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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:11 am 
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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/nyreg ... d=all&_r=0

A few thoughts:

Isn't the crux of the problem- as with 11 plus preparation - that parents want their children to be suitably challenged and working with a highly motivated peer group where appropriate?

Are those who are not gifted also less motivated and independent? Is there a sliding scale in this regard? It's interesting that the HCE group (Hunter schools group) the article links to states that gifted children as well as being more self motivated and independent are often more artistic and creative.

What of those chidren with laser like focus, grit and determination who are high attainers but not gifted? The most academic independents and many grammars are trying to come up that elusive 'tutor proof' test. They don't want the over prepared (even if they have grit, are hardworking and resilient) but the academic cream, those with the superior, innate intellect.

As I see it the written component of the English exam and comprehension may fairly soon become a thing of the past for all but a handful of selective schools. (I imagine these are more expensive to administer and time consuming to mark too?). I have no real evidence for this and would be interested what others say. These skills have been traditionally important but as technology advances those who have a highly developed sense of logic, can grasp new concepts quickly and have good Maths skills may become those schools want to recruit. Verbal skills and those tested by VR will be important but spelling skills and ability to analyse literature may become increasing outmoded and outdated (having said that I know there is a recent push for SPaG skills to be improved). Like it or not I think generations to come are not going to have the patience to read books in quite the same way for one thing. Some of the best schools are complaining that bright children are arriving at 11 who are not as widely read as they'd hoped and expected. I think they will admit defeat in time. Things will need to be fun, sharp and fast in the classroom. Teachers I speak to tell me they have to put on a show to keep the children interested so I imagine this may become the norm? Traditional methods and learning will be increasingly seen as dull and archaic. I am no expert but I do see the educational landscape changing dramatically looking ahead in the next 10-20 years. Exams are likely to be on laptops by then I imagine.

If we master the tutor proof test will it penalise those who are bright enough and through exposure, focus and grit develop their abilities (although many I know believe that intellect can't really be developed much)? If we find a way to 'look inside the brain' and through a series of CAT type test make the decision on who is worthy of a selective education through this alone? Are the truly bright by degree also more motivated, hard working and independent? Many schools use the CAT type test to identify the truly gifted anyway I believe. Is this the fairest system?

To go back to the article the HCE group don't want anyone who has had previous sight of the tests to be sitting for them:

'HCES reserves the right to disqualify any child from competition for admission if there is evidence that testing for HCES is not the child's first experience with the exam'


Will this happen in our Grammar and selective independents in time?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:52 am 
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The fact that the super selectives continue to place a vey high regard on the English component says a great deal in my opinion. Students with lower literacy skills may struggle to express themselves in the essay based subjects at GCSE compared to their more well read peers; this becomes exacerbated at A Level and university as well.

The ability to read and analyse a complex level of material will be a requirement throughout one's academic career, be it in the field of literature itself or academic works about one's subject. In my opinion, parents who believe that a very high level of literacy is not important should visit their nearest university library and consider what it is their DC will be expected to understand, interpret, analyse and assimilate in a few years time.

I think it is very sad to hear that some schools are removing this component of the entrance exam as it tests much more than the ability to analyse literature. It is likely to be because of the complexities associated with marking but this is short-sighted, I feel.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:02 am 
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Cranleigh wrote:
Isn't the crux of the problem- as with 11 plus preparation - that parents want their children to be suitably challenged and working with a highly motivated peer group where appropriate?
It seems to be - though why parents actually want this is another matter. I suppose there must be a huge genetic imperative to see one's offspring get one over on the next person; to consider one's child to be superior in some way and therefore worthy of special treatment which will launch it on the road to - where? A fabulous career that parents can boast about? I really don't know.
Quote:
Are those who are not gifted also less motivated and independent?
I'm kind of hoping this is a joke. Those who are not 'gifted' as you put it tend to be lower social class - odd that 'giftedness' seems to be over-represented in the middle classes. And possibly suggestive of the not entirely controversial notion that it has more to do with life chances than innate superiority.
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If we find a way to 'look inside the brain' and through a series of CAT type test make the decision on who is worthy of a selective education through this alone? Are the truly bright by degree also more motivated, hard working and independent? Many schools use the CAT type test to identify the truly gifted anyway I believe. Is this the fairest system?
'Worthy of a selective education'? Ouch. The 'fairest system' would of course be one where opportunity was granted equally to all, regardless of supposed 'giftedness' - which I happen to be very sceptical of, as a concept, even though all of my children have at various points been identified as such.

I have quoted from this report before, and of course international league tables are a nasty reflection of the neoliberal marketisation of education and need to be handled with care, but:
Quote:
successful Pisa countries also invest something else in their education systems: high expectations for all of their students. Schools and teachers in these systems do not allow struggling students to fail; they do not make them repeat a grade, they do not transfer them to other schools, nor do they group students into different classes based on ability
OECD Report, 'Does Money Buy Strong Performance in PISA?' (My emphasis)

So even if (which I don't believe it should be) our aim is to produce 'top class' students who do well in international league tables, we are wrong to believe that segregating by ability will ever achieve this. And for the record, neither will small classes:
Quote:
size of the class is unrelated to the school system’s overall performance; in other words, high-performing countries tend to prioritise investment in teachers over smaller classes.
ibid.

It's very easy to get carried away with the idea that there are special children who need special educational provision. And so there are. But they tend to be the ones with severe physical or cognitive impairments, whose parents generally have to fight tooth and nail to get any kind of specialist equipment, education or care for them.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:49 am 
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Interesting points.

I suspect the skills needed in the past to assimilate & analyse etc will evolve - technology will play a greater part & the way we present information is going to fundamentally change. In short we may not need to be skilled with words & deduce in quite the same way.

Amber - the article & other links above suggest the 'gifted' are different & so need a different pathway rather than me personally.

Fully agree that all should be appropriately enriched in an ideal world- a few years back in a school I knew well a child was given their own, personal literature mentor if you like. She'd discuss books with him & he'd prepare a response - she took him off piste & had remarkable titles - many long forgotten - on her list. She was extraordinary & fascinating. I did wonder why more were not deemed able to benefit. (Child was in G&T scheme).


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:58 am 
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Kingfisher, I am in agreement with your views. I am very sad to see selectives abandoning English as part of their entrance exam and hope that my dd's school will not follow suit. It is also sad to see parents posting in the GCSE options forum that they have dc's who want to choose subjects where they don't write essays. How sad that they somehow have been put off this.

Amber, I am puzzled as to why you think it is arrogant of parents to want their dcs to be challenged and work with a motivated peer group? I would have thought that that would be the goal of any parent for their child's education. Why would you think it is because they want to get one over on the next person? Surely they just want their dc to have the maximum opportunity to learn without having their learning negatively impacted by others.

I know you think that mixed ability is the way to go and that "research" proves it. I however wonder how many hours the "researchers" have actually spent in a mixed ability classroom. In my opinion mixed ability does not work and can be miserable for those who are not challenged and for those who cannot keep up with the pace of the class. Nobody questions streaming in learning a sport like swimming so why does the same logic not apply to academic subjects?

Do your dc's spend all their time in mixed ability classes? Have you really only good experiences from this?

As to smaller classes of course this gets better results. A friend of my dd's was removed from their Year 1 class of 30 to go to an indy school where there were 12 dds in the class who each read with the teacher three times a day. Of course there was a dramatic improvement in her reading ability over my dd's who did not read once with the teacher all term. In classrooms of 30 there are lots of things going on that the teacher does not pick up on. If you were offered a free choice of two classes for your dc to go on , one of 30 and one of 12 would you really not want your dc to go in the class of 12? Do you really believe it would have no impact on their academic performance? DG


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:09 pm 
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In haste: I didn't say 'arrogant'. I just genuinely don't get why parents are so concerned that their children spend their school lives being 'stretched and challenged'. There are more important things than that. I like mine to be decent all-round citizens, with good general knowledge, a range of interests and a healthy attitude to others. They stretch and challenge themselves as I believe their work ethic is well-developed; other children do annoy them sometimes, as I am sure they annoy others too. That's life. They aren't going to get a job in an office for gifted people - they have to live on the same planet as everyone else. Better get used to it.

Research vs anecdote - the 'research' which you put in inverted commas, I assume to challenge its validity, is widespread, international and well-regarded. That your friend's child did better in a class of 12 does not invalidate it. And actually I can truthfully answer your question by telling you that 2 of my children were in very small classes briefly at an independent school, where they were as miserable as sin. They are now in big classes and much happier. That is my anecdotal evidence.

Wrt mixed ability teaching - it is very hard to find in this country - as even tiny tots are ability grouped. Teachers aren't trained in it in the way that they are in successful countries.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:29 pm 
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Quote:
I just genuinely don't get why parents are so concerned that their children spend their school lives being 'stretched and challenged'. There are more important things than that. I like mine to be decent all-round citizens, with good general knowledge, a range of interests and a healthy attitude to others.


Irrespective of the future, some people enjoy being stretched and challenged. And it's hard for a parent to say that they don't want their child to be happy.

I know that's a bit off point, but education is allowed to be about the here and now rather than what it will allow you to do in the future. And all those other things can happen alongside being stretched and challenged.

_________________
The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
Dr Seuss


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:08 pm 
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DAOGroupie I thought your comment about children avoiding GCSEs that involved essays was interesting. To go off track a little here:

I wonder if we're not at a turning point in education somehow? We have a growing keyboard culture, children that are immersed in text speak and facebook etc. Maybe the art of writing - as we were taught it - is being lost? Cursive is being phased out - at least in the States. Perhaps there is value in the new? Things are evolving in ways we don't fully understand yet and at an unprecedented speed. Children are not used to sitting for any length of time crafting and focusing in traditional ways. It's possible that fairly soon classic literature will be beyond the majority - perhaps it is already? Homework seems to be increasingly bite-sized and project based. If it isn't fun it seems turgid and takes too long children apparently switch off. Ipads are being rolled out in some schools from the Infants up - all of this will have an effect. In the best case scenario this technology will be a useful tool blending the old and the new but I fear that we will lose something in the process. Perhaps soon many children coming up from primary school won't be able to sit to concentrate for long enough to research and write an essay (at least in the traditional sense)? The 'new' essay may have graphics and a soundtrack. Simplicity and clarity prized (we'll soon forget all the archaic long words & prized literary devices of yesteryear) and you'll put it in a sexed up package with vivid colour and flashy graphics. Maybe this isn't so bad? (personally my heart sinks at the thought) but trying to give another perspective. (If you want to push it how far away are we from a 'Wall E' generation where we float around on mobile sofas every day having lost our intellect and physical fitness etc :)?).

In the 1860s I believe Latin and Greek were all that was taught in the best schools. They were taught for ten years and then for another four years after that for those that went on to University. They were thought to train the intellect and the character. You picked up all the other subjects in the holidays and largely by osmosis. Eventually that changed and now are they are generally thought niche, difficult and inaccessible by the majority. (Realise that only a minority went to the schools I describe in 1860s) Perhaps I am making some wild leaps and analogies here but there might be something in it?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:54 pm 
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Well I am fighting my own little rearguard action by introducing classical literature to my students. We did Treasure Island this week and many of the boys wanted to read the book just from seeing a small passage, the girls found it a bit gory! I was astonished that in three classes totalling 25 students not one had read the book or even heard of it or seen the film or the children's series. We went to see the fabulous version with Keith Allen as Long John Silver in the West End which was packed. Who with I wonder now? I have another class in a different location closer so lets see if they are more well read. We are doing The Call of the Wild this week and the Water Babies next week. I don't expect any of them will have heard of either of these. I certainly hope classical literature will survive modern technology but will the classical literature comprehension survive Durham CEM? DG


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:43 pm 
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technology may eventually help with classical literature. My well read 10 year old had a kindle for christmas, all she has on it are FREE books which happen to be the classics. so far she has read anne of green gables, little women, 5 children and it and the water babies plus her reading books from school ( minimum 100 pages per week and i think pretty grown up books for her age) . so hopefully as long as parents do not fill the available technology with games and trash it may spur on a new generation to love the classics for free


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