Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Early-age gender Gap for the Gifted in NYC Schools

Girls mature earlier so this is no surprise. The usual "penalty" for early maturation, however, is a lower final level of achievement -- something we have long seen in most walks of life.

IQ peaks in the late teens however and it is at that stage we should see the final distribution of intellectual ability. Among adults, females have a slightly lower final IQ but a smaller range. Both very bright and very dumb people tend to be male.

Interestingly, that narrower range has just been observed in final high school marks among Australian students.

Because the final IQ gap between males and females is quite small, however, other factors -- such as the greater docility of girls -- can come into play to determine the final overall level of achievement

Girls also seem to be more heavily affected by hormones. High-achieving girls in grade school will sometimes drop way back in High School because their attention is heavily diverted to "boys" -- which is another reason for the male "catchup" in High Schools noted below

At New York City schools for the gifted, like the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, 56 percent of kindergartners are girls. Though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.

When the kindergartners at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, one of New York City’s schools for gifted students, form neat boy-girl rows for the start of recess, the lines of girls reach well beyond the lines of boys.

A similar imbalance exists at gifted schools in East Harlem, where almost three-fifths of the students at TAG Young Scholars are girls, and the Lower East Side, where Alec Kulakowski, a seventh grader at New Explorations in Science and Technology and Math, considered his status as part of the school’s second sex and remarked, “It’s kind of weird and stuff.”

Weird or not, the disparity at the three schools is not all that different from the gender makeup at similar programs across the city: though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.

Around the city, the current crop of gifted kindergartners, for example, is 56 percent girls, and in the 2008-9 year, 55 percent were girls.

Educators and experts have long known that boys lag behind girls in measures like high school graduation rates and college enrollment, but they are concerned that the disparity is also turning up at the very beginning of the school experience.

Why more girls than boys enter the programs is unclear, though there are some theories. Among the most popular is the idea that young girls are favored by the standardized tests the city uses to determine admission to gifted programs, because they tend to be more verbal and socially mature at ages 4 and 5 when they sit for the hourlong exam.

“Girls at that age tend to study more, and the boys kind of play more,” said Linda Gratta, a parent at the Anderson School on the Upper West Side, one of the most selective. “But it’s a mixed bag. The day of the test, you could be the smartest boy in the world and just have a bad day.” She said that Timothy, her first-grade son, had approximately 10 boys and 18 girls in his class.

Biases and expectations among adults are often in play when determining which children count as gifted, and fewer boys appear to end up in gifted programs nationally. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that boys were “overrepresented in programs for learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional disturbance, and slightly underrepresented in gifted programs,” said Bruce A. Bracken, a professor at the College of William & Mary who wrote one of the two exams that the city uses to test gifted children. He said the implications of the study were “disturbing.”

Dr. Bracken’s assessment, which makes up 25 percent of a child’s gifted score in the city, has been field tested for gender bias, and during a recent round of testing in Virginia, no gender differences in the score were recorded. But the longer Otis-Lennon Ability Test, the other 75 percent of the gifted exam, is “more verbal than some of the other tests,” which could play to girls’ strengths, said David F. Lohman, a professor and testing expert at the University of Iowa.

The city’s Department of Education mandated the use of the two tests for admission to gifted programs beginning in 2008; before that, individual schools and districts each devised its own criteria. These typically included a mix of standardized intelligence tests, interviews, observation and, for later grades, class work. The additional leeway in admissions sometimes led to an effort to create gender balance in classes.

“Up until about five years ago, there was more of a conscious effort to balance by gender,” said Estelle Schmones, who retired last year as a gifted teacher at Public School 110 in Manhattan. Like other educators and parents, Ms. Schmones noted that the number of girls in some gifted programs had been creeping up over the past several years.

David Cantor, the press secretary for the Education Department, said that any role the tests might play in contributing to the gender gap was not known, because the city did not tally the gender of those who took or passed the test, only those who enrolled in gifted classes. Still, Mr. Cantor said, “A good test for giftedness should be able to control for differences in what children have been exposed to, and for the early verbal development we see more often in girls.”

The imbalance stands in contrast with the gender makeup of the eight high schools, including Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School, that use the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test to select students. All have more boys than girls, in keeping with research that shows that boys tend to catch up with girls, especially in mathematics, through middle school and, at the high end of the achievement spectrum, surpass them.

Whatever might be keeping young boys from entering gifted programs at equal rates might also be what can cause stumbles once they get in. For some of the boys, “their social and emotional development is not at the same level as their intellectual development,” said Donna Taylor, the principal of the Brooklyn School of Inquiry. She estimated that she spent about half her day helping her kindergarten and first-grade boys as they ran into trouble with issues like collaboration, self-control and sharing.

More here

"For profit" charter schools now OK in Britain

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has said the Government has no "ideological objection" to firms making profits from his new academies and free schools. However, he said teachers should be the ones who decide how schools are run.

Speaking at the Hay Festival on Monday, Mr Gove said: "I am a Conservative, I do not have an ideological to businesses being involved but the professionals should make that decision. "My view is that school improvement will be driven by professionals not profit makers."

Companies can already make profits from schools under existing legislation that allows governing bodies to contract out services, under an arrangement known as the management fee model. However, this approach was not encouraged by the last government.

The Conservatives are keen to emulate the Swedish "free schools" system, in which the ability to make a profit is seen as a key way of drawing providers into the state system.

But this is the first time as Education Secretary that Mr Gove has publicly stated that firms would be free to make money from schools – including from teaching itself.

Mr Gove also sketched out the Government's plan to increase the number of academies, by allowing those judged "outstanding" by Ofsted to attain academy status sooner. And he said that new academies would help raise standards across the board by twinning them with failing schools. Each new academy will "be asked and expected to take under their wing an underperforming school", he said.

He added: "We believe that the academy movement has been successful because improvement in education is driven by heads and teachers."

Nonetheless, there are many critics of his strategy to concentrate on academies – which some believe can only have a detrimental effect on poorer schools.


Dumbing down English teaching in Australia

UNDER the new national schools curriculum students studying English as a Second Language will apparently study more literature than those studying Essential English.

The bulk of our students will encounter only a smattering of literature texts in something described as "functional English", while the true enjoyment of reading literature will be the preserve of just an elite few. This is hardly in line with true educational principles or Australia's egalitarian foundations.

It simply reveals how Barry McGaw, chairman of the curriculum developers, and his misguided team have botched such an important exercise. Every other civilised nation in the world ensures its future generations have the opportunity to study and appreciate the nation's key prose, poetry and drama. Literature as taught through text is the central feature of a nation's culture and enlightenment, as well as its knowledge and awareness.

Australia will now be the only developed country which places little importance on literature in the education of its young.

After an interminable waiting time, it has now become clear that these curriculum developers have been mugged as they conducted their task. They have dumbed down the English curriculum as they have been progressively captured by a number of forces.

They have fallen prey to the propaganda of the Left that literature is too hard for most students to understand, whereas the fact is that any good teacher can instill a love of all literature in all students no matter what their social background or capacity. Throughout history the study of literature has been a key element of social progression for young people who might otherwise have been trapped in the travails of their socio-economic circumstances.

The curriculum talks of analysing and dissecting authors' motives in literature, with little mention of enjoying, appreciating, and learning from literature: its vocabulary, flow, style, characterisation, and richness of language and expression. The authors have clearly fallen prey to the loony nihilistic deconstructionists.

They also make the dangerous and erroneous assertion that film, digital, and video modalities are equal to the written text, and so McGaw and his colleagues have surrendered to the current cohort of teachers and their union bosses, most of whom have never read a good novel themselves and would rather push a button or click a mouse than turn a page.

They have no appreciation of the significance and richness of literature text and the proper means of teaching it. It is not possible to curl up in bed with a good modem. Film makers are never true to the literature which they plunder, manipulate, and exploit.

How does the Rudd government square all of this with its controversial decision earlier this year to act contrary to the findings of the Productivity Commission on the importation of books? The government says it acted to protect the interests of Australian authors but what is the point if no schoolchildren will be reading them? All our Australian authors churning out all those books for a population incapable of reading and enjoying them.

There is also an extremely dangerous indication in these documents that in English, and other subjects of the proposed national curriculum, state governments will be able to determine assessment methods. Thus there will be no truly "national" curriculum and we are headed for continued lack of uniformity and consistency in school education systems across Australia. Another Rudd government promise broken.

The blame game will continue and any families moving interstate will face all the strangling complexities on their children's education which they suffer at the moment. McGaw has certainly been mugged by vested interests in state Labor governments.

As recently revealed in The Australian the nation's history scholars are already demolishing the curriculum development process for its lack of balance, despite all the promises from McGaw after his release of the earlier, biased, original discussion papers which he commissioned from so-called "experts".

The so-called national schools curriculum is shaping up as another Rudd-Gillard policy bungle and waste of public money, morphing into a broken election promise. The only solution seems to be to start again and cobble together the best of the NSW and Victorian curriculums as an interim measure, while a proper professional process is established. This issue is far more important than mining, taxation, infrastructure, emissions, or any of the matters that dominate our daily lives: the whole wellbeing of our youth is at stake; in other words the future of our nation.


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