a position like that usually has a husband who is in an equally high or higher position. It is very difficult to mange that juggle as Mafalda said, and the wife is usually the one to scale back, either because the husband makes more, or because of nature (I’ve never heard a man talk about the emotional difficulty of going back to work after having a baby like many women talk about it).

  214. (I’ve never heard a man talk about the emotional difficulty of going back to work after having a baby like many women talk about it).

    One of my consultanting friends couldn’t get home when his wife went into labor and immediately took a full time job close to home. Another one also stopped traveling as soon as he had kids. As such, I’m not sure to what degree the feeling doesn’t exist vs how socially acceptable the feeling is to discuss in polite company.

  215. “‘I’ve never heard a man talk about the emotional difficulty of going back to work”

    I’ve had a hard time going back to work after long weekends.

  216. I would add MMM who feels it’s irresponsible to raise a child without two stay at home parents.

  217. DD,

    I would add women complaining about going back to work because it’s socially acceptable while actually being secretly relieved to be back at work as caring for an infant can be very draining.

  218. One of my acquaintances who is most professionally successful had twins two years after another baby and her older male colleagues were aghast that she would admit it was nice to be at work because it was so much easier than caring for infant twins and a toddler. I like her for telling the truth. :)

  219. I was definitely relieved to be at work when they were babies. I had a much harder time with school age juggle.

  220. Rhett, to what extent do the men make those choices based on their own emotions about the baby vs. their wives’ opinions? In some couples I know, either the wife doesn’t feel confident/empowered to make decisions in her husband’s absence or he complains about the decisions she makes. In our family, I run the family schedule and Mr WCE acquiesces to any decisions I make in his absence.

  221. Rhett, to what extent do the men make those choices based on their own emotions about the baby vs. their wives’ opinions?

    The wives would prefer to stay at home and have the husbands continue to travel vs both having to work so I would say it’s about the fathers relationship to the baby. It’s very complicated. I have one friend who’s wife was simultaneously furious that he worked all
    the time and didn’t make enough money.

  222. “I would add MMM who feels it’s irresponsible to raise a child without two stay at home parents.”

    Well, he’s an outlier who’s way out there.

    I see and have seen what appears to me to be real, honest emotion from mothers who wanted more at-home time with their kids and I rarely saw that in fathers. Maybe it was a show, but I believe I had honest conversations with parents of both sexes.

  223. Up through the early to mid 80’s, about 35 to 40% of CS majors were women. That was definitely about right for my college. The big dropoff happened in the late 80’s through the 90’s

  224. Maybe it was a show.

    I would say the men try and play it down and the women play it up with the truth somewhere in between.

  225. I have one friend who’s wife was simultaneously furious that he worked all the time and didn’t make enough money.

    That makes perfect sense to me. She’s thinking that if he’s going to be working that much, he should be making more money, and if he’s not making enough money, he should be around more to help out at home. She feels they aren’t getting enough value for the amount of time he’s working.

    In regards to the other comments, I’ve definitely heard from women who said they much prefer to work than be at home with a baby or toddler. At the same time, I’ve heard the same women (and others) talk about gut-level emotional difficulty of leaving the baby to go to work. They are happy to do it on an intellectual level, but still struggle with it emotionally.

    I know plenty of men who took more family-friendly jobs after having kids (I did it myself), but I’ve never hear a man talk about how hard it is for him to leave the baby behind. Maybe it’s the social acceptability of men talking about this stuff. I don’t know.

  226. Among the theories for the dropoff: the advent of gamer culture, the lonliness of programming alone on a PC compared to the camaraderie of computing centers, and the dropoff in CS offerings in high school. The latter seemed the least obvious to me until my kids were in middle and high school, but now I can see why that was a factor. As CS ceased to be offered in the middle and high schools, because of the emphasis on ELA and math, parents tended to enroll their sons but not their daughters in afterschool tech oriented clubs like robotics, Scratch, and electronics. So boys were developing skills, and most importantly, interest but girls weren’t. I can remember my two boys taking robotics courses in the summer with NO GIRLS. When my daughter enrolled in Lego robotics, and Scratch, she was the only girl each time. I can remember the lady who runs the afterschool clubs calling me with alarm to let me know that she was going to be the only girl in the club and did she really want to do that? (to be fair, I got the same call when my oldest son enrolled in the cooking club!). So at the college level, girls weren’t enrolling in CS because they didn’t even know what it was about, and thought it wasn’t something for them.

    One positive thing I am seeing: we are now getting kids who took AP CS in our freshman classes. We have just been seeing that for the last two years, which makes sense – NY started its expansion of CS in the schools in just the past 5 years or so. The best part: about half those AP CS kids are girls. So our female enrollment is up quite a bit. And they are good. I have had some very strong female CS majors in the last couple of years.

  227. I’m very glad that the University of Washington has a summer computer science camp for teenage girls. I was able to get DD to do it which sparked an interest in computer science. Unfortunately the computer science teacher at her high school is very weak. She took AP computer science last year but said most of what she learned she picked from other students. I think she’s open to taking more computer science. She likes math (it’s currently her favorite subject).

  228. “Up through the early to mid 80’s, about 35 to 40% of CS majors were women.”

    That’s consistent with my experience. At my employer in the 80s and 90s, while there were relatively few female engineers, there were quite a few females in IT, and not just sys admins. A lot of the coders who supported the manufacturing groups were female.

  229. We just got AP Computer Science last year in the HS. They had trouble finding (and funding) a teacher, so there were no CS courses offered for 2 years. Once they hired someone full time, they were also able to offer some electives. The district is piloting something called Project Lead the Way. They get girls involved in robotics, and computer classes starting (and continuing) through middle school to insure that both genders take electives in computer and robotics for at least six years. The classes in elementary and middle school are more hands on, so the kids usually are very interested in the projects. DD asked for a 3D pen for Hanukkah because the class that used 3D printers sparked her interest.

    The HS Robotics team went to a national competition, and the team is currently about 75% girls. They don’t have enough money for the parts they need to compete, so they host a robotics night as a fundraiser once a month. They charge $10 per kid (grades 2-6). They charge $10, and the HS students run the program. They get to keep almost all of the money as a fundraiser, and the elementary school parents love it because their kids are doing something fun and educational on a Friday night.

  230. Finn, my summer job while in college was as a programming intern at a major university hospital. There were 5 programmers in the group: 4 women and one man. All the women had been math majors who decided not to go into teaching, which at that time was the other clear career path for women with a math degree

  231. Was actuary not a career path for female math majors?

    A female friend who majored in math has been working for many years at a pharmaceutical research company, doing statistical analysis of drug testing results.

  232. I honestly think the whole “hard to leave the baby” thing is likely a deeply ingrained biological response. I believe there are millions of years of evolution telling a mother that she should not leave the baby. Especially if you are nursing and have that daily surge of hormones and feedback from nursing. We are still mammals and ensuring the offspring survive infancy largely falls to mothers. I would acknowledge that feeling, check the bank account and say, yup – still have to go to work.

    Listen, I always knew I was going to be in finance and/or banking. Every women in my extended family except my mother has worked in finance or math. Literally: investment bankers, CFO’s, bond traders, private equity, structured finance and one math teacher. My dad always encouraged us to have careers and be able to support ourselves. I totally see why it makes me less likely to attract guys or be seen as good stay at home wife material. Don’t really care. I do see the reasons why one would switch to HR or marketing – the path to success is way easier than being in front lines of finance or financial sales. The guys aren’t more qualified but it is still a guy’s club. You get tired of beating your head against a wall over and over.

Comments are closed.