"Class" Division in Hawaii
An unfortunately titled article ( "Class Division") in Sunday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin notes that the Small Learning Communities movement has arrived in Hawaii.
This movement attempts to take the warehousing aspect out of schooling by reducing schools to a few hundred students at most. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But as readers of this blog know, small learning communities (SLCs) tend to be heterogeneously grouped to maintain someone's idea of "community." And they tend to be small enough that they'll have only a few highly gifted students. Gifted students need to concentrated and taught in classes, with their peers, that challenge them to the extent of their abilities. This does not happen in heterogeneously grouped SLCs. The theory is that such SLCs will help those on the bottom end of the achievement ladder. The Hawaii schools give some evidence of reduced drop out rates. But the anecdotal evidence also indicates that gifted students aren't being challenged at all. They're being used as tutors. And, true to form, educators seem to think that's OK. Per the article:
"The highest level of learning is when a student has the ability to instruct others," said Principal Dennis Manalili of Kaimuki High School, which also is part of the grant."
Earth to Manalili. This is one of those nice-sounding educational cliches that isn't true. You know how to multiply single digits, right? Would you learn how to multiply any better if I made you spend the next hour explaining it to me? Probably not. Having kids teach each other topics only works when both are relatively unfamiliar with the subject. If one kid knows it cold, making her teach the subject to a classmate is just using her as an unpaid teaching assistant. She isn't getting anything out of it.
As for "the grant" described in the above quote... That grant would be from the federal government. Yes, the same federal government which can only shell out a few million dollars, total, for gifted education nationwide, is paying for Hawaii to leave its gifted students behind.
What's even more frustrating about all of this is that the SLC movement is being pushed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to this article, the Foundation has put $1 billion toward creating SLCs. Bill Gates was a gifted boy at one point, and certainly knows how frustrating it can be not to be able to zoom ahead as fast as your frenetic brain will allow. I hope the Foundation will realize what's happening and start creating ability-grouped SLCs, so everyone -- those who zoom ahead and those who need a little more help -- will be able to learn as fast as they can.