An interesting observation about really smart people:
One downfall of being particularly bright is that you are often lonely. You see and think of stuff that most other people don’t see or understand, so it can be hard to feel a genuine connection with most others. What is really exciting to you goes right over the heads of most others. As you get older this gets to be easier to solve by finding your flock, but I think loneliness in the formative years always sticks to you.
Another downfall is that exceptionally bright people have a high drop-out rate from school, particularly high school. It seems counterintuitive until you spend a day in our public school system. Bright kids see school as not providing any useful information and find it creates a lot of boring busy work. On that note, a really great topic for you to explore is the economic impact of the teacher’s union’s stronghold on the American public education system.
As the parent of children much brighter than myself I'm inclined to agree that it's often hard to understand them, but luckily I haven't seen them exhibit much loneliness. As for the teacher's union, that would be a question worth exploring.
According to a study by the L.A. Times and the Rand corporation, teacher effectiveness has a much greater impact on students' success than the school they attend. Here are two bullet points I found particularly interesting:
- Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year's end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.
- Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.
And I really found these two paragraphs interesting:
On visits to the classrooms of more than 50 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles, Times reporters found that the most effective instructors differed widely in style and personality. Perhaps not surprisingly, they shared a tendency to be strict, maintain high standards and encourage critical thinking.
But the surest sign of a teacher's effectiveness was the engagement of his or her students — something that often was obvious from the expressions on their faces.
My mother emailed me the link to this opinion piece on evaluating teachers and the author, who changed careers to enter the teaching profession, makes some very interesting points. Basically she says that if we're going to evaluate teachers based on testing of students then there should be some considerations made for the teachers:
- Teachers be assessed based on only those students with 90 percent or higher attendance.
- Teachers be allowed to remove disruptive students from their classroom on a day-to-day basis.
- Students who don't achieve "basic" proficiency in a state test be prohibited from moving forward to the next class in the progression.
- That teachers be assessed on student improvement, not an absolute standard — the so-called value-added assessment.
My first reaction when I read this, especially numbers two and three, was "O-M-G if a teacher has to ask for that then our education system is truly hosed." And it's not as if the author is saying that teachers are blameless. In fact she also writes this:
Yes, some students are doing poorly because their teachers are terrible. Other students are doing poorly because they simply don't care, their parents don't care, their cognitive abilities aren't up to the task or some vicious combination of factors we haven't figured out — with no regard to teacher quality. No one is eager to discover the size of that second group, so serious testing with teeth will go nowhere.
That's too bad. We need to know how many students are failing because they don't attend class, how many students score "below basic" on the algebra test three years in a row, how many students fail all tests because they read at a fourth-grade level. We need to know if our education rhetoric is a pipe dream instead of an achievable reality blocked by those nasty teachers unions. And, of course, if it turns out that all our problems can be solved by rooting out bad teachers, we need to find that out, too.