1) This New Yorker article is
utterly fascinating. The results of this research are stunning: 210 SAT
points!!! If you are an educator or parent, be sure to read this entire
article (at the end of this email):
I was particularly fascinated
by this article because I was one of the children they tested -- my dad was
doing graduate work at Stanford from 1971-74 and not only was I one of the
hundreds of children tested then (I'd love to know if I ate the marshmallow!),
but a team of researchers visited me two summers ago and my oldest daughter and
me through a battery of tests (I'd love to see those results
years, researchers have begun making house visits to many of the original
subjects, including Carolyn Weisz, as they try to better understand the
familial contexts that shape self-control. “They turned my kitchen into a
lab,” Carolyn told me. “They set up a little tent where they tested my oldest
daughter on the delay task with some cookies. I remember thinking, I really
hope she can wait.”
Kudos to KIPP for working
closely with these researchers to learn more about how to teach kids the skill
of delayed gratification, which low-income kids have particular difficulty
Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at
the University of Pennsylvania, is leading the program. She first grew
interested in the subject after working as a high-school math teacher. “For
the most part, it was an incredibly frustrating experience,” she says. “I
gradually became convinced that trying to teach a teen-ager algebra when they
don’t have self-control is a pretty futile exercise.” And so, at the age of
thirty-two, Duckworth decided to become a psychologist. One of her main
research projects looked at the relationship between self-control and
grade-point average. She found that the ability to delay
gratification—eighth graders were given a choice between a dollar right away
or two dollars the following week—was a far better predictor of academic
performance than I.Q. She said that her study shows that
“intelligence is really important, but it’s still not as important as
Last year, Duckworth and Mischel were approached by David
Levin, the co-founder of KIPP, an organization of
sixty-six public charter schools across the country. KIPP schools are known for their long workday—students
are in class from 7:25 A.M. to 5 P.M.—and for dramatic improvement of inner-city
students’ test scores. (More than eighty per cent of eighth graders at the
KIPP academy in the South Bronx scored at or
above grade level in reading and math, which was nearly twice the New York
City average.) “The core feature of the KIPP approach is that character matters for success,”
Levin says. “Educators like to talk about character skills when kids are in
kindergarten—we send young kids home with a report card about ‘working well
with others’ or ‘not talking out of turn.’ But then, just when these skills
start to matter, we stop trying to improve them. We just throw up our hands
Self-control is one of the fundamental “character strengths”
emphasized by KIPP—the KIPP academy in Philadelphia, for instance, gives its
students a shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow.”
Levin, however, remained unsure about how well the program was working—“We
know how to teach math skills, but it’s harder to measure character
strengths,” he says—so he contacted Duckworth and Mischel, promising them
unfettered access to KIPP
More background on the
According to Mischel, this view of will power also helps explain why the
marshmallow task is such a powerfully predictive test. “If you can deal with
hot emotions, then you can study for the S.A.T. instead of watching
television,” Mischel says. “And you can save more money for retirement. It’s
not just about marshmallows.”
Subsequent work by Mischel and his colleagues found that these differences
were observable in subjects as young as nineteen months. Looking at how
toddlers responded when briefly separated from their mothers, they found that
some immediately burst into tears, or clung to the door, but others were able
to overcome their anxiety by distracting themselves, often by playing with
toys. When the scientists set the same children the marshmallow task at the
age of five, they found that the kids who had cried also struggled to resist
the tempting treat.
The early appearance of the ability to delay suggests that it has a genetic
origin, an example of personality at its most predetermined. Mischel resists
such an easy conclusion. “In general, trying to separate nature and nurture
makes about as much sense as trying to separate personality and situation,” he
says. “The two influences are completely interrelated.” For
instance, when Mischel gave delay-of-gratification tasks to children from
low-income families in the Bronx, he noticed that their ability to delay was
below average, at least compared with that of children in Palo Alto. “When you
grow up poor, you might not practice delay as much,” he says. “And if you
don’t practice then you’ll never figure out how to distract yourself. You
won’t develop the best delay strategies, and those strategies won’t become
second nature.” In other words, people learn how to use their mind just as
they learn how to use a computer: through trial and error.
But Mischel has found a shortcut. When he and his colleagues taught
children a simple set of mental tricks—such as pretending that the candy is
only a picture, surrounded by an imaginary frame—he dramatically improved
their self-control. The kids who hadn’t been able to wait sixty seconds could
now wait fifteen minutes. “All I’ve done is given them some tips from their
mental user manual,” Mischel says. “Once you realize that will power is just a
matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really
begin to increase it.”...
While Mischel closely follows the steady accumulation of
data from the laptops and the brain scans, he’s most excited by what comes
next. “I’m not interested in looking at the brain just so we can use a fancy
machine,” he says. “The real question is what can we do with this fMRI data
that we couldn’t do before?” Mischel is applying for an N.I.H. grant to
investigate various mental illnesses, like obsessive-compulsive disorder and
attention-deficit disorder, in terms of the ability to control and direct
attention. Mischel and his team hope to identify crucial neural circuits that
cut across a wide variety of ailments. If there is such a circuit, then the
same cognitive tricks that increase delay time in a four-year-old might help
adults deal with their symptoms. Mischel is particularly excited by the
example of the substantial subset of people who failed the marshmallow task as
four-year-olds but ended up becoming high-delaying adults. “This is the group
I’m most interested in,” he says. “They have substantially improved their
Mischel is also preparing a large-scale study involving hundreds of
schoolchildren in Philadelphia, Seattle, and New York City to see if
self-control skills can be taught. Although he previously showed that children
did much better on the marshmallow task after being taught a few simple
“mental transformations,” such as pretending the marshmallow was a cloud, it
remains unclear if these new skills persist over the long term. In other
words, do the tricks work only during the experiment or do the children learn
to apply them at home, when deciding between homework and
2) Kudos to DFER board member
and ed warrior Dianne Piche, who has been tapped to serve as Deputy
Assistant Secretary in the Office for Civil Rights at the DOE. Here's a blurb from the EdWeed
Personnel File: Dianne Piche to be Ed.
Dept. Civil Rights Deputy
Dianne Piche, the executive director of the Citizens
Commission on Civil Rights, is headed to the
department of education as the deputy assistant secretary in the Office of
She belongs to the more reform-y wing of the Democratic
Party, is a friend of the Democrats for Education Reform, and a
supporter of the Education Equality Project.
According to her
official bio, she's represented students in
desegregation case in St. Louis and Fort Wayne, Ind. and has also been an
advisor to congressional committees, including the House Committee on
Education and Labor and the Senate Committee on Labor and Human
Piche, an attorney, will be working for Russlynn Ali,
who is that office's assistant secretary.
3) Speaking of DFER, we backed
Rep. Jared Polis from Colorado and he's already doing great
ENSURES CHARTERS WILL RECEIVE FAIR FUNDING UNDER SCHOOL MODERNIZATION
Washington, D.C. –
The U.S. House of Representatives today approved H.R. 2187, the 21st Century
Green High-Performing Public Schools Facilities Act. The legislation
authorizes $6.4 billion for school modernization, renovation and repair
projects for fiscal year 2010. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) secured an
amendment during committee mark-up on May 6 ensuring that, with respect to
funding under the act, all eligible public charter schools are treated on a
fair and equal basis with traditional public schools.
for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nelson Smith commended Rep. Polis
for his successful amendment:
facilities, including traditional public schools and public charter schools,
should be safe and healthy learning environments for students. Thanks to
Representative Polis, this legislation guarantees that students in all public
schools, including public charter schools, will see their equitable share of
modernization, renovation and repair funding. This is a vitally important
issue of equity for the 1.4 million students in 4,700 schools in 40 states
that have charter schools. Nationally, only 13 states and the District of
Columbia provide charter schools with facilities aid, forcing the charters to
use operational dollars on facility support. We greatly appreciate
Chairman George Miller (D-CA) for recognizing the importance of this critical
issue, and for Rep. Polis’s leadership in ensuring that charters are treated
fairly in this piece of legislation. We hope the Senate follows with
this statement of equality for all eligible public
4) A pretty lame NYT editorial
on mayoral control -- the devil's in the details, yet this editorial is all over
the map, offering no details.
What reasonable critics seem to want is
less autocracy at City Hall and more open discussion about important decisions
affecting their children and communities. This is not too much to ask, as long
as legislators do not tie the mayor’s hands and undercut a system of
governance that has raised public confidence in the schools.
And this is a real
knee-slapper: "There are undoubtedly some retrograde legislators,
nostalgic for the time when local school bureaucracies ran the show and provided
rich opportunities for patronage and cronyism. But they are in the
5) Could Randi be moving toward
renewing strong mayoral control? I hope so -- but will believe it when I
In the fight over the mayor's control of city schools,
teachers union President Randi Weingarten and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein seem to have
kissed and made up.
Weingarten Saturday proposed a way to turn around failing
schools without shutting them down, offering teachers a reason to line up
behind the mayor.
"If somebody wants to look at it as an olive branch, they'll
look at it as an olive branch," she said while speaking with reporters at a
United Federation of Teachers conference.
"It's about turning around failing schools. What I've done
here is, I've talked with my members about what a virtue of mayoral control
Klein pecked Weingarten on the cheek after her speech to
teachers and complimented her
6) Kristof with some
interesting stuff in this op ed (and a nice plug for KIPP):
If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would
lead to the depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty
programs can accomplish much. Yet while this view of I.Q. as overwhelmingly
inherited has been widely held, the evidence is growing that it is, at a
practical level, profoundly wrong. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology
at the University of Michigan, has just demolished this view in a superb new
book, “Intelligence and How to Get It,” which also offers terrific advice for
addressing poverty and inequality in America.
Professor Nisbett provides suggestions for transforming your
own urchins into geniuses — praise effort more than achievement, teach delayed
gratification, limit reprimands and use praise to stimulate curiosity — but
focuses on how to raise America’s collective I.Q. That’s important, because
while I.Q. doesn’t measure pure intellect — we’re not certain exactly what it
does measure — differences do matter, and a higher I.Q. correlates to greater
success in life.
Intelligence does seem to be highly inherited in middle-class
households, and that’s the reason for the findings of the twins studies: very
few impoverished kids were included in those studies. But Eric Turkheimer of
the University of Virginia has conducted further research demonstrating that
in poor and chaotic households, I.Q. is minimally the result of genetics —
because everybody is held back.
“Bad environments suppress children’s I.Q.’s,” Professor
Good schooling correlates particularly closely to higher
I.Q.’s. One indication of the importance of school is that children’s I.Q.’s
drop or stagnate over the summer months when they are on vacation
(particularly for kids whose parents don’t inflict books or summer programs on
suggests putting less money into Head Start, which has a mixed record, and
more into these intensive childhood programs. He also notes that schools in
the Knowledge Is Power Program (better known as KIPP) have tested
exceptionally well and favors experiments to see if they can be scaled
7) A great NY Daily News
editorial about the incredible success of NYC charter schools on the recent ELA
As well as the city's public school kids did on the latest
reading exam - and they did very well indeed - they were outpaced by a mile by
their peers in charter schools.
The achievement levels reached by the charter schools are
stunning, and they clearly explain why parents have placed 40,000 children on
waiting lists for admission.
They also demonstrate why New
York must meet that demand and then some, leaving
behind the ill-founded opposition to the charter school movement.
More than three-quarters of the students - 77% - who were
enrolled in grades 3 through 8 performed at or above grade level on the exam,
compared with 69% of students in traditional public schools.
At nine charters, more than 90% of the students passed the
exam. And at three - KIPP Infinity in Manhattan and the Bronx's Carl C. Icahn Charter School and Carl C. Icahn Bronx North - every single
student in at least one grade hit that benchmark.
On the test, KIPP had the top
two and 3 of the top 5 8th grade ELA scores among NYC charters --
8) DFER board member Andy
Rotherham with some good points in this US News & World Report op ed:
This is why some of what the Obama administration is proposing
on education is disconcerting to school reformers. The recent economic
stimulus bill contains more than $100 billon in education spending, a historic
investment equal to about 16 percent of the nation's annual expenditures on
public elementary and secondary schools. In exchange, states are required to
report more information about student performance and make "assurances" that
they will work to improve schools. However, the law requires little in the way
of actual changes. "States have made these assurances over and over again, the
question is whether they're going to have to meet the promises they keep
making," argues Charlie Barone, formerly a top aide on the House of
Representatives education committee and now policy director for Democrats for Education
Reform, an advocacy group.
Describing the information states are required to report,
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote recently that, "When parents
recognize which schools are failing to educate their children, they will
demand more effective options for their kids." Perhaps. But there are good
reasons for skepticism.
9) It's great to see Obama supporting charter
President Obama Proposes $52 Million
Increase for Public Charter Schools
Washington, D.C. – National Alliance for Public Charter
Schools President and CEO Nelson Smith made the following statement today
concerning the President’s budget proposal for education and public charter
schools in FY 2010:
“President Obama has taken a strong first step toward
fulfilling his campaign promise to double federal funding for public charter
schools. His budget calls $52 million in new funds for the Charter
Schools Program, the State Facilities Incentive Grants, and the Credit
Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program.
“This increased funding, a 25% increase over Fiscal
2009, will provide new resources to start up high-quality public charter
schools and help them deal with the difficulties of accessing capital support
at the state level. We appreciate the strong statement the President is making
here with a large increase in charter school funding at a time when resources
are tight. We understand that President Obama expects great things from
high-quality charter schools – and we look forward to surpassing those
“In the Office on Innovation and Improvement, the
charter programs received the second largest increase of all programs, a
signal of their importance to the President. The Teacher Incentive Fund
(TIF) received a substantial increase as well, increasing funding from $97
million to $717 million. Of that, $517 million will be competitively granted
out to eligible entities, including charter school LEAs. In a time when
so many of our schools are seeking to create innovative pay systems to reward
excellent teachers, this new investment will help solidify existing programs,
seed new ones, and research the effects of performance-based
“Additionally, we are very pleased that $10 million was
added this year for the President’s Promise Neighborhoods Initiative, based on
the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) and the public charter schools
operating there. Grants will be made to non-profit community-based
organizations to develop programs that address the needs of children in
poverty, from birth to college. We expect that many charter school operators
will be able to replicate the success of HCZ around the country as a result of
the White House proclamation for National Charter Schools
Office of the Press
May 4, 2009
NATIONAL CHARTER SCHOOLS WEEK, 2009
- - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Improving our schools is the collective responsibility of all
Americans—business owners and workers, educators and parents, students and
their communities. We must ensure that all students receive a high-quality
education that delivers the knowledge and skills needed to succeed, and that
young men and women stay on the path to graduation and a life-long commitment
Many successful public charter schools across the Nation are
working to meet these goals. Founded by parents, teachers, and civic or
community organizations, our Nation's public charter schools enjoy broad
leeway to innovate.
The best public charter schools and their students are
thriving in States that have adopted a rigorous selection and review process
to ensure that autonomy is coupled with greater accountability. The growth of
effective public charter schools benefits our children, and States have an
important role to play in their expansion.
During National Charter Schools Week, we recognize these
public charter schools for their dedication and commitment to achievement in
education. They are models of excellence and are promoting the interests of
our children, our economy, and our Nation as a whole.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United
States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution
and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 3 through May 9, 2009,
as National Charter Schools Week. I commend our Nation's successful public
charter schools, teachers, and administrators, and I call on States and
communities to support public charter schools and the students they
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth
day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence
of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
also great to see such strong public support for lifting charter school
THREE-QUARTERS OF VOTERS SUPPORT OBAMA’S CALL TO LIFT CHARTER SCHOOL
Survey Also Finds Very Strong Support for
President’s Education Plan and Public Charter School
Washington DC –
President Barack Obama’s call on states to lift the limits restricting
the growth of public
charter schools is supported by nearly three out of four voters (74%), according to a
national opinion poll recently conducted for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
and released today.
The poll also found
strong support for the President’s overall plan to reform education (81%) and specific
elements of that plan, such as rewarding good teachers with more money for improved
student performance (87%), funding programs to replicate successful charter
schools (82%) and creating “Promise Neighborhoods” that use charter schools as the
centerpiece of integrated services ensuring safe and healthy student development
“There are an
estimated 365,000 students on waiting lists for public charter schools around the country,
many of whom would be in a charter school today if their state did not arbitrarily set a
cap on the number of schools allowed to operate,” said Nelson Smith, President and
CEO of the Alliance. “The President’s call to lift restrictions on charter school growth
and the strong public support for this action ought to motivate each of the 26 states
with caps to re-evaluate their
The full poll is
available at www.publiccharters.org/Poll+2009.
11) The Gates and Broad
Foundations have published a report on how to best use the federal stimulus
With the unprecedented amount of federal
funding being invested in public K-12 education, states and school districts
can seize this opportunity to put in place improvements that will student
achievement in the short- and long-term.
Since the U.S. Department of Education
issued its guidelines for states and districts to use the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act funds, we have been contacted by a number of our grantees
about how to best invest this massive influx of funds. Our partners at
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the same inquiries, so our
two foundations convened a “brain trust” of more than 30 national education
policy leaders and practitioners to come up with recommendations for using the
ARRA dollars. What resulted were five recommendations generated from the
practices and policies that will most likely dramatically raise student
achievement in America, based on the group's
decades of experience in education reform.
The resulting recommendations suggest
state and district-level actions across five key areas for
- Data and information
- Teacher evaluations
- School turnarounds
- Student support
The full report is available online at
These recommendations are intended to build on the federal guidance by
providing detailed, specific, bold steps that state and local leaders can take
to use the one-time ARRA investment to yield powerful, long-term student
achievement results. If implemented in conjunction with efforts to save
jobs, these recommendations can provide an appropriate balance between short-
and long-term gains in the American public education
Last week, the U.S. Department of
Education issued a new resource, “Using ARRA Funds to Drive School Reform and
Improvement,” at http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/guidance/uses.doc.
This document provides additional guidance, including key questions to ask
when making decisions and examples of potential uses of funds to improve
We hope these resources are helpful as
you make critical decisions about how to best invest these federal
dollars. Please feel free to share these resources with others, as
well. If you have questions about the white paper, please contact us
May 14, 2009
The Mayor and the Schools
In 2002, the New York State Legislature sought to end decades of chaotic
management in the New York City school system — and create accountability at the
top — by giving Mayor Michael Bloomberg direct control of the city’s schools.
Mayoral control has done much good. But some fine-tuning aimed at giving parents
and communities more access is in order.
The Legislature is scheduled to reauthorize the law this summer. It would do
well to leave the heart of the statute — mayoral control — intact. But some
legislators are rightly seeking more parental input, greater transparency and at
least some checks on the mayor’s considerable powers.
In most cities with mayoral control, the mayors appoint all or a portion of a
school board. They often do so in consultation with other branches of
government. The board then chooses the top school official. In New York City,
the mayor chooses both the schools’ chancellor and a supermajority of a board
that serves at his pleasure.
Mr. Bloomberg has accomplished a great deal under this arrangement.
He has created clear lines of authority and brought stability to a system
where chancellors were constantly being replaced. He has swept away a
bureaucracy that thwarted his predecessors. He ended the forced-transfer policy,
under which senior teachers could change schools and bump younger teachers,
regardless of whether the receiving school wanted them. He has shown admirable
determination, closing and reconstituting failing schools that might have been
kept open under the old regime.
Even so, the mayor has angered crucial constituencies with his occasionally
imperious approach. He made a terrible misstep in 2004 when he fired board
members who disagreed with a policy decision rather than trying to persuade them
in open debate.
When challenged about his style, Mr. Bloomberg argues that people who don’t
like his school policies can hold him accountable by not voting for him at
election time. But that approach finds little sympathy with parents who say
they’ve been shut out and caught off guard by decisions that affect their
children’s lives right now.
Some lawmakers are seeking ways to guarantee greater access for parents and
communities. In addition, other critics want a neutral agency like the
Independent Budget Office to audit the city’s reporting on test scores, dropout
rates and other important indicators of the system’s health. Such an agency
would have to have adequate financing.
There are undoubtedly some retrograde legislators, nostalgic for the time
when local school bureaucracies ran the show and provided rich opportunities for
patronage and cronyism. But they are in the minority.
What reasonable critics seem to want is less autocracy at City Hall and more
open discussion about important decisions affecting their children and
communities. This is not too much to ask, as long as legislators do not tie the
mayor’s hands and undercut a system of governance that has raised public
confidence in the schools.
Teacher's union president Randi Weingarten's boost to Bloomberg earns a kiss
from Joel Klein
BY Rachel Monahan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, May 10th 2009, 4:00 AM
Randi Weingarten, President of the UFT, speaks at UFT
(United Federation of Teachers) Spring Conference at Hilton Hotel.
In the fight over the mayor's control of city schools, teachers union President Randi
Weingarten and Schools Chancellor Joel
Klein seem to have kissed and made up.
Weingarten Saturday proposed a way to turn around failing schools without
shutting them down, offering teachers a reason to line up behind the mayor.
"If somebody wants to look at it as an olive branch, they'll look at it as an
olive branch," she said while speaking with reporters at a United
Federation of Teachers conference.
"It's about turning around failing schools. What I've done here is, I've
talked with my members about what a virtue of mayoral control could be."
Klein pecked Weingarten on the cheek after her speech to teachers and
complimented her proposal.
Weingarten called for addressing the "conditions in children's lives that
make it harder for them to learn" by bringing health clinics and other services
to students and families at low-performing schools.
"Good speech," Klein said to her.
"Getting kids started earlier, getting the social and health supports they
need is something we all support, and so it's [something] we can work together
on," he said, noting city agencies would have to work closely together for such
a proposal to get off the ground.
"It's another reason in my view why mayoral control is indispensable."
The mayoral control law - which gave Bloomberg the power to appoint the
chancellor and abolished the school board - will expire at the end of June if Albany doesn't
The teachers union has proposed boosting the independence of the Panel for
Educational Policy, the powerless replacement to the school board. Weingarten
did not make any changes to that proposal yesterday.
and Klein have bristled at the idea of any changes in the law.
Weingarten's idea for helping troubled schools would be funded with Race to
the Top grants, stimulus money from Washington specifically
set aside for school reform.
Weingarten cited three supposedly failing schools originally slated for
closure this year - including Middle School 399 in the Bronx - where reading
tests scores skyrocketed as proof that some schools need to be given a second
She called for setting up a new chancellor's district - as was done under Mayor Giuliani -
to help turn around the schools.
"Because we were trying to turn schools around rather than close them down -
in some ways what the government and the UAW are doing
with Chrysler today - we
were able to build on the strong parental community support in our city's
toughest neighborhoods," she said to cheers from teachers.
April 16, 2009
How to Raise Our I.Q.
Poor people have I.Q.’s significantly lower than those of rich people, and
the awkward conventional wisdom has been that this is in large part a function
After all, a series of studies seemed to indicate that I.Q. is largely
inherited. Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are
remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal
twins who grow up together.
If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would lead to the
depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty programs can
accomplish much. Yet while this view of I.Q. as overwhelmingly inherited has
been widely held, the evidence is growing that it is, at a practical level,
profoundly wrong. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University
of Michigan, has just demolished this view in a superb new book, “Intelligence
and How to Get It,” which also offers terrific advice for addressing poverty and
inequality in America.
Professor Nisbett provides suggestions for transforming your own urchins into
geniuses — praise effort more than achievement, teach delayed gratification,
limit reprimands and use praise to stimulate curiosity — but focuses on how to
raise America’s collective I.Q. That’s important, because while I.Q. doesn’t
measure pure intellect — we’re not certain exactly what it does measure —
differences do matter, and a higher I.Q. correlates to greater success in life.
Intelligence does seem to be highly inherited in middle-class households, and
that’s the reason for the findings of the twins studies: very few impoverished
kids were included in those studies. But Eric Turkheimer of the University of
Virginia has conducted further research demonstrating that in poor and chaotic
households, I.Q. is minimally the result of genetics — because everybody is held
“Bad environments suppress children’s I.Q.’s,” Professor Turkheimer said.
One gauge of that is that when poor children are adopted into
upper-middle-class households, their I.Q.’s rise by 12 to 18 points, depending
on the study. For example, a French study showed that children from poor
households adopted into upper-middle-class homes averaged an I.Q. of 107 by one
test and 111 by another. Their siblings who were not adopted averaged 95 on both
Another indication of malleability is that I.Q. has risen sharply over time.
Indeed, the average I.Q. of a person in 1917 would amount to only 73 on today’s
I.Q. test. Half the population of 1917 would be considered mentally retarded by
today’s measurements, Professor Nisbett says.
Good schooling correlates particularly closely to higher I.Q.’s. One
indication of the importance of school is that children’s I.Q.’s drop or
stagnate over the summer months when they are on vacation (particularly for kids
whose parents don’t inflict books or summer programs on them).
Professor Nisbett strongly advocates intensive early childhood education
because of its proven ability to raise I.Q. and improve long-term outcomes. The
Milwaukee Project, for example, took African-American children considered at
risk for mental retardation and assigned them randomly either to a control group
that received no help or to a group that enjoyed intensive day care and
education from 6 months of age until they left to enter first grade.
By age 5, the children in the program averaged an I.Q. of 110, compared with
83 for children in the control group. Even years later in adolescence, those
children were still 10 points ahead in I.Q.
Professor Nisbett suggests putting less money into Head Start, which has a
mixed record, and more into these intensive childhood programs. He also notes
that schools in the Knowledge Is Power Program (better known as KIPP) have
tested exceptionally well and favors experiments to see if they can be scaled
Another proven intervention is to tell junior-high-school students that I.Q.
is expandable, and that their intelligence is something they can help shape.
Students exposed to that idea work harder and get better grades. That’s
particularly true of girls and math, apparently because some girls assume that
they are genetically disadvantaged at numbers; deprived of an excuse for
failure, they excel.
“Some of the things that work are very cheap,” Professor Nisbett noted.
“Convincing junior-high kids that intelligence is under their control — you
could argue that that should be in the junior-high curriculum right now.”
The implication of this new research on intelligence is that the
economic-stimulus package should also be an intellectual-stimulus program. By my
calculation, if we were to push early childhood education and bolster schools in
poor neighborhoods, we just might be able to raise the United States collective
I.Q. by as much as one billion points.
That should be a no-brainer.
Let the kids succeed: Stunning test results show why N.Y. needs more charter
NY Daily News; Sunday,
May 10th 2009, 4:00 AM
As well as the city's public school kids did on the latest reading exam - and
they did very well indeed - they were outpaced by a mile by their peers in
The achievement levels reached by the charter schools are stunning, and they
clearly explain why parents have placed 40,000 children on waiting lists for
They also demonstrate why New York must meet that
demand and then some, leaving behind the ill-founded opposition to the charter
More than three-quarters of the students - 77% - who were enrolled in grades
3 through 8 performed at or above grade level on the exam, compared with 69% of
students in traditional public schools.
At nine charters, more than 90% of the students passed the exam. And at three
Infinity in Manhattan and the Bronx's
Icahn Charter School and Carl C. Icahn Bronx
North - every single student in at least one grade hit that benchmark.
New York City has 78
charter schools. Publicly funded but privately run, they are located primarily
in poor neighborhoods and admit students by lottery. Most have longer school
days and academic years.
Clearly, the formula is working. The results are real and not illusory, as
many charter opponents would have you believe.
The standard critique is that charter schools attract children who have the
most involved parents, along with slightly lower proportions of kids from the
poorest families. Thus, the thinking goes, charter schools have an easier time
A new Harvard study
puts the lie to that contention. Economists Ronald Fryer and Will Dobbie
compared the performance of two groups of sixth-through-eighth-grade pupils who
applied to the Promise Academy Middle School in Harlem.
The kids in one group attended the school after their names were chosen by
lottery. The children in the other group lost out in the lottery and went to
traditional public schools.
The math scores of both groups were practically identical in grades 4 and 5.
But the charter kids' scores moved higher in sixth grade and then skyrocketed.
In English, the scores tracked each other until seventh grade. Then the charter
kids pulled noticeably ahead.
The conclusion is inescapable: Charter schools are providing parents with
valuable choices in education. Many of these schools are working miracles.
In doing so, they represent a challenge to the status quo of failing public
schools. They have also drawn resistance from the United
Federation of Teachers because most operate outside union jurisdiction.
But now, based on mounting, indisputable evidence of success, the tide may be
turning. No less a force than President Obama has
called on states to eliminate limits on the number of charter schools that can
New York is a state with such a cap. Let's get rid of it. Let's do the right
thing by the kids.