January 24, 2010

What to do about those science classes at Berkeley High School — where the classes that don't require science labs are full of black and Latino students...

... and it's mainly white students who get the advantage of all the money spent on all those great labs.
Campus leadership has proposed cutting before- and after-school labs -- decreasing science instruction by 20% to 40% -- and using that money to fund "equity" programs for struggling students in an effort to close one of the widest racial and ethnic achievement gaps in the state....

"There's a big fear of taking away from high-end achievers," said Linda Gonzalez, co-chair of the school governance council, which crafted the controversial proposal. But "why are we having science classes with two or three labs when there are kids in science classes with no labs?" wondered Gonzalez, a parent who supports the shift....

"This became a race issue, because just about everything that happens in Berkeley is fundamentally viewed through that lens," said [student teacher Aaron] Glimme, who acknowledged that "there's a very clear difference by race as to who shows up to the lab classes."
It seems terrible to pit the hard-working, high-achieving students against the struggling students. You might think all the students are making their choices and getting what they've earned, but consider:
[Teacher Philip] Halpern said. "A public school like Berkeley High has an equal obligation to students who have struggled. We shouldn't be continuing to allocate resources to students who have had them all along."

As Halpern notes, "Berkeley High is the only high school in town. You get the professors' kids, the dot-commers' kids and the kids of the working class."


Freeman Hunt said...

How about you make all of the science classes have labs? I don't remember our high school offering any science classes without labs.

ricpic said...

We must raise up the unraiseupables and hold down the natural risers. Justice demands it!

AllenS said...

Just give the black students a grade of B+. Who knows, some day maybe they'll become President.

KCFleming said...

Harrison Bergeron High School.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

So Berkeley is primed to breed a generation of angry white Republicans?

Anonymous said...

What is our country coming to?

I mean, seriously.

We build kick-ass labs and invite every single student to show up.

Then, we punish the ones who show up?

We punish the ones who work hard?

We punish the ones with ambition?

Here's what we should do: We should tell all the students who aren't enrolling in science labs that the world needs garbage men.

Somebody has to pick up the trash. It's a noble profession.

Wal-Mart will always need greeters.

Burger King will always need someone manning the fryer.

And they're it.

Or, they can go to lab.

It should be their choice.

But teaching someone how to salt fries takes a lot less money for the lab than teaching someone how to clone sheep.

We should not punish scientists just because there are people who aspire to fry cook.

Palladian said...

"It seems terrible to pit the hard-working, high-achieving students against the struggling students."

This is the way the world has always worked, since life began.

The terms "hard-working" and "high-achieving" are not the opposite of the term "struggling". To achieve highly and work hard is a struggle. The "high-achieving" students are the ones who are struggling.

"Struggling", as used in P.C. speak, generally refers to "lazy" and "low-achieving" students. The "low-achieving" students who are actually hard-working and struggling are the ones that deserve sympathy, as they have spent their young lives raised in cultures of laziness and low achievement and have been coddled by the tyranny of low expectations and affirmative action in terrible public schools that would rather send them away to the next grade than make an effort to enforce discipline, instill a love of learning and actually teach them something.

I say this as someone familiar with the New York City public schools, which are far worse than Berkeley in this regard, and continue to doom generation after generation of black and latino students to a life of illiteracy, laziness, poverty and violence.

I pray to God to help the actual "hard-working, high-achieving" students trapped in this mire of politically-created mediocrity.

The Drill SGT said...

Freeman Hunt said...
How about you make all of the science classes have labs?

All the sciences classes have lab work. These AP classes are required to have lab ratios approaching college courses where of course lab time equals lecture time. else it cant really be considered comaprable to college work, can it?

here is the quote that shows that this is "EXTRA Lab time"

White students predominate in the science classes that require supplemental lab time, according to an analysis by a lead teacher in the Berkeley High math department. Her study also showed that three-fourths of the students who take less-rigorous science classes -- those that do not require extra lab time -- are African American or Latino.

Akiva said...

And thus ended the future of America. When those successful found their success held against them, then taken from them and handed to the non-achievers, all drive for success and reward was removed. Therefore the driven learned to avoid success, which now was punished instead of celebrated.

--It's right out of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. Anyone with any sense will flee the district to preserve their children.

Lisa said...

I really don't understand this. Labs are typically a part of the science class, not a separate period. Any science 'lab' taught before or after school would likely be a support class.

Finally, why aren't the minority kids taking the science classes? Aren't they required to take science? Don't all science classes have a lab component?

I think there some information missing.

Palladian said...

And not every student has the same innate mental abilities. You can't, as has been said many times before, achieve equality of outcome. Just maintain equality of opportunity and encourage students from a young age to love and pursue learning and challenge themselves. When they get to high school, they'll take the classes with the labs. But understand that not every student will be able to succeed because we're just not all made that way, though I suspect that many more would try and succeed than currently do if personal discipline and ethics were actually expected of young students rather than discouraged.

Palladian said...

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KCFleming said...

Those kids aren't struggling or "disadvantaged" or even "at risk", they're at hope!

Just forbid the whites and asians to go beyond 6th grade, and get this levelling over with.

Lisa said...

Drill SGT,

So they are gutting their AP program? Do you really think all the kids whose parents work in Silicon Valley or at the University will keep their kids in that school?

That is completely unacceptable. There is no racial barrier stopping kids from taking AP classes.

HKatz said...

Also, imagine what this decision is like for those minority students who DO take the extra rigorous science labs (I don't think they're mentioned at all in the article...)

Maybe they can be held up as model students too? Nah. Better to just write them out of the picture and make this a struggle between whites and Asians vs. blacks and Latinos.

pm317 said...

This is interesting. STEM (Science, Technology, Eng, Math) is already hurting from lack of participation and now they want to cut lab facilities to bring equality among ethnic groups because whites are disproportionately using those facilities? This is crazy. Don’t complain if all STEM jobs go to India and China — let the whites go to China and India for work! that is if they can still get educated/trained in America.

Anonymous said...

"Finally, why aren't the minority kids taking the science classes?"

Lisa, if you read the story you learn that:

1) Berkley spends some money staffing lab classes that are in addition to all other classes at the school.

2) They aren't required.

3) They occur before and after school.

4) Think if it like "extra credit."

5) It's a struggle to attend school, before school and after school. High-achieving students accept this struggle. Lazy students who aspire to nothing don't.

6) Every student is invited.

7) Mostly white kids show up.


Berkley wants to cut funding to spend more on "struggling" students ... defined as "kids who don't show up for the before and after-school lab classes that are extra credit."

It's out and out liberal angst that they've created something that displays for everyone to see the shiftlessness evident in certain segments of the student body.

Thus, it's racist ... since the black and Hispanic kids choose freely not to attend.

Tex said...

It seems that many states have found the easiest (only) way to close the achievement gap for NCLB is simply to lower standards so that almost all students achieve “proficiency” and very few achieve excellence. Cutting science labs for high-performing students is one way to accomplish that.

I’m most familiar with the New York State tests.

. . . In 2006, third-grade students had to get 43.6 percent of the points on the math test to earn a Level 2 — but by 2009, they needed to get only 28.2 percent of the points. On the English language-arts test, the cutoff to earn a Level 2 in sixth grade dropped from 41 percent of the points in 2006 to just 17.9 percent in 2009.


It’s a mess.

Sofa King said...

Finally, why aren't the minority kids taking the science classes? Aren't they required to take science? Don't all science classes have a lab component?

I'm guessing the article is about elective AP classes which are more challenging - basically college level intro courses - but can be worth college credit.

Tibore said...

"Campus leadership has proposed cutting before- and after-school labs -- decreasing science instruction by 20% to 40% -- and using that money to fund "equity" programs for struggling students in an effort to close one of the widest racial and ethnic achievement gaps in the state."

Typical leftist "egalitarianism": Force equality by lopping off the top end instead of raising the bottom. How about they provide more incentives to get the minority students into these extra lab times instead? Why is there so much rhetoric about "lifting" the disadvantaged, but so little actual action towards that?

Yes, I know these are "extra" hours, not the standard ones for the course. That's exactly my point: If they were lopping them off altogether for budgetary reasons, I'd still be sad, but I'd understand the financial pressure, even though I think it's a bad move. But to simply reallocate those funds towards something else... again, creating equality by lopping off the top. Stupid, short sighted thinking, this.

Again: Devote resources towards getting the other kids into those extra hours. But creating "equity" programs... (*shakes head*)... taking away from one group to give to another is not the same as providing for all. Stupid, stupid thinking.

AllenS said...

Is this only a problem in California, or in all 57 states?

Automatic_Wing said...

Damn whites, expressing their racist hostility towards people of color by showing up at after school science labs. No wonder Jeremiah Wright hates Amerikka!

Also it's interesting that Asians aren't mentioned in this equation. You'd think there might be a few in Berkely.

KCFleming said...

Just give the overachievers a mandated daily dose of pot, make them read "I, Rigoberta Menchu", and have them watch Oprah re-runs all day.

Problem solved.

Remember Reverend Jesse Jackson's chant: chant "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture's got to go!"?
Here it is in action.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't see the problem. The science people get more out of the labs. The drama people get more out of the theater. The mechanical people get more out of the shop. The jocks get more out of the athletic facilities.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Lisa said...


I teach middle school (in a liberal college town) math and science. We spend a couple of hours a month talking about the achievement gap and how its not the fault of our minority parents or the kids that they are failing, its our fault. Only I don't believe that.

The kids who fail my classes consistently do not ask for extra help, do not take extra help if offered, do not ask questions, do not take notes, do not do all their homework (or indeed any of it), and come into my classroom 2 to 3 grade levels behind. Most of these kids are African American though there are some who are white and rarely (very very rarely) an Asian (usually adopted by a white family). Not all of my African American students fail (not even most) but most of my students who fail are African American.

The only African American kids I see signing up for advanced classes in high school are those whose parents are professionals (doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, etc.).
The thing is my white and Asian students are typically also the children of professionals while the children who are failing are typically the children of poor families. It is rare for a child of a professional to fail my class (though they are not all A students.. this group has their share of C's) So how much of this is a race issue and how much is a class issue?

I am not allowed to say this. Should I suggest this (despite the fact that we are constantly talking about how to improve their performance), I am verbally assaulted by coworkers and told I am racist. However, in private, many of my colleague's have said the same thing.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Shorter Palladian or what I was gonna say:

"Struggling" oftimes means "hardly trying".

I'm Full of Soup said...


I bet if your suggestion [end schooling for the lucky rich at the 6th grade]was widely heard, many PC libs would believe it was an viable and serious option.

wv = patil = almost the name of many hotel owners in America

rhhardin said...

Labs are for people without imagination.

KCFleming said...

"I am not allowed to say this."

I live in a similar place.

Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification.
"Timur Kuran explores the devastating consequences to political discourses that derive from the simple unwillingness of intelligent individuals to say publicly what they believe privately. The United States may have constitutional guarantees for freedom of speech that were nowhere to be found in communist societies. But the eerie parallels that Kuran draws between the persistence of communism in Eastern Europe and the persistence of affirmative action at home should give even skeptical readers pause about the ability of our legal institutions to promote candid discussion of the major political issues of our times.
--Richard A. Epstein, University of Chicago

Adam said...

How in the world could Berkeley spend equal amounts of public funds on kids of all types while allowing those who want a bunch of costly AP lab courses to take them? Let's see...ummm...how about they give each kid's parents the same amount of funding and then let them send their kids to whatever school they choose? Maybe instead of cash they could give each kid some sort of certificate--let's call it, I dunno, a voucher?--that represented the funds that would be paid to the school by the Berkeley government. That way, everybody's funded fairly and everybody gets the kind of schooling he or she wants.

What's that you say? There was such a program in DC, and Obama's administration ended it despite the parents' clamor to continue it? Impossible! Why, that would imply that the government is more concerned about the public school system than about the kids in those schools. That can't possibly be true, can it?

George said...

Yeah, I can't wait until those struggling Berkeley High graduates become affirmatively actioned engineers someday, working on the earthquake upgrading of Berkeley buildings and the Bay Bridge. Wait, wouldn't it be easier to do what Harvard does and just give everybody A grades? Or how about starting a "Science Studies Department"?

reader_iam said...

So, the children of affluent, educated progressives in Berkeley are about to be hoist on their parents' petard?

reader_iam said...

Forgot to click e-mail follow-up...

MarkW said...

As Halpern notes, "Berkeley High is the only high school in town. You get the professors' kids, the dot-commers' kids and the kids of the working class."

Exactly the same distribution of kids as in Ann Arbor with a similar achievement gap and similar politics, BUT the high schools would never propose killing AP lab classes to spend more on 'at risk' kids here.

Why not? Money. In Michigan, the kids whose AP classes were cut would enroll in charter schools or neighboring school districts and all the funding (about $10K per kid per year) would follow them. Even if they switched to private schools, the private schools wouldn't get the funding, but the public district would lose it.

Funding tied to students is a great way to induce a 'customer orientation' in the minds of school district officials.

chuck b. said...

Palladian said, "To achieve highly and work hard is a struggle. The 'high-achieving' students are the ones who are struggling."


themightypuck said...

Seems perfectly reasonable for a public school to think this way. In fact, it is because public schools naturally "think" this way that wealthy people avoid public schools like the plague. The only thing newsworthy about this is that what has happened all over the country in the last 40 years has finally come to the sleepy town of Berkeley.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Just rename it the Walmart Cashier Preparatory High. Of course those jobs are fast being replaced by self-checkout lines.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Each year high schools and DMV's look more and more alike.

Ciarand Denlane said...

Florida sez: "Burger King will always need someone manning the fryer."

Courts will always need lawyers.

Peter Hoh said...

NCLB penalizes schools for the performance gap. Just remember who signed that into law when you are complaining about it.

And yeah, I know that it had all sorts of support from both sides of the aisle.

Anonymous said...

Devoting extra resources to "struggling" students makes a certain amount of sense at the lower grade levels. These are kids who haven't been in the system long, and it could very well be that some of them have hidden potential that no one's yet figured out how to unlock. But if their potential's still hidden by the time they reach high school, it's probably because it isn't there.

rhhardin said...

I never had a lab that wasn't a complete waste of time, except for the stuff that turns your urine blue.

miller said...

So there are 1 billion Chinese and 1 billion Indians ready to take over for Americans. They struggle enormously to make it in a difficult world, and flock to the U.S. (temporarily) to learn what we do and then take what they've learned back.

The U.S. will be Michigan in a few years. We will have learned nothing about remaining competitive by focusing on education.

However, we will still have cable, so that's good.

Big Mike said...

Palladian said:

"I say this as someone familiar with the New York City public schools, which are far worse than Berkeley in this regard, and continue to doom generation after generation of black and latino students to a life of illiteracy, laziness, poverty and violence."

Now shift your perspective a little bit. Suppose that's the whole point. Any political party is actually a coalition of groups of people with different interests and issues. The Democrats, to name names, are a coalition that includes people utterly dependent on government; unions, especially including the teachers unions; starry-eyed liberals, especially the young fresh out of their indoctrination centers (also quaintly referred to in some quarters as "universities"); and limousine liberals. One way to increase the numbers of people in this coalition is to increase the size of one or more of the groups, and one easy way to do so is to see to it that as many people as possible are undereducated and unprepared to compete for good jobs.

Now I'm not saying that George Soros and some secret cabal of Democrats got together and decided as a policy that inner city, Black and Latino, children would be deliberately undereducated so that they would vote Democrat when they grew up.

I'm merely noting that our educational system as it stands keeps limousine liberals happy -- their kids go to private schools and as the achievement gap between public schools and private grows, so much the better for the head start their offspring will enjoy. It keeps the teachers unions happy. And it perpetuates, even enlarges, the group of people who cannot compete for decent-paying jobs.

Chip Ahoy said...

I disagree, rh. All my labs were fun. Only the language labs required after school attendance, and those were less fun because it's just you and a tape recorder in a booth working alone, but they were far from useless.

My H.S. science classes wereall labs, arranged around individual lab tables. I loved those places. Whatever school I was in the science rooms were the best. They're filled with all kinds of weird and interesting crap. We marveled.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Home school.

Alternative schooling.

Charter schools.

At least try to save the future of the country by allowing those who want to learn to .....gasp....learn.

Lisa said...

Big Mike,

That's a little paranoid, don't you think?

The truth is we have a group of kids who enter school reading and advanced skills, a group who enter with good prereading skills who learn to read easily and a group who enter with few skills.

It's hard to catch up when you don't really know your numbers, your letters, your colors or shapes at 5 while the kid next you can cut, glue, count, add, and read.

There's a reason we have headstart programs and frankly, I don't think they start early enough nor are there enough spots.

But at the same time, there is no reason to hold back the kids who have those skills already... at Kindergarten or when they get to high school.

I'm Full of Soup said...

High school labs could be fun.

We dissected fetal pigs in bio lab. I remember one's ear ended up in a classmate's sandwich.

Eric said...

So, the children of affluent, educated progressives in Berkeley are about to be hoist on their parents' petard?

Nope. They're about to be pulled out of the public school system and placed in expensive private schools.

lucid said...

Affirmative action corrupts. Affirmative action in a very liberal or in a black community corrupts absolutely.

Big Mike said...

@Lisa, all I'm saying is that if I were paid to establish a set if policies guaranteed to further advantage the limousine liberals against the middle class and below, guaranteed to keep the teachers unions happy, and guaranteed to assure the steady growth of the underclass, I couldn't craft a better set of policies than what we deal with today in the United States. I was careful to make the point that I don't think we got to this point deliberately, but I do think we need to fix things, and sooner is better than later. How do you know that somewhere today in some inner city school there isn't some African-American child who will, if he gets the chance, solve the Grand Unified Theory of physics. If we keep on the way we are going, that child never gets that chance. Do I understand you're all right with that? Or are you with me -- and that unknown child?

I could even make a prediction, that if Republicans were to propose legislation that would benefit inner city children in public schools, that liberals would bash it every opportunity.

Except that's not a prediction. It's precisely what happened with NCLB, isn't it?

Adam said...


Don't put much hope in Head Start. Any initial impact is small and does not persist.

Jim Gust said...

Lisa, apparently you didn't get the memo, Head Start has just been shown to be a failure:


virgil xenophon said...

Lisa obviously isn't aware of the very latest peer reviewed studies which show that the billions we've poured into Head Start are a total waste of money as whatever good they do initially doesn't stick/last past 1st grade. Another "good idea" that doesn't work. And what is Obama's answer to this fact? Especially as he specifically made it a talking point of his campaign that we should not continue to fund failing programs? Why to advocate EVEN GREATER funding for the program--just like the good little leftist ideologue he is. Or as Bertram Russell once famously said when his graduate students reported back that their findings concerning his social theories were contrary to those very theories: "Well, so much worse for the facts."

Lefties are the same the world over....

Lisa said...

Big Mike,

I do not believe the Democrats are deliberately keeping kids behind. Nor do I believe that NCLB actually helps in any way.

What DID NCLB do? It required testing, it required a certain percentage of students to be 'proficient' at every grade level with the percentage increasing each year to 100% and it required teachers to be 'highly qualified'.

Well, states are simply decreasing the requirements to meet proficient on each test because that was the only way to get closer to that 100% goal and the teacher's simply filled out forms or took a test or did a portfolio to prove they are 'highly qualified'. Nothing changed.

We need more money in schools, smaller class sizes, better teachers (which means better pay), better resources (like science labs that have equipment), and we need a national standards with national tests because the state tests are a joke.

kentuckyliz said...

The problem with Head Start is that the bulk of the teachers are welfare mothers who have to work a certain number of hours per week to maintain their benefits.

Welfare kids, welfare moms, no high-achieving educated teachers with middle class values to teach anything that would really make a difference.

That is the great secret of Head Start. No one ever talks about this.

Welfare moms as teachers--they are proven losers in today's society, let's put them in charge of the kids!

kentuckyliz said...

Re the HS sci labs.

Oh come on, academics is SWPL.

AllenS said...

Science is stuff White People like. That and mullets.

Adam said...

Wrong again, Lisa. Students' performance can be improve dramatically without higher spending, through something as simple as a change in the management structure of schools. Charter schools in NYC have been shown conclusively to yield persistent, cumulative gains.

Ray said...

So how much of this is a race issue and how much is a class issue?

That would seem just as reasonable an explanation. We're talking about high school kids. Based on my own memories of ditching/laziness/hormone fueled inattentiveness, broken only by the visceral fear of my mother's wrath, I'm going to guess that left to their own devices most high schoolers wouldn't sign up for honors/extra credit lunch. And it's not like kids choose their classes in a vacuum. I took Latin as my foreign language for no more farsighted reason than the girls that I knew who were already in the class the first year. I chose a lot of activities based on what my friends were doing. And I chose classes/activities that I didn't want to, because my mother insisted they'd be useful later. Without parents that can see and explain the value of the extra work, enforce the work, and prioritize their kids lives I think a far more limited subset (regardless of race) would take the classes. And, to your point, I would imagine that the parents that do tend fall into common class/cultural buckets, those that don't into others, with some outliers of singularly self motivated/unmotivated individual teens.

themightypuck said...



William said...

Stuyvesant High in NYC is located in Battery Park. It has a fine view of the New York harbor and is paid for by the public. It is a public school but it is one of the most elite institutions in the country. Entry is restricted to the brightest and most earnest students in NYC.....When I used to jog in Battery Park, I would sometimes see the Stuyvesant High football team working out. The majority of the kids on the team were Chinese. I would venture a guess that those few white kids I saw were Jewish. They all seemed slightly built. I had the unnerving sensation that had I been accepted at Stuyvesant, I could have made the varsity team....Has it come to this? Should the students of Stuyvesant forgo football excellence in order to supply fodder for some pharmaceutical company's research department. I know that Stuyvesant has produced a number of Nobel Prize winners. Big deal. How many Heisman Trophy winners has it produced? I am glad to see that, at least in Berkeley, some people have their heads on right. I'm sure that they would not cut funds from the athletic department to help struggling students.

Michael said...

Lisa: As far as I know smaller classes and more money per student even when coupled with excellent facilities and staff do not do much to overcome the problems that plague the underclass. Two parent households, reverence for education, discipline, a community's willingness to harshly judge those who step out of line,a strong spiritual underpinning and a desire to succeed are the keys to good educational outcomes. All the things, in short, that the black community enjoyed before the disastrous welfare systems of the 60's created profoundly undermining results. At this point in our history it may be too late to turn back. The current situation is an insult to the brave men and women who crossed that Alabama bridge, to the utter courage it took to take one more step in the direction of pain.

The Crack Emcee said...

"What to do about those science classes at Berkeley High School — where the classes that don't require science labs are full of black and Latino students..."?

Look, if everyone's so concerned, call up Berkeley High and suggest the white kids walk across the fucking hall.


Jason (the commenter) said...

kentuckyliz: The problem with Head Start is that the bulk of the teachers are welfare mothers...

The took an idea that worked (maybe) in one locality and spread it nationally. Then they didn't pay attention to results and kept throwing money at it.

Pretty much how the rest of the school system works, except I don't believe Head Start is mandatory.

Big Mike said...

I do not believe the Democrats are deliberately keeping kids behind.

And I was careful to say that I don't believe that the current system evolved from any particular plan. But from your position as a middle school teacher do you have any evidence to support the theory that Democrats are willing to do anything at all to fix the problem of inner city education?

I recognize that NCLB was anything but a panacea, but insofar as it did result in identifying and helping to root out some incompetent teachers and administrators I think NCLB certainly was a good first step. Your proposal that it be extended to national standards suggests that deep inside you think uniform testing is not all bad.

As for throwing money at K-12 education (e.g., smaller class sizes, better resources, better pay to attract better teachers), I think if you were to take a poll of the people who are not involved in education except as parents the results would be 80% in favor of higher salaries for teachers if and only if there is a concerted effort to identify and dismiss the timeservers, the burnt out, and the never were competent from among the teaching ranks. Then we'll get somewhere. Not before. No one is interested in further lining the pockets of bad teachers.

knox said...

I don't know how much money and "great teachers" can help. In my experience, if a kid's parents don't act like they value schoolwork/learning/achievement, the kid won't.

This goes for just about everything, not just academics.

jimbino said...

Don't forget the need to bus Blacks and Hispanics to our national parks and forests, where they are never seen except, occasionally, behind the counter selling trinkets.

prairie wind said...

NCLB was a bad idea because it came from the top down. Education should be guided from the bottom up...local control.

Here in Omaha, we just added another level of bureaucracy, a learning community, that will make sure something good happens. We have something like 11 school districts in this learning community, and it has no real mission other than "doing good." They are trying to engineer school admissions so that every school in the district has the same socio-economic distribution. I think they are shooting for 40% free and reduced lunches in each school. It's crazy, of course.

It seems their plan is to bus kids across the district so that the very poor can go to school with kids who drive BMWs. To get in line with NCLB standards, we'll just make sure that each school has the same number of failing students.

Lisa said...

Big Mike,

I cannot see any difference between the Republicans or the Democrats except which groups they pretend to represent. The reality is both represent corporations.

Lisa said...

Prairie Wind,

We need national standards. Local control over standards leads to gross stupidity like people trying to force creation 'science' into biology.

prairie wind said...

I disagree, Lisa. We already have schools that fail. How is it worse to still have schools that fail in different ways?

You are so sure that Mr. and Mrs. School Board will do a bad job. What makes you so sure that that a bureaucrat in DC will do any better? Because they care more about your children than you do?

exhelodrvr1 said...

The Democrats don't specifically want to keep kids behind, but they absolutely want to keep blacks and teachers unions dependent on the Democratic Party. If they have to sacrifice the kids' education to achieve that, oh well! They like omelettes.

Big Mike said...

@Lisa, I perceive two differences. First, the Republicans passed the NCLB, which -- however flawed -- was at least a first step. Second, the Democrats, keep saying that they care, but clearly don't do anything to fix clearly visible problems.

Big Mike said...

@knox, I strongly concur.

David said...

I have listened to and participated in this debate for over 40 years. I taught Head Start in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor in the early years of the program. I taught in New York City. I sent my kids to racially mixed magnet schools in Milwaukee when court ordered desegregation began. When it became clear that my kids had high level academic talent, I made sure they went to the most challenging schools available. Two of my kids are teachers and one worked for City Year and then taught in South Side of Chicago.

Nothing has worked. For 40+ years nothing has worked.

The reasons for this are harsh truths.

1, Kids with terrible attitudes and parents (or parent) who are clueless.
2. Bad teachers or good teachers who have burned out and given up.
3. Unions that stifle innovation.
4. Stupid panaceas that waste money and human effort.
5. "The soft bigotry of low expectations."

Everyone is discouraged. No one wants to take up this issue up in any responsible way.

Obama, a black man who benefitted from a fabulous education, won't made education a centerpiece. It's far, far more important than health care.

You can blame him, but he is just following a long inglorious tradition.

This will change only if parents of disadvantaged kids rise up and revolt. But right now they don't even make it to teacher conferences.

mariner said...


Local control means some people might do things you don't like, so we must have Federal control.

And that works so well for us in every other area...

dick said...

Reminds me of when Iived in Boston. The diversity spread in Boston Latin and the girl's version of Boston Latin did not mimic the diversity of the city so the school board lowered the standards to get selected based on your race. When even after they did that the diversity still did not mimic the diversity of the city a group of parents sued to try to get Boston Latin closed because it was not racially diverse enough and that therefore it was racist. And Boston Latin was in the same class as Bronx School of Science and Stuyvestant in NYC as one of the best schools in the country. The parents were ready to sacrifice those schools to equalize the racial makeup of all schools. This was shortly after the city also bused students all over the joint as well meaning that some elementary school students had to spend an hour and a half on city buses to get to the schools across the city even when they lived a block from a local school.

This whole thing is really bad news. When we are losing jobs all over the place and the best science students are coming to our colleges from other countries, to take away the programs that do the most to make us competitive is ludicrous.

Unknown said...

They cannot equalize success, so they equalize failure.

Unfortunately, the Chinese, the Indians, the Koreans are not listening.

Harvard said...

Interesting observation I had last week. In San Francisco (across the bay from Berkeley, by the by) is a place called Exploratorium (www.exploratorium.edu/). It's dedicated to bringing science and technology/engineering to children and curious adults. Hands-on exhibits, clear, understandable explanations, covers about the size of a football field. Easily spend a full day or two. My kids have been going for years and they still look forward to every trip. However, looking about, the racial demographic is thus: White folk: 50%, Main Continent Asian: 35%, Sub Continent Asian (Indian etc.): 10%, Hispanic 5%, Black: <1%. Go figure. Must be the Klansmen at the front door.

Jim said...

Man. Just when you think you're out of the "Ayn Rand's storylines are plausible" business, they pull you back in.

L Nettles said...

then there is this. Black on Black Student harrasment for acting too white

COLUMBIA, SC -- Two Williamsburg County students and members of their family have reached a $150,000 settlement in what may be the first Title VI lawsuit based on claims of intra-racial discrimination in South Carolina public schools.

The problem was the culture of rural Williamsburg County, he said.

"You have a culture where to act like you want to do well in school is considered acting white. And that is part of why we're saying that it was racial, even though the students were all of the same race because they weren't acting how the others thought they should be acting as members of that race," Kobrovsky said.


Unknown said...

"knox said...

I don't know how much money and "great teachers" can help. In my experience, if a kid's parents don't act like they value schoolwork/learning/achievement, the kid won't.

This goes for just about everything, not just academics."

At the end of the day this is the key factor. I have a 14 year old son and our expectation for him has always been to do his best. If he busts his butt and brings home a B- I have no problem. But, if he screws off and brings home a C+and could have gotten an better grade, he will have to deal with the consequences.

I've never had to have that conversation with him. He is blessed to have the ability to do well in school, and he expects to do well, because we expect him to honor his abilities and do his best.

Allison said...


--Just rename it the Walmart Cashier Preparatory High. Of course those jobs are fast being replaced by self-checkout lines.

Don't be silly. Berkeley and San Francisco would never allow a Walmart inside their city limits. They don't even allow plastic bags.

Milwaukee said...

Here's what we should do: We should tell all the students who aren't enrolling in science labs that the world needs garbage men.

Somebody has to pick up the trash. It's a noble profession.

Wal-Mart will always need greeters.

Burger King will always need someone manning the fryer.

FYI: The fast food industry is looking for ways to automate some of the cooking tasks. I have seen machines that could make fries.

In this country, ask what does it take to do well in math, and people say good genes. In Korea people say the student must work hard.

The excellent book "Freakonomics" describes students in Chicago, where high schools are filled by lottery. Take three students from a low performing high school, and two of them try to go to the high performing high school, but only one does. The two left at the low performing high school do not have an equal likelihood of graduating: The student how tried to go to a better high school, but didn't get to, is much more likely to graduate, because their family cares.

Bring on voucher schools.

MeTooThenMail said...

At my Alma Mater there are so many Chinese students now that there are stores and restaurants in campus town that the signs inside (and sometimes outside) are entirely in Mandarin.

There are Indian students too, although not yet in the same numbers. Imagine the excellence of an Indian or Chinese child to make it to the US to attend a Div. I major engineering school.

It's all about choice.

And hard work.

Lots and lots of it.

If kids in America are going to have any chance in the next 10-20 years (and beyond) we as their parents and teachers need to give them every possible resource to succeed.

Or not.

Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps not everyone should go to school.

School should be for those who want to attend and learn.

For the billions spent on teachers, their unions, their pensions and their federal cabinet level bureaucracy, after giving these teachers THIRTEEN years to educate America's children, how is it possible for the kids not even to learn how to read or write, much less excel at science, math and engineering?

Hyphenated American said...

I wrote an article on this very subject nearly a month ago on my blog:

This is outrageous...

In Berkley, California, the epicenter of liberalism in America, the local leftists decided to close high-school science labs because evil White students (and quite possibly evil Asian students) spent inordinate time learning science, while some minorities (Blacks and Latinos) did not bother to do so. It's part of the social justice "thing" - if a kid is better than others in physics or math, the liberals will try to bring him down. Instead of promoting talented students (irrespective of their race and ethnicity), the liberals would rather blockc their path to knowledge. This is a disgrace! I cannot find the words to explain how evil it is what they do. Instead of growing kids into new Einstein and Landau, the liberals would rather turn them into lazy bums and ignoramuses. A kid who could find a cure to cancer cannot now take a science class. It's like these people have a death wish...

reader_iam said...

how is it possible for the kids not even to learn how to read or write

Because that wasn't the one, targeted, abiding goal passionately and with-no-excuses pursued by people who actually have it within their power to make that the goal. Not their parents or extended family or community; not their teachers or the extended community of educators; not their religious communities or leaders; not their sports coaches and so forth.

No goal unpursued can become an achievement of use. Full stop.

buddy larsen said...

Shut down the Dep't of Education, pension off the qualified employees, and start spending the same money on cash prizes for student achievers --in the hard sciences only. Explain to the other disciplines that the discrimination is a matter of national security, and so, they "should stop doing all that talking and grab a mop".

Make the prize $25k, $50k, & $100K for level I, II, & III achievement and keep everything out of the selection except numbers.

Payable at HS graduation. Set the spend --and thus the qualifying achievement levels --at the (erstwhile)Dep't of Education budget level.

(Federalism for individual students at the grass roots, bypassing the various soviets --unions, teachers, school boards, even parents)

Sunset it --if test levels haven't risen significantly by year 5 (or 7, or 9), kill the program and henceforth leave the cash in the Treasury.

But, so all is not lost, wait another five years before re-starting the cabinet dep't, and do so only if K-12 results are worse than they were when the dep't was shut down.

reader_iam said...

I'm going to say something controversial here: How people who aren't working but are raising children can't find, in their spare moments, the time to focus on their children's education is beyond me. How other people can find ways to excuse that dereliction flummoxes me even more. And also disgusts.

It's as if people don't *actually* want to achieve the goals they keep saying are so important (and I don't disagree with regard to the importance: I just don't get the disconnect between the pontification and the lack of meaningful, targeted expectation that could insist on implementation on the part of the disgracefully reluctant).

Unknown said...

I fail to see how this is a problem. No one is forced to live in Berkley or send their children to its Public School.

reader_iam said...

Wow! Buddy Larsen's back. It's been quite a while, if I'm not mistaken.

Hey, Buddy Larsen. Hi! How've you been?

buddy larsen said...

Reader_iam; thanks! and doing fine, fine --except for a few small beefs on the political front. And you?

(I've been 'mongo' & 'mongo santamaria' a lot lately --PJM has fired my regular name, for some reason i know not whut)

reader_iam said...

I'm doing OK. For a lot of reasons, looking forward fresh, if with some tentativeness, to this new year of 2010.

Glad you're back!

buddy larsen said...

Likewise --"looking forward fresh, if with some tentativeness" --where there's life there's hope!

Tscottme said...

Failure isn't a bug of the liberal operating system it's a feature.

Lisa said...


You asked why students are allowed to graduate without reading. Here are my thoughts:

1. Schools no longer have the authority to enforce retention; parents can 'place' their child in the next grade. I have only ever seen one child retained and that was at the parents request (and this is NOT a child I would have thought was a candidate).

2. Children enter Kindergarten without prereading skills (and books at home) are much more likely to have difficulty reading. These children typically come from lower income families.

3. Parents aren't reading to their child(ren).

4. Most children who we say can't read CAN read... just far far below grade level. Some of this is ability, some of this is a lack of support and some of this is a lack of motivation. I've never seen a student who couldn't read at all but I've had students reading 5 years below grade level.

TMink said...

The achievement gap is a parenting gap.


buddy larsen said...


Unknown said...

Lisa We need more money in schools, smaller class sizes, better teachers (which means better pay), better resources (like science labs that have equipment), and we need a national standards with national tests because the state tests are a joke.

Read up on the court ordered experiment that was conducted in Kansas City, Missouri where the school system was given an unlimited budget and asked to implement their dream system regardless of budget. They did the sort of thing you are urging and more, yet after a decade of beggaring the rest of the state to pay for the Kansas City schools, results were worse than ever.

While I have trouble believing that our current education system was designed as a conspiracy by Democrats to keep minority children poor and uneducated, I believe that if there was such a conspiracy, the school system that they would come up with would look very much like the school system we have today.

Lisa said...


You want me to believe that after buying lab equipment, reducing class size to below 20 at the elementary and below 25 at the middle school/high school, and paying for good quality teachers the schools went down hill? That doesn't seem reasonable especially since I am watching my district fall apart as its budget collapses. I'm guessing something else happened.

This morning I had to make copies of graph paper because we don't have the funds to buy some. We're going to be closing schools, possibly cutting teacher pay and cutting programs. It will not make the schools better and will, I think, drive more parents to private schools as the quality of our program is damaged.

Lisa said...


I would agree with you but I can't fix the parenting problem. Can you?

prairie wind said...

My own radical idea: Stop spending money on technology. Teach kids to read books, to write on paper, to do math without calculators. If kids can read anything, write effectively, and understand how numbers work, they can learn anything else in the world.

Schools (and most parents)think that technology is necessary even in kindergarten. The argument goes something like, "They will need to know how to use computers, so they should start early." Hmmph. Tell that to the 60-year-old programmers out there who never touched a computer until they were 40. I say that if kids have a solid education in the basics, they will learn the rest on their own.

Giving money to a school district has only one outcome: the money will be spent. School districts do not look for ways to save money; they look for ways to spend the money. Cutting back on school funds would probably have a better effect than giving them more.

CoffeeShopBloggers said...

I actually found a load of research that shows that public schools are outscoring private schools if you exclude inner city public schools. it was very interesting. i blog on this at http://pragmaticmom.com. See entry Public vs. Private school.

reader_iam said...

Mia: I would have been interested in reading your entry had I been able to find it, and quickly. Just a friendly tip: If you're going to plug a relevant post, how about providing a direct link to it? I sort of feel as if you linked the way you did just to get the reader to browse your whole site--which, no offense intended, I don't really have the time nor interest in doing at this minute. Speaking as a prolific internet reader, this is the sort of thing that tends to *disincline* me to go back to a site.

That said, if you post a direct link, I'll go back this time.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

If you love your children and live in Berkeley, RUN!

Otherwise, relax and enjoy your government - They are there to help.