"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, April 06, 2020

Mike Petrilli: Fail All the Poor Kids and Pass the Affluent

The headline writers at WaPo couldn't quite bring themselves to put in bold print what Mike Petrilli is advocating in today's opinion piece.  

Their headline leads the reader to believe that Dr. Mike is talking about everyone returning to the same grade in the Fall:

Schools should consider keeping kids in the same grade this fall

But only some kids:

Perhaps middle and high school students can overcome these challenges, given their ability to work and read independently. But most low-income, low-performing elementary students will struggle mightily, almost surely falling even further behind [link is to Kevin Huffman's op-ed that I blogged on March 29: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2020/03/mutual-parasitism-coronavirus-and.html]. Thousands of Title I schools nationwide, serving upward of 10 million students, are full of kids fitting this description.
The routines, indeed.  After 6 months away from No Excuses corporate charter schools and the urban public schools that emulate them, the children of the poor will require new rounds of social, emotional, and mental booster shots to further strengthen their immunity against any autonomous thought and action that they might have encountered while away from chain gang schooling. 

According to the Petrilli plan for next Fall, children who are held back in their current grade levels in the Fall should then be administered a standardized test to determine their levels of deficiency.  Those who should have been passed to begin with will then move ahead. (Never mind the logistical nightmares of re-leveling classes after school begins).

And, of course, Dr. Mike has a prescription for instruction in these failed groups next Fall: more homogeneous grouping, more tutoring, and more "personalized" screen time (just in case another pandemic hits, even though these same children won't have any more internet access then than they have now).
The next step would be for teachers to develop plans for each pupil to make progress, aimed at getting them to grade level by June. The plans should involve as much small-group instruction as possible, with kids clustered according to their current reading or math levels, plus some online learning opportunities in case schools are closed again. Those who are furthest behind could get regular one-on-one tutoring from specialists.
If Dr. Mike's pedagogical solution sounds remarkably similar to the corporate welfare charter school planning book, you would be right.  And even though failure-for-the-poor plan sounds and looks and smells like repeating the same grade, which research shows is counter-productive, Dr. Mike says we should not think of it that way: "This would be different from just 'repeating the grade,' which, research shows, rarely helps students catch up."

Petrilli ends his op-ed by reminding us that we could have avoided all this confusion if schools had already adopted the latest public education demolition plan, "personalized learning:"
It would have been far better if U.S. schools had embraced “personalized learning” long before the crisis hit — whereby kids move at their own pace, rather than in lockstep with their peers.
But, but, what would happen to homogeneous grouping!?


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