Everyone, and by all means everyone at all connected with public education including our President and his new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, ought to read this short statement by Howard Gardner, professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Gardner reminds us forcefully and correctly that “Group Comparisons Don’t Help,” in particular all this talk about achievement gaps is just chatter, taking us nowhere.
I have never been enthusiastic about work that focuses primarily on the “achievement gap.” On any measurable human quality there will always be gaps between groups, and these can come from innumerable factors — many of them superficial and even easy to alter. Far more important is the delineation of competences that are needed to to function successfully in society today and going forward.
To put it in the current vernacular, we need all individuals to be at least competent, and as many as possible to be highly competent or proficient — and as much as possible, jurisdictions need to have the same criteria for what it means to be competent or highly competent.
The more that competence is reached across the spectrum — as it has been in various ways in Singapore, Finland, and Japan — the less important it is to focus on distinctions between groups, whether it be majority/minority, rich/ poor, men/women, tall/short etc.
If I were the education czar, I’d give group comparisons benign neglect for awhile, and push toward all students reaching at least a basic level of competence.
(To read the article from which this was taken, go to: What We Learn From School Tests)