The Reason Why We Cannot Fix Inequity in Advanced Academic Programs

The previous post on this Blog "We voted for ONE Fairfax" elicited this comment in a Washington DC online forum: "The School Board has contributed to this mess. NO doubt there is too much Advanced Academic Program (AAP) --they have watered it down. Why? Because they were trying to get more minorities in the program. What happened. They got more Asian and White kids in the program who don't all belong there." Having spent a year in a committee of parents advising the school board on AAP, I have seen plenty of reasons why the county had not been able to fix inequity. Of these various reasons, however, there is one, unless addressed, would always spell failure in any effort to increase the number of underrepresented students in AAP. That reason is tradition. Former principal Brian Butler comments on a post made by newly elected school board member Ricardy Anderson, "It’s a great opportunity for Ricardy to transform a traditional system that holds on to traditional thinking and practices." Enrollment in AAP relies on how we measure fluid intelligence (Gf). This is where the problem lies. Fluid intelligence is not independent of the world a child lives in. With this in mind, it should be clear why underrepresented groups in AAP will remain underrepresented no matter what we try. It is only through this realization that we can address inequity.

By statistically analyzing the disproportionality in gifted programs, researchers from Oregon State University, Allison List and Cass Dykeman, find that "Historic and current conceptualizations of giftedness rest on a culture-bound construct that perpetuates disproportionate representation of student groups." This explains why Hodges and coworkers conclude that there is currently no identification process out there that can adequately address inequity in enrollment in advanced academic programs. The measuring tools are bound by tradition and culture, and a child therefore does well in these tests simply because a child already had experiences that can help in the areas tested. To address inequity clearly requires a shift from traditional thinking and practice, as Butler notes. Measuring fluid intelligence must take into account circumstances, and there is no tool out there that can take fully into account culture, language, socio-economic status, race, and gender. Fluid intelligence, we must recognize, is adaptive.

Intelligence depends on what children have seen already. Therefore, a possible solution must be flexible and not fixed. As List and Dykeman note, it is dynamic assessment. This is what all effective teachers do. They do formative assessments regularly to see where the students are and each student then receives an individually tailored instruction or challenge. At the heart of a professional learning community are educators working together on a regular basis, finding the best way to educate each child. There is no need to put labels on children. There is no need to separate or segregate students. This, unfortunately, is impossible if we are clinging to traditional thinking and practices of a fixed mindset and a zero-sum game in education.

Addressing inequities in education is not equivalent to teaching to the lowest common denominator. It simply requires a flexible arrangement such that no child is labeled, but instead supported. We need not lower the bar so that low-performing students can make the grade. What we need is to provide opportunities to all students because intelligence like knowledge is really acquired. What we need is a high quality curriculum made available to all students. Teachers and lessons after all can still make a difference.

Above copied from
US News


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