Monday, January 30, 2006

Some interesting articles...

Last July, writer Berkhard Bilger wrote an article for the New Yorker called Nerd Camp, about the summer gifted program at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY). Here's a link to an interview with the author, and an excerpt:

"One of the students you describe in your article talks about how hard it is being smart, because “anti-intellectualism is really popular in America.” Is it?

Sure. The intelligence of a Bill Clinton is as much of a liability, politically, as an asset, while the poor grades of a George Bush don’t seem to matter much to most voters. That wouldn’t be the case in Europe. On the other hand, America has the greatest collection of research universities in the world, and it still tends to win a disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes (though many of the winners are foreign-born). Intellectual achievement is well rewarded in the workplace, but it’s often a strike against you in schools or in social settings.
" (emphasis mine)

I'd be indignant if it weren't so true.

Article from today's St. Paul Pioneer Press on His & Hers Classrooms about some middle schools in the Twin Cities switching to some or all single sex classes in an effort to raise achievement and attract new students.

"In deciding to separate by sex, Battle Creek is drawing on research suggesting girls' grades start to decline in math and science when they hit middle school, and boys start to lose ground in English and the humanities. At a time when hormones are raging, it makes sense to "eliminate the audience that exists for the opposite gender," Christensen said.

There is some evidence, including a 1998 study at Roseville Area Middle School, that single-sex classrooms improve academic achievement. But mostly, proponents claim that dividing boys and girls creates more comfortable, engaged learning environments that can contribute to academic success."

My sister had her best school year (9th grade) in a single-sex religious high school. The article also makes the point that "challenge" classes would have to have sufficient enrollment to have both a boys and girls version. Do gifted kids benefit from single sex classes as much as the "average" student? Since they (the gifted) tend to be more androgynous, maybe, maybe not.

Bad news out of England, The Times Online says British schools are Failing to teach them how to handle real life: A new report reveals that children today struggle with questions they could have answered 30 years ago, says Sian Griffiths.

"In 1976 a third of boys and a quarter of girls scored highly in the tests overall; by 2004, the figures had plummeted to just 6% of boys and 5% of girls. These children were on average two to three years behind those who were tested in the mid-1990s.

“It is shocking,” says Adey. “The general cognitive foundation of 11 and 12-year-olds has taken a big dip. There has been a continuous decline in the last 30 years and it is carrying on now.”"

Back in my day, American students were routinely put back a year when they entered an English school. This happened to three very bright friends of mine. I wonder if this is still the case? Or have we continued this precipitous decline as well?

And EducationNews.Org reports that a school choice bill has been passed by the New Hampshire state senate.

Senate Bill 131 creates a new type of school choice program, which is a hybrid between traditional state-funded school vouchers and scholarship tax credits. The state will set up a non-profit called the 21st Century Scholars Fund, a public-private venture that will be dedicated to providing scholarships to students to attend a school of their choice. The legislature will then appropriate $2 million in direct aid, while also making $500,000 in tax credits available to individual or corporate tax payers who make donations to the fund.

Still waiting to see what the House thinks of it. I'd like to hear how the scholarship fund is set up.

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