Archive | December 17, 2013

Common Core Standards Failing Gifted American Students*

Common Core Standards Failing Gifted American Students*

Not only do average American students perform poorly compared with those in other countries, but so do the best students, languishing in the middle of the pack as measured by the two leading tests used in international comparisons.

On the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment test, the most recent, 34 of 65 countries and school systems had a higher percentage of 15-year-olds scoring at the advanced levels in mathematics than the United States did. The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland all had at least twice the proportion of mathematically advanced students as the United States, and many Asian countries had far more than that.

Other tests have shown that America’s younger students fare better in global comparisons than its older students do, which suggests a disturbing failure of educators to nurture good students as they progress to higher grades. Over all, the United States is largely holding still while foreign competitors are improving rapidly.

Federal, state and local governments and school districts have put little effort into identifying and developing students of all racial and economic backgrounds, both in terms of intelligence and the sheer grit needed to succeed. There are an estimated three million gifted children in K-12 in the United States, about 6% of the student population. Some schools have a challenging curriculum for them, but most do not.

With money tight at all levels of government, schools have focused on the average and below-average students who make up the bulk of their enrollments, not on the smaller number of students at the top. It is vital that students in the middle get increased attention, as the new Common Core standards are designed to do, but when the brightest students are not challenged academically, they lose steam and check out.

Analysts and scholars have studied international trends and identified the familiar ingredients of a high-performing educational system: high standards and expectations; creative and well-designed coursework; enhanced status, development and pay of teachers; and a culture where academic achievement is valued, parents are deeply involved and school leaders insist on excellence.

But raising the performance of the best students will require the country to do far more. Here are a few recommendations:


Government Support

The federal and state governments should support education of the gifted more aggressively. The federal government provides very little money to educate gifted students and state financing is spotty, with many states leaving it to local school districts. The states face a loss of federal funds if students don’t reach minimum proficiency levels, but they are given no such incentive to propel top students to defined standards of excellence. The federal government should require schools to monitor and improve the performance of their gifted students, backed up with financial incentives. Only eight states track the academic performance of gifted students as a separate group.

More money could help create a corps of teachers trained in identifying and teaching highly talented students. Many such students are never identified because of assumptions that overlook minority and low-income students. Currently, only three states require their general education teachers to have some type of training in gifted education and only 17 states require teachers in programs for the gifted and talented to have a credential for gifted education.

Accelerated Learning

Fewer than 45% of the nation’s public secondary schools offer Advanced Placement courses, which inject extra rigor and are intended to prepare students for more challenging work in the first year of college. That’s not enough, especially because the courses are increasingly popular when they are offered. At the same time, a disturbing number of the exams taken by A.P. students received failing scores in May — from 38% to 43% in biology, physics B, calculus AB, statistics and chemistry — suggesting that too many students are not being prepared adequately and taught well.

In past years, the College Board, which administers the program and the exams, has been justifiably criticized for requiring too much rote learning of a broad range of facts, and too little time for in-depth study, lab work or creative ventures. But now the board is beginning a drastic revision of its courses and exams, which will focus on the most important core concepts of a subject and leave more room for students and teachers to become more creative.

These courses are often missing in rural areas, which lack enough talented students and qualified teachers. It’s a perfect opportunity to take advantage of high-speed Internet service, making use of online materials and video learning to bring expertise to the most distant schoolhouses.

Early College Admission

The ultimate form of radical acceleration is to let extremely gifted students enter college at a young age. The University of Washington has long allowed a select group of seventh and eighth graders, none older than 14, to skip high school entirely and enter a one-year “transition school” in which they live at home to ease the social adjustment while taking courses on campus taught by an experienced faculty. The courses include physics and pre-calculus along with English, history and ethics. In the following year, transition-school graduates become regular full-time students.

Follow-up surveys have found that these early-entrance students do well academically and socially compared with regular students and with other talented students who have not skipped high school. Most acquire graduate degrees and some found their own start-up companies. A more modest approach used in some communities allows gifted students to take some courses in nearby colleges while still in high school.

In addition, SAT tests that are typically used as college entrance exams could be administered to some students before age 13 to identify who might easily jump ahead to a high school class in a particular subject. A few of these precocious students might be what researchers call the “scary smart,” whose reasoning ability, as measured by math or verbal SAT scores, puts them in the top 1 in 10,000 for their age group.

A pioneering study has followed a cohort of those extremely smart students for 25 years. It found that they have made outstanding contributions to advancing scientific and medical knowledge, earning tenured professorships, developing software, receiving patents, and serving in leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies and in technology, law and medicine. Such students could easily do the academic work in a high school class while remaining with their age peers in other subjects, or could explore real-world learning through internships and apprenticeships, potentially for school credit. The cost would be minimal. No need to hire or train new teachers or write new curriculums. Just add another student to an existing classroom.


Psychological Coaching

Rena Subotnik, director of the Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education at the American Psychological Association, along with several colleagues, has suggested that gifted students receive psychological coaching from well-trained teachers and from mentors outside the school system, to strengthen their ability to handle stress, cope with setbacks and criticism, take risks to achieve a goal, and compete or cooperate with others as needed. Such skills are often as important as brain power to achieve success. She has also proposed that the main goal of gifted education should be to produce not just experts but individuals who will make pathbreaking, field-altering discoveries and products that shake up the status quo.

There is little reliable evidence on the best ways to educate gifted students; much of what exists was produced by programs promoting their own success. Federal agencies should finance careful, unbiased studies of many of the programs in use: specialized schools for science, engineering and math students; courses for gifted students within a regular high school; enrichment programs in the community; after-school mentoring by local scientists; summer programs for high school students at leading universities; and in-depth research projects under the guidance of outstanding high school or professional mentors. There is no shortage of good ideas, but proof that they work — along with the money and will to back them up — remains lacking, a disservice to the students on whom the future depends.


Related Topics:

Principals Express Concern over the Common Core Curriculum*

Common Core Curriculum: Parents in 17 States Remove Children from School *

A Child’s Personal Sovereignty… Stolen!*

U.K. Students Facing Violence, Intimidation and Arrest For Opposing Privatization of their Universities*

‘Digital Dementia’ Puts Half the Brain to Sleep … permanently!*

The 1,500 year-old Bible that Foretold the Coming of Prophet Muhammed (saw)*

The 1,500 year-old Bible that Foretold the Coming of Prophet Muhammed (saw)*

By Eman El-Shenawi

Ancient Bible in Aramaic dialect Syriac rediscovered in Turkey

A 1,500-year-old Bible in which Jesus is believed to have foretold the coming of the Prophet Muhammed (saw)to Earth attracted attention from the Vatican in 2012.

Pope Benedict XVI has reportedly requested to see the book, which has been hidden in Turkey for the last 12 years, according to the Daily Mail.

The text, reportedly worth $22 million, is said to contain Jesus’ prediction of the Prophet’s coming but was suppressed by the Christian Church for years for its strong resemblance to the Islamic view of Jesus, Turkish culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay told the newspaper.

“In line with Islamic belief, the Gospel treats Jesus as a human being and not a God. It rejects the ideas of the Holy Trinity and the Crucifixion and reveals that Jesus predicted the coming of the Prophet Mohammed,” the newspaper reported.

“In one version of the gospel, he is said to have told a priest: ‘How shall the Messiah be called? Mohammed is his blessed name.’

“And in another, Jesus denied being the Messiah, claiming that he or she would be Ishmaelite, the term used for an Arab,” the newspaper added.

According to the report, Muslims claim the text, which many say is the Gospel of Barnabas, is an addition to the original gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

St. Barnabas is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Church, an early Christian later named an apostle.

Gunay said the Vatican has officially requested to see the book, which Turkey had discovered during a police anti-smuggling operation in 2000.

The gang was reportedly convicted of smuggling various items seized during the operation, including the Bible, and all the artifacts were kept in a safe at an Ankara courthouse.

It remained closely guarded by authorities before being handed over to the Ankara Ethnography Museum where it will soon be put on show.

A photocopy of a single page from the leather-bound, gold-lettered book, penned in Jesus’ native Aramaic language is reportedly worth about $2.4 million.

But skepticism over the authenticity of the ancient handwritten manuscript has arisen.

Protestant pastor İhsan Özbek has said this version of the book is said to come from the fifth or sixth century, while St. Barnabas had lived in the first century as one of the Apostles of Jesus.

“The copy in Ankara might have been written by one of the followers of St. Barnabas,” he told the Today Zaman newspaper.

“Since there is around 500 years in between St. Barnabas and the writing of the Bible copy, Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see … It might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas,” Özbek added.

But suspicions could soon be laid to rest.

The real age of the Bible could soon be determined by a scientific scan, theology professor Ömer Faruk Harman told the Daily Mail, possibly clarifying whether it was written by St. Barnabas or a follower of his.


Related Topics:

The Oldest Bible to Date Confirms the Qur’an

An Ancient Take on the Crucifixion

The New Pope!