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I’m making this comment before I read the article, just because I’ve been waiting for an education related post.

Many years ago My step daughter was struggling in math and she was around maybe middle school or high school age and she was an algebra. She was basically failing after the first couple of weeks.

Coincidentally, there was an article that came out in the LA times I think, talking about how the main reason the kids were failing algebra was because they had never learned the multiplication tables to mastery.

So I had my stepdaughter, and I quizzed her, and I found out that she had never really learned the multiplication tables. She had learned a bunch of these little finger tricks and count by fives, but she just didn’t have them committed to memory.

Coincidentally, at the same time, she had two younger siblings that were in third grade, who were doing the multiplication tables. So I ended up buying this flashcards set off Amazon. It had every single multiplication fact cards separately.

I started drilling both my third graders and my older child on the multiplication tables. We made it like a game. We would play war with it. If they got it right immediately, they would take the card. We were drill at the dinner table just all day I mean it was just a thing they would quiz each other.

Within a couple of weeks, all of my kids knew their multiplication tables by rote memory. I then started quizzing them backwards. I would give them a number and then tell them to give me all the factors that can go into that number like for instance 24 would be two, 12, three, four, eight.

Wouldn’t you know it, within two months my older, daughters, algebra grade went up to an A.

In fact, since then, every single one of my kids has been an absolute mathematics whiz.

This whole incident actually got me into educational blogging for a couple of years. In fact, my blog is still out there on the inter-webs.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that story. I’m gonna go read Matt’s article now.

I almost forgot… The point of the story is parents you cannot trust the education system.

Hopefully there’s not too many errors in this post, I dictated the whole thing while waiting for a plane at the gate in Raleigh Durham.

Rory

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Multiplication tables: the phonics of math

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It really is one of the genuinely bizarre moves that we've thoroughly deemphasized any basic fact memorization. I'm like bribing my students with ice cream sandwiches to memorize their facts because it's not even in my curriculum. I think a lot of the basis for math that looks at how numbers work together and real world problem solving is good but 3rd graders who still can't subtract reliably in March is annoying as hell.

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I semi-seriously blame the periodic table. Actual practicing chemists keep a table on the wall so they can look at the facts on it! But the pendulum swung too far the other way--chemists also know that oxygen is an oxidizing agent without having to consult what period it's in.

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Obligatory nitpick: periods don't tell you whether an element is an oxidizer; for that, you need a really fancy period table which displays electronegativity. Tellurium is also a chalcogen, but a (very mild) reducing agent.

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Please speak English in the Comments. And don’t go making up words to sound smart.

I am joking… but seriously, I didn’t take Chemistry and have no idea what any of this means.

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I have never taken Chemistry and literally have no idea what the periodic table means. I do know most of the two letter symbols for elements though.

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Someone watched Breaking Bad

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It is possible, of course, to overemphasize fact memorization, but yes the American educational system is a long way off from that.

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Best teacher my kids had, had the whole class chant a random times table group every morning. 3x1 is 3, 3x2 is 6, etc…

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Songs are even better. Thinking I would fail, I smoked two blunts right before the AP exam for US History thinking I would fail (teacher was varsity football coach, he didn’t teach so I would blatantly copy more diligent students’ exams the whole year). But by god, in 3rd grade we had to do a patriotic school play where we had to learn a song with all the presidents in order, I remembered it, and then the essay part was on the Sixties, which was the interesting part of US History that I had read about in the textbook on my own. I got credit for a full year of history in college bc of that dumb song, which I still know.

Also, the Fish song for German…I haven’t used German in any capacity for 20 years and only had it 3 years of high school and a year of college, but by God I know the appropriate article and adjective endings if I know the case and gender of the nouns and I learned that song in 9th grade.

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The memory value of rhyme and meter is also why preliterate cultures tend to tell their stories in verse. Epics like The Iliad would be virtually impossible to memorize in prose.

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My Latin 1 teacher taught us verb endings with the Mickey Mouse song:

-o. -s, -t, (M- I- C)

-mus, (K-E-Y)

-tis, (M-O-U)

-nt (S-E)

14 years later and I still remember it.

Also, Wakko's States and Capitals song has come up in my brain so many times over my life, but it was a godsend in 4th grade when they tested us on them:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSvJ9SN8THE

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Stealing this! Elementary school teacher, HUGE fan of math facts.

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Feel free. It’s 100% true. I honestly was blown away when I discovered that math facts to automaticity weren’t required.

Even crazier that it was pretty easy fix. My kids loved the flash cards.

We would start with a fact group. Then I would shuffle them, and then they had a split second to answer. If they did. They kept card. Any hesitation the card went back into the deck. Then they kept going until they held all cards. (They won).

Once they were able to win within any reshuffles we moved onto next fact group.

But… we would always deal on the previous fact groups occasionally.

My kids loved it. I would make a big deal out of losing.

15-minutes a day. 4-6 weeks, they would be spitting them out.

After they had memorized all facts, I would start playing game in reverse.

I would flash a number. (Say 24). And they would have to spit out all combinations. 1x24, 2x12, 3x8, 4x6. This helped them with long division and eventually Algebra.

We would also chant the facts in the car while driving.

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Mar 19, 2023·edited Mar 19, 2023

I love the factor factor haha. I have kids practice math facts at home with a deck of cards playing war. I call it factor war, you can also do addend war. I absolutely required math fact to automaticity. That said it was really triggering to a lot of parents! I got bitched out for writing "are you studying?" on a times test once. I ended up doing time tests like this: I would set a timer and kids were on the honor system to write their time. When they did 100 in 5 minutes they tested out and could do something else during time tests. If there's one thing that I could make parents do at home it would be practice math facts. It really needs parental involvement for many kids.

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Rote memorization is the basis of all knowledge. Remember that.

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Every time you hear people in suits talking about "skills-based education," they mean "make more working peasants."

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I don’t hear “skills based education” I hear “project based inquiry” which means… put smart kids in groups with struggling kids and give them a common grade so we can hide the education gaps.

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Maybe we'll also get to see some more smart kids get bullied the way they used to in the '80s. Take them down a few pegs - they need it.

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Yes. Bullying in person has become a long lost art. Back in my day bullying involved wedgies and being stuffed in lockers. Todays bullies only know how to do it on instagram. One more way in which our kids aren’t learning critical life skills.

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Make Wedgies Great Again

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My 16-year old daughter is basically forced to tutor other kids. The teacher even has her grade papers. I swear to got.

I hate the group project movement.

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At least it prepares you well if you want to go to business school. That's practically all they do there.

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Exactly. Schools are indoctrination camps for wage slavery and authoritarianism. The only genuinely progressive goal is to shut them down - the truest education is found on the streets.

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Schools by definition cause unequal outcomes. The only true equality is feral anarchy in which we all kill each other with sticks.

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Only a very large man would think of this as equality. You need to check your wingspan privilege.

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But…. It teaches cooperation when two or three smaller people enter into a pact to kill the larger guy before turning on each other.

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Fun fact, did you know that MMA fighting with sticks has been a thing for the last 30 years? They call it Dog Brothers, I'm a big fan. Check out one of their latest 'gatherings' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnYKDQetpIg&t=55s

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Better yet… make kids memorize Lord of the Flies!

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I sort of doubt there's anything uniquely important about multiplication memorization--rather, that seems like one facet of a boringly obvious and yet under-appreciated concept. If you try to build on shaky foundations, you're going to have crap outcomes.

We had to write haikus in fourth grade. If I'd had a less-than-firm grasp on how to sound out syllables, that would have been endlessly frustrating and I'd have withdrawn from English learning. If I'd been iffy on basic calculus before taking differential equations, same deal.

Anyhoo, holding kids back seems like a sadly under-utilized and pretty easy lever to pull in our education system. Of course, to decide who to hold back, *you have to evaluate where they are relative to their peers and class exit/success criteria*, which I think is pretty central to The Fine Article's thesis.

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Yes there is as far as Algebra and multiplication. I will explain.

1. Multiplication is the opposite of factoring

2. Humans have a limited working memory

3. Algebra is based pretty much on factoring. (Finding two factors of multiple terms and figuring out which combinations add up to a certain number)

4. Multiplication to mastery is a prerequisite to step #3. To try and figure out the possible factors of a number and do #3 is simply to complex for vast majority of people.

Now obviously you have to lear to add, subtract all sorts of other rules.... but it’s multiplication which is absolutely at the core of Algebra.

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How does that remain useful the second you need to factor something beyond multiples of twelve?

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Unless the factors are both prime you can probably break it down somewhat anyway. And even long form multiplication requires knowing your multiplication tables up to 10.

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Classroom algebra relies on things that are easy to factor--usually the x term is less than or equal to 12. So it's pretty solvable if you know your factorizations. Real-world algebra is done by computers.

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Oh. I am not arguing that Algebra is useful. But someone decided it was essential for HS and College so it’s a gatekeeper class. And to pass it…. Factoring is multiplication in reverse.

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I’d guess that kids realize and welcome the almost tangible fact that their parents really value being able to handle the multiplication tables and, by extension, other academic skills. Think of all the time spent helping kids remember words for a spelling test!

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Good point. It’s not like knowing your multiplication tables helps with multiplying and dividing larger numbers.

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The fundamental, core flaw in our education system is presenting kids with material inappropriate to their knowledge/ability level. This mostly manifests as kids being advanced way beyond their ability. Holding kids back, preferably on a subject by subject basis is by far the most obvious thing we should be doing way way more of.

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I agree with this. Smart people make the mistake of thinking because they know a lot of things we need to teach every kid a lot of things. We end up with a curriculum that is a mile wide but an inch thick.

Math is like this with so called “new math” in which the idea was to teach the concept of math, without teaching fundamentals.

My kids would be taught 10 different ways of doing long division but wouldn’t master any of them.

Teachers hated me. When my kids had homework I made them do problems using the traditional algorithms. I would write a note and tell teachers it wasn’t happening in my household. I have raised 9-kids. Since I became a math asshole, all but one kid scored in the 90th percentile in math. The one who didn’t (the step-daughter from above... the oldest) still was in 75th on HS tests (used to be 30th in elementary).

It’s the bill I would die on.

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Absolutely.

The best teacher I had was a high school chemistry teacher that made us do all math by hand. The dumb kids hated it and barely passed even with a significant curve, but I guarantee those who passed had a better fundamental understanding of math at the end. Doing pH, gas laws, and equilibrium problems by hand, knowing how to estimate to the right # of significant figures and extrapolate logs. All tests cumulative and never a cheat sheet. It was brutal, but we were all the better for it.

For the record, I think kids should be kept in math dungeons from 1st grade on…

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I think is true and needs to actually be applied at a much more skill by skill level. My daughter's public elementary was montessori and they each worked on skills at their level until they mastered it and moved on. They did independent work or small group work at their own level. My daughter is very smart but some thiing came easier to her than others so she would sometime stay on one skill for quite a while and then race through others. I think it makes a lot more sense than holding people back a whole year or moving them ahead a whole year. In my district the Gifted program is all or nothing and moves kids ahead two years in all subjects. The reports from middle and highschool teachers was that were only superficially ahead and had no real depth or mastery.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

The data on holding kids back is pretty grim though. I don't have it in front of me but I've sat through the workshops. I like that I don't have to do that as a 3rd grade teacher, it's just here's the state test, and here are the alternative tests options. Pass one way this is not subjective they're passing or they're not but it's not up to me.

I think one of the truly strange NCLB choices was they made the cut year 3rd grade and not first. Second and third grades are the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. The year that an on-level student is supposed to learn how to read is first but we let them get to a point in the system where we're not longer building the reading fundamentals before we yank them down. Then we have administrators insist that we teach every student the curriculum they paid for and we teach them on grade level and score for proficiency not growth.

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You imply something could have made me not hate diff eq.

Citation needed.

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Citation: once you start digging deep in PDEs, you long for the good old days of ODEs.

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I honestly don't even know what the point of the ODE class was. When's the last time you saw a Wronskian?! I'm increasingly of the mindset that all math classes should be taught by physicists and engineers. 😂

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The “one weird trick” about education is memorizing stuff. It’s the hardest thing for a lot of students because it takes time and dedication to learn something so well you can recall a series of specific facts from memory in relation to a question.

If you have a turbulent home environment, it’s not easy to get quiet time to do that memorization work or to be alone with your thoughts long enough without becoming uncomfortable to do that work.

Great point Rory!

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What’s funny is the same people who play down memorization swear by the 10000 hours of practice thing to be an expert.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

On a more serious note - this isn’t unique to education. In anything in your life and that of your dependents you have to keep an eye out, especially when things go badly. Dealing with medical problems is the classic case. Of course you need to rely on your doctors directions but not blindly, esp of treatment doesn’t seem to work you can read things yourself and then ask the doctor about them, go to second opinion etc.

This however is just life. I don’t think it’s helpful to sum it up as “you can’t trust the x system”. It’s rather that you don’t trust blindly.

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I mean, most modern systems work pretty well when the outside inputs are informed and committed to the same mission. It's when people think that school replaces parenting that we have problems.

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Similarly I had a math professor in college tell us that the key to succeeding in calculus was to have your algebra drilled to the point where it’s automatic. A lot of learning rests on making the “lower level” skills feel easy so you can use your working memory for the new stuff.

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Damn. I’m a math guy. But learning Algebra to automation is like next level lol.

But I am assuming he meant learn all the rules and formulas and tricks.

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I see it a little differently to Chris's professor. The key to getting good at calculus is working through a lot of practice problems. There are lots of tricks (e.g. substitute variables, factorization and several more) and even a decent student won't know which trick works best without doing enough practice problems to recognize the patterns. If you know your algebra then you can do more calculus problems in the time available, and the whole thing is easier. In the course of doing twenty practice calculus problems a day for several weeks, the student will get good as they can be / need to be at algebraic manipulation. I wouldn't attempt to learn calculus without having a decent grasp of algebra. But I also wouldn't take time to practice algebra skills before taking calculus -- just dive in and be prepared lots of purposeful practice of algebra skills in the course of building calculus proficiency.

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Order of operations is really important to learn by rote and to be comfortable applying.

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My grandfather, born in 1880, used to do times tables in his head to put himself to sleep. Most of his neighbors were sawing off likewise. Why America became great. More to Rory's point, an awful lot of education takes place in the home, and can't be outsourced to schools.

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A couple things. 1, your experiment didn't control for whether it was the memorization or the amount of time a parent was now devoting to his kids' education. 2. My kids do quite a bit of memorization at school. My high schooler has stacks of history and math index cards, are my kids somehow the only ones memorizing? 3. When we think back to schooling, unpleasant things immediately return to memory. Our generation may recall memorization the same way our parents recalled walking ten miles through the snow to get to a one room school house... in other words, every generation romanticizes how tough they had it. As MY points out, scores across the board have gone up over time even if the gap hasn't changed. 4. Distrusting your kids' educators is really just saying "pay attention to how your kids are doing." Nobody disagrees.

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I don’t know about your school. I am absolutely a sub-par parent. Spending time teaching multiplication facts as pretty much the extent of my dedication to my kids education. It wasn’t an experiment. It was simply making up for a flawed education system.

Anyone who doesn’t understand how multiplication facts doesn’t relate to Algebra was either bad at Algebra or takes for granted that kids learn multiplication tables to mastery.

I honestly was shocked when I found out they weren’t insisting on mastery anymore.

I sort of don’t really understand your point.

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> I am absolutely a sub-par parent.

Citation needed.

Seriously, you sound like a great parent based on all the comments about your kids.

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Let’s say Im a hands off parent. Im to busy to do helicoptering.

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I'm not trying to make an argument, but what I'm saying is you might be putting more weight on the flash cards as the reason your kids' scores went up. My guess is your kids' grades went up in every subject, not just math. I think you were being an attentive, proactive parent. My other observation was simply anecdotal, I too hear kids don't do memorization of fundamentals and yet in my kids' case, I don't see that. So, I question how much that is happening. Anyway, as you know from other comments over the years, I'm a big Rory fan and I think your kids are gonna do great.

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I can promise you it wasn’t the time I spent helping kids. It absolutely was learning multiplication tables.

Simply put, I am a below average parent who really only cared about multiplication tables because it was my “thing” after 3rd grade, it was hands off.

I just want to make sure that you don’t underestimate the point that memorization of multiplication tables absolutely is the key to Algebra.

When I see arguments like... it was really the time... it gives teachers and the schools the ammunition to not teach to mastery... they then blame their failings on oh.... it’s because he or she gets no support at home. Sure it might contribute... but that doesn’t excuse the obligation to teach some very important basics like phonics and math facts.

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Not arguing kids shouldn't learn multiplication tables, but standardized test math scores (throw out covid years) have been going up over time. If there has been this great dereliction of fundamentals in math teaching, it is not reflected in the tests. I worry we extrapolate from what we see in our kids to the whole shebang. Parental involvement is a well-researched factor, but I never said don't memorize math facts. I asked are you sure that was the only piece? You assure me that it is. I accept that. Good job on you for catching and correcting the problem. But where we disagree is what you're calling "math games", I'm calling "parental involvement." Tomayto, tomahto, I guess. Anyway, I'll let you have the last word since it was your post. Best.

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Sorry John. I don’t mean to be argumentative. Few things get my blood boiling. This is one of them se subjects. Lol.

I’m do get where u are coming from.

As to standardized test scores.... yes they are rising. But actual IQ scores are declining at the same time.

I think it’s a matter of different skills.

The math facts issue is important to me because Algebra is a key gatekeeper in HS. It’s also where u see some of the greatest educational gaps.

Middle class kids have parents who sort of make up some failings of schools. (Especially reading and basic math).

The thing is, these backbones are pretty simple things to drill and teach in school. It really isn’t time consuming. Just about every kid could master math multiplication facts given an hour of practice a day over say 6-weeks.

I am an anti-homework advocate personally. I think if done right, schools should be able to teach everything during the school day.

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I would contend that memorization is highly useful even controlling for those things. So I’m Florida the state typically has given a test with an average of 2.5 minutes per question.

Now a student maybe can accurately create an array for every multiplication fact but this uses up a lot of valuable time that can be used on the mentally tricky parts of the question. Sure they could create a hto chart and decompose their model for a subtraction fact but this leaves students with very little time to struggle on harder parts of the work.

In ELA having great phonics skills and a wide range of sight words of exceptions allows students to use their time on the comprehension because of decoding is mostly something that they can do with automaticity.

Surely some of this correlates with parental involvement but there really is no substitute for a good floor of memorized facts words and letter sounds. No they don’t need to memorize arcana but arithmetic to 10 or 12 letter sounds, regular and. common irregularities of written English.

Parents could spend all kinds of time on their kid’s education majoring in a minor and that won’t do it alone.

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Timed tests really suck, especially for difficult topics. I’ve always done pretty well on standardized tests - especially the verbal, but usually respectable at math - but man I don’t think I’ve ever finished the math (and, for the ACT, the science too) portion of a standardized test, and oh boy does that get worse with age. I’m back in school now and thank FSM I get accommodations for 1.5 the time on tests, and frequently I still am unable to finish my exams.

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Great point.

Just like with phonics in reading, the boring and rote-learning stuff has been over-de-emphasized.

There is a (mostly good) focus in education today about making learning fun and getting kids exciting about being life long learners.

But the hate has obviously gone too far.

I get annoyed they don’t hammer in spelling the way they used to either, but I guess we have spell check now…

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I never memorized my multiplication tables, and my mathematics grades suffered for it. Once we were able to use calculators, math became my best subject.

Good for you for tutoring your kids that way!! I wish someone had helped me that way.

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My parents used a similar system to teach the "times table" and my wife & I used the same method for our kids. I never realized that the system wasn't universal!

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Whatever happened to Schoolhouse Rock?

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It lives on in my mind.

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I’m confused, my Chicago public schools educated kids all did or are doing the ‘times tables’. And we have a huge set of flash cards at home (wife a teacher in CPS). Is it really true as is stated below that we have thoroughly deemphasized basic fact memorization?

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It isn’t universal. But as Andrew said, it really depends on the teacher. there are certainly curriculums and standards out there that either don’t require or de-emphasize mastery.

And remember, I am advocating knowing the basic math facts to automaticity. Instant recall. No fingers. Without split second.

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For sure, and I get your point and agree. There definitely differences even among schools in the same district. My wife pronounces our schools curriculum ‘ok’ with a good teacher. I also found it a little ironic that MY holds up CPS an example of *bad* trends in education. For instance the school we started with (NTA) was regularly demonstrating growth of 2 grade levels per year with a population of very poor, black kids…many of whom are the descendants of a nearby housing project that was torn down 20 years ago.

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Mar 17, 2023·edited Mar 17, 2023

All the curriculum I’ve seen in math, HMH, Pearson and Engage New York all put far more emphasis on providing many strategies and to the extent fluency is provided it is usually something teacher supplemented (Ie paid out of pocket for). The state test emphasized problem solving far above mere numerical fluency. I will grant this is highly regional and school bound so maybe these are all just poor math curricula and one could interpret the standards to really stress rapid fluency.

Yes I have huge sets of flash cards for all four operations. I paid for those with my own money. I have lots of activities, and prizes for improving again that i supplemented my curriculum with out of my pay check.

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I deeply appreciate this story.

I spent a little time teaching math and the obvious and overwhelming conclusion I walked away with, no stats needed, was that parents are the core determinant of a child’s success. There are some lucky people who are born with a suitable disposition and a sequence of teachers that like them and cultivate them, who can succeed even in bad circumstances. You’ll usually find a grand parent or mentor supplementing the shitty mom or dad though.

As a matter of math education specifically, this is a really great example of how abstraction develops in the brain. You could give these kids calculators, and they would still struggle to do the algebraic manipulation. Only when the neural pathways are primed to receive the abstract concepts with concrete practice do kids really fully grasp mathematics.

That said I think the caution to parents is misplaced. It’s not about trust, it’s about responsibility. Parents, your child’s education is primarily *your* responsibility. Be engaged and make smart choices to fill the gaps the school leaves.

But finally, we should really just take the whole dilapidated structure down to its foundation and start again. Rather than lecture in the school house (which is incompatible with the average kid’s biology), we should take a Kahn academy approach to lectures, and focus on practice while with the teacher. After all, kids are already watching too much screen time, and most HS lectures are identical. Thousands of teachers are saying the same shit right now, so wasteful. Redirect some of that natural screen attention to a video with different content. And teachers are the ones who are supposed to know to solve the hard problems. Parents can then just focus on accountability, which would be much better.

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That being said, I totally agree that parenting is the parent’s responsibility. We should absolutely require prospective parents to run a gauntlet of process proving their fitness to be parents.

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Natural screen attention is the lack thereof

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That’s crazy. We need to eliminate screens altogether (and calculators) and go back to the chalkboard.

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That’s why Indians do do poorly when then come to the United States and their academic performance is so far behind everyone else’s. It’s also why they are underrepresented in tech fields and Silicon Valley and why no company wants to use their H1B visas on Indian workers. (Sic)

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It's a joke, but you're also seeing a rather elite sample of Indian students here.

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There’s no question that there are many many smart people in India but I’ve worked with several that complained about their college education being too focused on rote memorization of facts.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

None in med school then?

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Kendi’s views on this matter are completely unfalsifiable and therefore support perfectly the interests of basically everyone in the current post-liberal, leftist, and labor wings of the democratic coalition.

They cannot be proven wrong as any data or evidence which might do so is just as easily read as emphasis of the thesis that all children have a kind of intelligence but only some are measured well and rewarded for it.

And therefore expecting performance out of anyone sssociated with the education system is a pointless mirage in service of continued inequality.

That notion is actually spreading like cancer well beyond the initial racially-tinged version Kendi proposed; every parent wants to believe their kid is brilliant, and now they have a new lever to use.

Of course, like the entire menagerie of post-liberal ideas on individual achievement and merit, they’re completely bankrupt and unworkable.

But they’re a nice, perfect even, excuse for failure that works best among precisely the people who would once have wanted to hold urban governments and school systems to account.

Ugh.

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It will be interesting, in an important but unpleasant way, when this worldview collides with "why the hell can't my differently-intelligent kid find/hold a job at a company that tries to make money?"

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And now you’ve stumbled upon the ultimate problem: capitalism.

/s, just in case

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GO BACK TO TWITTER, RANDALL

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You’re optimistic. I predict they *will* get jobs to which they’re not qualified and the economy will suffer.

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Good news is that millennials are a larger cohort and we won't retire just so that this incompetents can come and replace us :P

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Leave us late-30s millennials out of this--I feel like DEI is more of a Gen Z thing.

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My early-30s millennial coworkers say all the right DEI incantations and whatnot, but for the most part I don’t get the sense that they actually care all that much.

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There's plenty of millennials all in on DEI too, and a number of boomers as well.

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I doubt the importance, personally. The widest acceptance is in the same crunchy-ass, non-rigorous demographics who have always produced failures to launch, and it's not like the urban schools are getting any worse. It's just preventing us from making serious stabs at improvement the way that should have been indicated by urban demographic and socioeconomic changes.

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I sub in WA state too. I feel this comment. Half of my students bumrushed the exit last week halfway through 4th period and the other half broke the ceiling?!? while I was trying to fruitlessly corral the others.

8th graders are monsters.

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Why is letting kids escape failing public schools that we refuse to fix hoping to be ineffective?

Should we wait another 50 years and fail millions more kids?

Schools either need to implement Roland Fryers reforms and fix the schools. Or let the kids go to other schools

https://www.econtalk.org/roland-fryer-on-educational-reform/

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deletedMar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023
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I think you’re right about what system that emerges, but at least the private schools don’t require an ed degree to teach a subject

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RemovedMar 17, 2023·edited Mar 17, 2023
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I'm pretty much not worried at all--the private sector is not a cohesive beast that can act as one, and those first offshoots that dabble in this will be swiftly out-competed and driven out of business. "Punctuality is white supremacy", okay Tema go back to your cube.

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And yet they’re all wasting money on dei officers it seems?

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I've never worked anywhere with a DEI officer, and anecdotally (I want to say from Josh Barro's twitter feed a few months ago), it's a bloodbath in those hallways now that interest rates aren't zilch and Silicon Valley has lost infinite access to free money.

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It’s not just in tech, though. I work for a big company (not in tech) that has a DEI officer, though the DEI stuff is mainly an appendage of HR. The rolled out some annoying online “learning experience” BS a few months ago but I’ve been on paternity leave so I’ve been able to ignore it so far.

One thing to note is that companies that want to be seen as “progressive” will embrace this stuff alongside more tangible benefits like the aforementioned paternity leave, generous vacation benefits and flexible scheduling. I’d actually say the trade-off is worth it. That said, my sense is that DEI stuff is much more pronounced in academia, education and non-profits than it is in the corporate world.

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That’s a very good point that gives some room for optimism.

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Private company leaders are typically hired for their capacity to hit the metrics that the board and/or shareholders set. While folks may virtue signal at their happy hours, they will invest their money where it gets a return. If this ideology is profitable, it will be accepted. If it is not, then it won’t.

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So I want to go a little inside baseball as a charter school teacher. A couple of things that seem to me to have been really bad for measuring outcomes which I think is important.

1) The choice of proficiency and not growth as a metric is just insane. If a student comes to me in 3rd grade and they don't know their letter sounds and I get them to read on a late first grade early 2nd level according to NCLB this is a failure. I've never met a teacher who objects to a Did they learn anything while in your room in absolute terms evaluation. But gaps are just an insane metric because to fix them we'd have to not only get them proficient we'd have to not advance the excellent students as much. That I got evaluated for years based on things like percentile rank as if I can excise the possibility of a student being low relative to their peers is insane.

2) Only downward accountability, this is a big one. There are a lot of really bad charter school principals. On two occasions my school has seen enormous losses in staff followed by a letter grade decline (a B to a C) and it takes years to repair this damage. That they don't suffer a real repetitional damage for this and just get another Principal or assistant principal job making several times what a teacher makes without needing to go back into the classroom and start the ladder over really makes it hard to take accountability seriously.

3) Super teachers, I debated including this one in the list. The kind of teachers that the charter school movement wants, especially that you see in Waiting For Superman almost universally aren't sustainable. Teaching can't be based on people who are looking for an exit to an administrative position or some other career. There's not enough of these people coming into the system who want to work 75 hours a week and spend 20 percent of their salary on their classroom but that's who the charter movement wants. They do exist, but normalizing these type of expectations isn't something you can have if you want stable very good results over the long haul.

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I worked in a charter school for a few years before returning to public schools. I loved how many above average teachers I worked with. I didn’t love how many of them left within three years of working at the school. I didn’t love getting graded on a metric that tried to account for how I taught many more FRL kids than other schools in the network by using growth scores, because the growth I had from some kids using my evidence-based, rigorous teaching practices was more than overcome by kids who had learned nothing for 10 years still learning nothing.

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By gettin graded, i mean getting my pay docked.

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Eww wtf? Not cool

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

Do you really not get evaluated based on growth? We talk about it all the time and it is a bid deal in our school's rechartering in a couple years. We need to show year over year growth on the CAASPP, especially among particular demographic groups, and that's probably the single most important factor for our state and district evaluators.

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I had to look through the vam guidelines in Florida. It starts in 4th and is suspended this year since this is a new standards and test year. For pk-3 the years I’m certified for schools can use many options. My last school had an alternative test, Star. This year I’m just using my state test since they gave a pre but that pre wasn’t adaptive that it saw what the student knows prior to grade level so 🤷‍♂️.

No one appears to know what this first year is going to be like.

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I think value added is the right metrics to use to evaluate teachers

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every value added metric that's been put into practice has failed in some spectacular fashion

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Nothing is perfect. But it's still the best way I've seen to evaluate

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"If a student comes to me in 3rd grade and they don't know their letter sounds..."

That student had *no business* being in 3rd grade. It's not your fault, just, aargh! Why were they not held back in 1st grade until they KNEW the letter sounds?!? smh

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Three reasons that I saw before the covid cherry on top of just passing everyone for two years and the equity concerns.

1--ESOL speakers in Osceola County Florida aren't allowed to be forcibly retained (as in without parental permission) for their first two years in the country. In a place that gets a lot of people floating in from Puerto Rico we get a reasonable number of first or 2nd graders starting off who we can't retain before 3rd.

2: If you can make a plausible argument that someone's failing is a result of their disability it's very hard to retain also.

3rd: No teachers When you have one or more than one quit in a year for a class it's basically impossible to expect a student to be retained even if they don't know their head from their ass. In my earlier post I talked about principals running off a huge chunk of the staff and there were a few kids who had up to 8 teachers in grades 1-3 even though they were in self contained classrooms (1 teacher for all core subjects). For all that people complain about teacher's unions not teaching I don't see public schools having the rate of quits we had in years we had poor administration.

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Thanks for the explanation.

It goes back to what I said in another comment: we (society) tend to look at being held back a grade as a punishment, and it's obviously unfair to punish a child for being an English learner or disabled or whatnot. But that's the wrong way to look at it! The way to look at it is, "We understand you're having difficulties learning this material, so we're going to give you extra time to learn it before you advance to more complicated material, which you can't understand without first mastering the basics." And if the disabled student will never be able to learn the material, no matter how many times they're held back, then they should not be in a regular classroom, period.

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I agree. School should be about school, not socialization. The kids who want to socialize should be beaten and starved to death, the rest forced to learn while shackled to desks and made to copy lines from books like the old days. I like only half mean that facetiously, school should be in the business of teaching kids concepts they wouldn’t otherwise learn

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So since nclb we’ve had this weird conversation at my school too many times to count. Should we retain them now or should we wait till they hit 3rd.

My thinking here is either this one weird cut year is dumb entirely or it’s past the point we can do anything useful. The incremental thing to do would be to look at if we made it can read by the end of first grade and advancing the added interventions down towards k and 1.

It may be that this is just a dumb idea to have one year where you need to take a pass fail battery of tests but I’d like to make sure that it’s not too late.

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Beyond year-round schooling and the state-mandated elimination of all unplanned pregnancies, I would love to see: at most 4 students per teacher when the students are far behind in reading or math. It’s a helluva lot easier to control a class of 4 (and even easier if you can make them pick their switch if they misbehave). It would be better in the early grades to have dedicated and trained paras for these students, there’s no need for a fully certificated teacher except to meet with the paras, take problem students if they are disruptive, and perhaps conduct weekly interviews and assessments. In fact, they should divide each grade in elementary school into groups of 4 and have maybe 8 certificated teachers per grade supervising say 25 paras who do most of the instruction, with no more than 4 students per para. And being a para for K-4 or K-5 should be a credential that you should be able to get in high school with at most one year of classes, if you do pretty well on tests of elementary school level reading and math. In fact, it could be a high school graduation requirement. 16-18 year olds could be perfectly good teachers to 4 elementary students given an inkling of maturity.

A lot of it really isn’t low ability as much as it is low levels of personal attention at both home and school and high levels of trauma and a fear of public shaming (and thus a reticence of many of these students to speak out to ask for help). To combat this, students should be placed in a group of people of similar standardized test scores, but neither the para nor the students should know where their group is in the pecking order to begin with, and teach as far in the curriculum as they possibly can during their allotted time with their students. I really think this should be the mode of teaching until algebra I is mastered fully, and furthermore that mastery of algebra could mostly be done by 5th grade in all but the dumbest students. Which is important if we desire to give students a chance to learn advanced math before their brains begin to decay.

Kids who need significant improvement in reading or are ELLs should probably get placed in groups of 4 with other groups needing improvement but with a certificated teacher with extra training in dyslexia.

With year-round schooling conducted in this way, we could get rid of grades (not letter grades, but the idea of a thing called 3rd grade) but continue to mandate complete mastery of reading and algebra before enrolling in bigger classes, and it just be normal for some students to clip through their coursework faster, entering “high school” classes at whatever age is suitable - that is, we could remove the pernicious aspects of cohortization while not allowing students to leave campus until, say, age 16. But have high school be more like college as well as vo-tech.

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And you can't demand that every kid get to the 80th+ percentile of ability. That's just how percentiles work!

The idea that it does not seem to have occurred to education administrators that absolute improvement is just as, if not more, important than "gaps" is insane.

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Obviously you can't demand something like that, but what you can do is demand that every kid gets a teacher with ability and dedication at what is currently the 80th percentile.

Of course, you could only get that if you paid finance-sector salaries for teachers, which would mean a huge increase in taxes.

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Somebody on the article about Biden's bad industrial policy made the good point that Democrats seem uninterested in first order policy outcomes. For example, spending money on public transport isn't primarily to improve public transport, it is to create jobs and train more staff.

Education seems to be in the same spirit. Spending more money on education should result in improvements on various metrics. When there are no improvements, there should be radical changes, or at least an admission of defeat and a curtailment of extra resources. Rather, education seems to be, once again, about make work. DEI consultants could be argued to be worse than useless in terms of their output - but then someone gets a job out of it, and isn't that what matters?

I am struck by the difference in attitude people have when it comes to sport. A team management that squanders resources in poor players and has poor tactics would be kicked out in short order. There is a constant drive away from incompetence and towards excellence. It is interesting that NFL teams did not need DEI consultants to tell them to hire a disproportionate number of black players.

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“A team management that squanders resources in poor players and has poor tactics would be kicked out in short order. There is a constant drive away from incompetence and towards excellence.”

- The Washington Commanders beg to differ

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Yeah, the problem there is that it's extremely hard to kick out the owner, and despite all the horrible things Dan Snyder has done, they still have yet to get rid of him. This could turn into a whole debate about promotion and relegation, which has its own problems.

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Easy answer--don't relegate the Washington Football Team, just relegate Dan Snyder.

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The correct way to understand the Democrat coalition isn't as the party of government, let alone good government. The Democrat party has become the party of government employees. The unifying position is maximizing the number of people receiving their income via acts of congress.

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"It is interesting that NFL teams did not need DEI consultants to tell them to hire a disproportionate number of black players."

They have, however, been stuck in a relentless controversy that their coaching hires are not of the same Black proportion as their player rosters.

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That's because most entry-level coaches aren't former NFL players. They are mostly former college players who didn't make it in the NFL. The list of former player-head coaches is like Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Kevin O'Connell, and DeMeco Ryans.

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Ron Rivera

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Then we'd have to look at the racial proportion at the college levels too, and I'd have to be convinced that the Black/White ratio is considerably different.

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MIKE VRABEL

Also, Dan Campbell was I want to say like a 3rd round pick who had a substantial career in the league, though frequently injured.

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Still, that's only 7 out of 32 coaches who are former NFL players. The coaching pipeline doesn't have a lot of former players.

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Yes, I’m a Steelers fan. They have 75% black coaches. With just a few more “diversity” hires they will have 100% black coaches. Then they will be 100% diverse.

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The Steelers should diversify their offense by getting rid of Matt Canada.

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What's interesting is the NBA has done much better on coaching diversity than the NFL has, even when you adjust for how a greater proportion of NBA players than NFL players are black. Also, for some reason there are way more black assistant coaches in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball than on offense.

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My view on the NBA vs. NFL thing is it's a lot easier to get an intervew/asst. job if you're the 7th or 8th guy out of 12 on a team, as opposed to even a starting strong safety if you were a mediocre player. Throw in the fact that NFL players wear helmets, and you have a bonus on top of the unconcious racisms that already exists.

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Your last sentence is absurd. The NFL went decades not utilizing black players as quarterbacks because the prevailing belief was that they weren't smart enough or weren't natural leaders, etc. More than a third of NFL teams had NEVER had a starting black quarterback prior to the year 2000.

Today, even though the ranks of professional football players are black, and that's been true for decades, the number of black coaches and head coaches is preposterously small.

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That last line always bothers me. Players aren't the pipeline for coaches. Different skills and different interests. McVay is obsessed with coaching. That's what makes a great coach.

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Talk a little bit about why “the ranks of professional football are black”, why is that?

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

Because a greater proportion of West Africans (as percentage of regional population) have a gene for fast-twitch muscle development than do people from other regions of the world.

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There's also the fact that there's a negative relationship between income and willingness to let you kids play football. And that football is often the only route to higher education for people in poor neighborhoods.

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" team management that squanders resources in poor players and has poor tactics would be kicked out in short order."

You say that, and yet, The Cleveland Browns exist. So do the Detroit Lions. So do the Washington Commanders. So do the Jacksonville Jaguars. So do the New York Jets....

Regardless, the whole analogy is silly. In sports we at least, like, know what victory looks like. How to measure "success" in education is far more nebulous.

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"Jacksonville Jaguars"

Poor example perhaps? They were a joke in the 21-22 season after hiring a fool as head coach. Then they fired him, replaced him with somebody better, and also got a good coach for their talented young quarterback. And they were much better in the 22-23 season.

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The Jaguars had been terrible long before their most recent setting of a new low with Urban Meyer. We'll see if he finally figured it out, but Shahid Khan has run under the radar as one of the worst owners in the NFL.

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Sometimes all it takes to destroy an incoherent worldview is encountering a well-phrased counterargument; for formerly-progressive me, the one that did in this particular "but the jerbs!" mindset was:

Jobs are a *cost*, not a *benefit*.

People often seem to flounder when cut adrift from employment, and that's bad! But reversing a bad thing doesn't necessarily make a good thing; David Graeber's concept of The Bullshit Job resonated so strongly with so many that I wonder if a degradingly pointless/pointlessly degrading job is necessarily better than not having one.

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that last sentence is a gem

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Years ago, the Atlantic reported that from the explosion in interest in improving the schools after Sputnik, expenditures in constant dollars tripled and test scores remained unchanged. Kansas City, under a court supervised consent decree, built a gold-plated system which left test scores unchanged. While these are but two of many possible examples, claiming as teachers' unions often do that if we spend more, better results will ensue, is nonsense. Perhaps there is no answer. The issues outside the schools may simply condemn us to mediocrity.

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"...Democrats seem uninterested in first order policy outcomes"

It's almost as if they care only about being elected - power for the sake of power.

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Kendi's stance seems like a cry of despair based on a loss of faith in progress. In any other area where one believes that progress is possible and worth the fight, even if slow and difficult, one does not abandon metrics or try to discount them.

Nobody trying to make progress on maternal/infant mortality, or decarbonizing energy, or raising the GDP, says "let's just stop measuring this."

I think Kendi is wrong to despair. But many people with beliefs about racial differences in ability agree with the despairing assessment for their own racist reasons.

The current silence about achievement gaps is the result of an accidental alliance between progressives feeling despair and racists feeling vindicated. This is not an alliance that any genuine anti-racist should want to make.

Instead, we should return to the slow boring, even if the depth of the hole advances by millimeters.

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Nobody says let's just stop measuring decarbonization, but there are absolutely people who will get very very mad at you if you suggest they should not despair over climate change. Many progressives have decided that progress is pointless. It's weird.

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Refusing to check the numbers out of despair is almost rational compared to the combination of despair plus an obsession with quantifying what you take to be inevitable catastrophe. For that second pathology, we now have the apt term, "doomscrolling."

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Despair has become a virtue signal. This is very bad for America.

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Agree on most of the above points. But I will propose a more cynical explanation:

Eliminating any discussion or analysis of an achievement gap makes it easier to integrate lower achieving groups into higher earning disciplines, especially those disciplines that necessarily track for ability.

If hard metrics are de-emphasized, then social objectives become more important. DEI initiatives in many respects are about reducing the important of objective outcomes in favor of promoting social goals.

People like Kendi believe society can be re-engineered to deliver the preferred outcome. And I think they are correct.

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Because the track record of people re-engineering society is so great?

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The structure of the economy writ large is far more important than the structure of school systems. Roughly half of workers will end up working in retail, food service, warehouse work, residential construction or as drivers. Education reform will not change this. It will never create a world where everyone becomes a doctor or a lawyer because someone has to harvest the produce and stock the shelves and drive the trucks. Indeed, some educators seem to think that the working class can basically be eradicated through education. I wonder why many working stiffs are leery of teachers, but I digress.

Education reform won’t make working at Wendy’s or WalMart any better. Helping working stiffs means helping blue collar employees live secure and satisfying lives, not trying to transform them into something else.

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"Education reform won’t make working at Wendy’s or WalMart any better. Helping working stiffs means helping blue collar employees live secure and satisfying lives, not trying to transform them into something else."

I agree with the last part, but a widespread improvement in education (and/or intelligence) should make most jobs - even blue collar ones - at least marginally better over time.

Like it has in the US for the last century and a half or so.

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I agree with this, but I think it's more relevant at higher educational levels - college and beyond. Maybe high school somewhat, at least in the sense of high school being thought of primarily as college prep. I have long held the view that college should be much cheaper, but fewer people should go.*

*This only really works if you see a massive rollback of credentialism in various fields. Vocational education has gotten a lot of attention lately, and I'm all for that, but I also think it should be normalized for people to take brief, college-like courses to learn a skill or gain a certification or even because they're just interested in something. Basically, far fewer people in traditional four-years-leads-to-a-bachelors-degree higher ed, less credentialism, and more flexibility in precisely how people educate themselves once reaching legal adulthood.

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Great point. There's some elasticity in the number of white collar jobs, but it's not infinite. We treat the college wage premium as a function of college, and it is to some extent. But once all the high paying jobs are filled, to oversimplify, all the "excess" college graduates have a very different employment picture ahead of them.

Even so, having a better education is probably highly correlated with becoming the warehouse supervisor or whatever even if you start in a blue collar job.

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having high intelligence and shoring up on time and sober is probably highly correlated with becoming a blue collar supervisor, regardless of education!

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But better education can make workers more productive even in those blue-collar or service-sector jobs. People who are more conscientious about their work habits, can communicate better with their supervisors and customers, and can think critically about their roles and tasks are more productive than those without those traits. Part of the reason working at Wendy's sucks is because it's designed to be done by the least common denominator; raising up the floor of who works there would probably make it more tolerable.

And people with more background knowledge about history, economics, science, etc. can be more informed voters and citizens, helping lead our country forward overall.

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The obvious (and correct!) answer is we should try and educate everyone better, without expecting achievement gaps to close. Focus on test scores, not on differences in test scores, and don’t group scores by race.

Education seems to have an issue where proposed improvements don’t really pan out; not sure why. It makes me less optimistic about “change the curriculum” type interventions, and more about physical-environment interventions like free lunch and improved air quality where the benefits seem more robust.

I really hate the left-wing trend of trying to shut down gifted and talented programs, selective high schools, etc. To the extent that there is a trade off between focusing on the highest-achieving kids and the lowest-achieving ones - which mostly I don’t think there is, we should just do things that are good for everyone - but to the extent that there is, I want to focus on the highest-achieving kids, because I think the marginal returns are higher there. Whereas current progressive education policy seems to just want to erase the high-achievers.

For me, education is Democrats’ weakest issue. They seem opposed to the idea of even measuring achievement, much less celebrating it (colleges going SAT-optional is another example of this). This seems like a really destructive approach.

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For some subset of high-achieving kids, I think it's very plausible that the marginal returns are highest there. But for lots of high-achieving kids, the returns in one sense are low because the parents are mostly going to either substitute their own time and resources for what the public schools aren't doing, sometimes in the form of private school, or they're going to move. There's just no universe in which, if NYC ends their selective high schools, ten years from now the kids who would be going there now are instead going to modal NYC high schools and only getting the education offered there. They've moved, they're going to private school, or they're massively supplementing.

This isn't an argument against G&T programs. Like, it's a good thing for school to teach my kid her multiplication tables even if the alternative is that I teach my kid her multiplication tables, even if the end result as far as her human capital is the same. But to the extent there's a benefit for cities in terms of trying to meet the needs of high-achieving students, I think it is less in making the kids better-off and more in keeping their parents living in the city and keeping their kids in public school.

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The reason to prioritize gifted programs and such is to give high ability kids who aren't lucky enough to have great parental resources the opportunity to keep up with the kids who do. Ability and Parental Resources are both important, but they're separate distributions.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

That's certainly one reason, and I mentioned that with "for some subset of high-achieving kids." But I think public schools should also try to give all kids an appropriate education, regardless of whether their parents have the resources to get it for them in a different way, both because it's the job of public schools to educate kids and because it's better for those cities and school systems to keep those families.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

Agreed. The overriding priority should be working to ensure every kid is progressing through material well calibrated to their level absolutely as much as possible.

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And the average kids who are bored to tears because being mainstreamed into a class with the morons leads to the teacher spending the 2 months before the standardized tests not being taught new stuff but perpetual drills on the easiest questions likely to be on the test so the lowest common denominator does ok.

From a friend of mine who taught chemistry in a school in the hood. She had a mixture of students of various abilities, but rather than get through the curriculum it behooved her to drill on things like “how many protons are in an oxygen atom” and the like for several months before the test. She always got the highest salary bump that one could get from standardized tests, but that’s a pretty soul-crushing thing to endure as a teacher or a student.

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> There's just no universe in which, if NYC ends their selective high schools, ten years from now the kids who would be going there now are instead going to modal NYC high schools and only getting the education offered there. They've moved, they're going to private school, or they're massively supplementing.

It's been my impression that the selective NYC public schools are disproportionately composed of immigrant kids, whose parents would not simply be able to put them in a private school or move to the suburbs. Is that not correct?

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

I'm not implying it would be easy for those families, but I don't think being an immigrant has that much to do with it. When you look at Asian high school attendance in NYC, it's highly, highly concentrated among selective schools, and there's also a system of cram schools/test prep (which is a kind of supplementation) to prepare for the selective high school entrance exam. I think families are absolutely making choices about living in the city based on the presence of these schools, and they are definitely prepping their kids for them. I can't tell you exactly what the balance would be in terms of moving, private, and supplementation, but I do not think parents who are committed enough to all of this to do extensive exam prep for their kids are just going to send their kids to modal New York City public schools and leave education up to said schools. My guess would be if New York really killed their selective high schools, you'd see a short-run shift to supplementing and private schools (maybe a shift from cram schools to full-service ones) and longer-term changes in where people live.

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You make a good point on the supplementation, but I don't think the immigrant job opportunities that exist in NYC are available in the suburbs with good schools you'd have to move to, the cost of living there is way higher, and the immigrant community support networks don't exist there. It's more likely that some kind of low-cost but ultra-selective private school network could start up, but that would take a while and would still put an extra strain on the already-tight finances of those families.

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My perspective on this is definitely not "and everything would be good for these kids and their families." As someone who has thought about moving for schools, even in the best of circumstances it's a huge pain. But the families that access current G&T/test-in education (including immigrants) tend to be very engaged with their kid's schooling, and I don't think looking at it as "human capital development that, in the absence of these programs, would just not be happening" is the right frame.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

I think it’s worth thinking harder about what it is we actually want. “Closing the gap” shouldn’t be an end in its own right, strictly speaking. E.g. there is little point in having equality in illiteracy and full ignorance.

Tentatively the ideal goal I would think of is to allow each child to maximize his or her educational outcomes based on individual abilities and inclinations, acknowledging that these actually differ and that not all are gifted in the same ways. By doing so we allow them to find the best version of themselves and maximize their opportunities. On a different level we have to change our economy so that not only peole with one set of skills (which naturally some people possesses disproportionately) or going only to a handful of schools (always a tiny minority however you select them) can make a comfortable living. Eg we can’t all be software engineers or Ivy League grads but to the extent that the free market allows only them to have lucrative jobs (an extreme case scenario) we can still balance that out with progressive taxation and aggressive redistribution.

All this back to basics is really important to untangle some dangerously confounded issues. For example, the absolute quality of schools matters too. Destroying higher level math options in the name of equity squanders kids potentials. Hurts them and ultimately society as a whole. Moreover, to unleash *individual* equality of opportunities as laid out above we will *not* expect equality of outcomes, as people have naturally different talents. We might not even necessarily expect every randomly drawn group to perform exactly the same. However, in specific cases, eg the achievement of kids from poor black communities mainly descended from slaves, it’s pretty obvious that a history of outrages created terrible complex conditions hindering their ability to reach full potential in many cases, and that must be addressed. The goal however must remain to allow the present-day individuals their equality of opportunities, and thus the measures should be calibrated accordingly. I don’t have the perfect solution but it’s obvious to me that the neither the blunt statistical measures used previously nor the current dei insanity fit the bill.

What is particularly toxic is this idea that we can outsource Justice and live vicariously through “representation” eg that somehow having upper middle class Nigerian immigrant “black” kids at Yale (probably with zero family history of racist victimization) meaningfully helps a poor black kid in nyc who never got good educational or job opportunities, or that allowing that Nigerian kid an easier time getting into Yale somehow delivers “Justice” to the country.

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The key illusion is the idea that the Nigerian upper middle class guy is somehow “like” the poor African American. I say that’s bs.

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What shared experience ? One has never been to Africa nor has any relative who’s been there for literally centuries.

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But the current Nigerian is and was in no way subordinate in Nigeria, where he immigrated from - which is a big difference in mindset.

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Sure, individual Nigerians can decide to *believe* in a pan African ideology , but you can’t simply *assume* that every or even most Nigerians will. These are after all highly contentious ideas to say the least. By most measures a child of educated Nigerian immigrants has far more in common with their say white and Asian classmates in their upper middle class suburb - and in particular can relate to the high achieving immigrant culture of their Asian peers and the experiences of 1st gen immigrant families- far far more than they have anything in common with the challenges and unique culture of the well established African American community.

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How did Europeans make Nigeria subordinate? Do people in Nigeria have no agency or way to control their own destiny? Nigeria was a British colony for 50 years during which living standards rose at a faster rate than they had before and about the same rate as they have since. Lots of countries have been colonies, it doesn't determine their fate for all time.

I'm even more flabergasted that you describe Black people in the US as "subordinate in the world".

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What is the experience of being African? In what was is a black person in the United States African? This is some seriously racist BS

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

I’d also add that this common idea strikes me as both pessimistic and naive. Pessimistic, as it over estimates people’s subconscious (or conscious?) biases in a way that makes very impressive historical social mobility difficult to explain. Naive because it reduces people’s biases to gender and the four racial categories of the us census, whereas irl people can be biased on a myriad of metrics, racial and very much otherwise (accent, looks, place of birth, class of course!) .

More importantly, it discounts the huge damage this proactive making of race salient in our society is doing. Making everyone feel their race is so important is dehumanizing us all and hurt all of our quality of life.

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I think the world is constantly evolving towards what you desbribe in very organic ways.

60 years ago Jews were in the exact same position that "Asian" are in now. Big firms and their networks were dominated by WASPy-types, and the only ways for Jews to break in were elite degrees and performances. And they did break in, and slowly but surely entered the elite networks and CEO chairs. At the same time, the salience of "Jewishness" decreased to where it's a much smaller part of "culture fit".

The same thing is happening now. I'm fond of posting the below link because it shows the highest average incomes in America are dominated by various Asian Ethnicities:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

The salience of "Asianness" vs "Whiteness" is breaking down and Asians (and other ethnicities) are breaking more and more into spaces all the way at the top, from the Prime Minister of the UK to CEO of Google and Citibank.

The situation you're describing at your consulting firm is going to seem very anachronistic in a short space of time and it will be no thanks to DEI and HR initiatives that make race more salient.

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Hey Wigan. It's worth noting that during those 60 years, American culture was inundated with stories about how awful Jews had it in the holocaust. And these stories allow Americans to see themselves as clearly the good guys, which made them more well-received by American audiences.

My point is that it wasn't just a magical thing that happened on its own. It coincided with a shit ton of wokeness is popular culture and public schooling. (Did anybody give a shit about how German-Americans felt about all the holocaust shit we had to learn about in school?)

In other words, the phenomenon you're describing should be seen as an example of the outcomes of lots of woke activities rather than some natural inevitability.

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I just see it as people living amongst each other assimilating to each others culture through marriage and other social activities, ie, The Melting Pot.

I would agree that the Holocaust was one of the catalysts for the diminishment of anti-semitism, which was pretty vicious in the 30s and 40s. But that was because everything Hitler had been associated with was rejected. It was only due to "wokeness" if you define the term in the mosts expansive way imaginable, at which point it gets pretty far from the common usage of the term in today's English and loses almost all meaning.

I certainly don't think people were going around saying "you should play with little Jacob and I don't mind if he marries my daughter because they had it so bad with that holocaust shit"

I'd also just describe it as an organic process because it's the same thing that has happened and continues to happen with almost every ethnic group in America. Interracial marriage and adoption rates continue to rise, year after year, in blue states and red states, in educated areas and non-educated areas. And this despite an ever-increasing source of 1st generation immigrants who tend to be more socially insular. Regular people aren't reading the NYTs Op page or reading anti-racist theory, they're simply assimilating over time because of social proximity.

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Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023

It’s always difficult to be in the minority , be it racial, sexual, class, political or otherwise. Since I believe in equality of opportunity and social mobility I would expect that in a more equitable society, which is becoming more racially diverse, positions of leadership would become more racially diverse too, and in so far as this *reflects* said mobility etc it’s certainly good.

My problem however is in the exclusivity of this lens. Why do we not consider class? Other forms of background (eg native born vs immigrant, type of education) ? Secondly, or looking at it another way- why do we think that’s enough, or actually very helpful for society at large. We seem to sell this narrative very aggressively “it’s so important to see someone who *looks like me* on tv”.

My questions: 1. Is it though ? 2. What does “look like me” mean? We implicitly accept this as shorthand for race, but clearly that’s just not objectively true. To the extent that seeing peole “like me” on tv matters (debatable) Why is it that race alone is what we obsess over. Why not people “like me” from my hometown? My class? My height ? My body type? My social group? My hobbies ? why is it that we’re allowing this one, arbitrary, measure to reign supreme ?

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This sounds like a lot of whataboutism.

My answer to your first question is that we do no look exclusively through a racial lens. That's just the lends we are talking about now. Any college administration will have awareness of what regions of the country their students and faculty come from. Same for gender, class, and rural/urban. They might not measure hobbies, but they tend to specifically do things to promote wide varieties of hobbies (my college has a chess club and a cheerleading club, to give some examples).

My answer to your second question: I'm a brown immigrant who "made it." I often feel uncomfortable with the way that working class brown immigrants look at me. They'll often bring their kids to meet me and ask me to tell them about how I did this or that. They aren't doing it because woke schooling told them to. They are doing it because they want their kids to see opportunity.

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Roland Fryer’s work on achievement gaps is the most rigorous I’ve seen anywhere, and everyone interested in this topic would benefit from reading it (https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/racial_inequality_in_the_21st_century_the_declining_significance_of_discrimination.pdf).

Importantly, he finds that the achievement gaps observed at later stages of education emerge in the first few years of life and that these gaps measured pre-kindergarten predict subsequent life outcomes while all other observable factors fail to do so.

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The very first search result for "biden achievement gap" is a link to his education policy page (https://joebiden.com/education/#) that says "too many parents don’t have access to the resources and support they need to support and ensure their children are developing healthily. As a result, there’s an achievement gap in this country before our children even enter kindergarten.".

Somehow Matt's piece both undersold the importance of the achievement gap (that even after adjusting for SES factors black students are under-resourced at a very early age and this impacts the rest of their lives) and oversold the continued importance that the achievement gap has in Democratic politics (i.e. literally cited in the President's policy platform).

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The best example of this change is that in many circles you no longer talk about the attainment or achievement gap but the *awarding gap* with the implication being the difference is caused by discrimination in marking practices

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Is that like "assigned female at birth"?

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That’s so horrible and so so unsurprising.

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The future of American education is for every school to be like those fancy private schools that have no grades at all.

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Hey, New College was pretty rad. Fuck DeSantis for fucking it up.

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I don't think it's exactly the same.

"Illegal immigrant" and "undocumented immigrant" mean more or less the same thing. They both imply (correctly) that unauthorized migration is a social construct.

They trouble with "awarding gap" and "AFAB" is that they imply that being academically successful, or being a girl, is also a social construct. That's not completely untrue but it's mostly untrue.

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being academically successful is absolutely a social construct. if american kids went to madrassas and studied the Koran, a somewhat different group of kids would win the sorting contest. if foreign languages were emphasized more, that would also change who finishes at the top of their class

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