I suspect something on the order of several trillion dollars has been spent in the last three decades trying to erase the disparity in testing results between white and Asian Americans and Hispanic and Black Americans. Nothing has worked. We have tried smaller classes, charter schools, redefining success, dumbing down the tests; nothing has shrunk the gap. As a result we remain committed to using government and government schools to do something.
It is not working.
Perhaps you can figure out where this apparent parody comes from:
The City University of New York has long spent much of its energy and resources just teaching new students what they need to begin taking college-level courses.
But that tide of remedial students has now swelled so large that ... about three-quarters of the 17,500 freshmen at the community colleges this year have needed remedial instruction in reading, writing or math, and nearly a quarter of the freshmen have required such instruction in all three subjects. In the past five years, a subset of students deemed “triple low remedial” — with the most severe deficits in all three subjects — has doubled, to 1,000.
The reasons are familiar but were reinforced last month by startling statistics from state education officials: fewer than half of all New York State students who graduated from high school in 2009 were prepared for college or careers, as measured by state Regents tests in English and math. In New York City, the proportion was 23 percent.
The actual text of the article comes from the New York Times, with a more "politically correct" title, CUNY Adjusts Amid Tide of Remedial Students. The most disturbing feature is that the young people being discussed in the article are the success stories in New York, the kids who have graduated from New York City schools. It is s stunning indictment of our present efforts that 3/4 of the successful HS graduates cannot do introductory level college courses.
We all know many of the reasons why non-Asian minorities perform so poorly compared to Asians and Whites: the legacy of racism, cultures that do not value education, damaged family structures, (and possibly genetics and constitutional factors; one must always whisper when mentioning such heresies.) Since we do not know how to change any of these things, we pretend that they do not matter or pretend that our government ordered ministrations are effective, and ask/expect our teachers can do the impossible.
Steve Sailer wonders if there might be a better approach:
... common sense says that information technology offers the main hope of us ever being able to afford on a mass scale the one educational tool that works more often than anything else, especially with math: individualized tutoring. It often doesn't work, but over thousands of years it's tended to work enough that that's what rich people get for their kids. And it's a lot more likely to work than the latest fad.
Unfortunately, assigning one human tutor with patience, insight, and communications skills per student is mind-bogglingly expensive.
(Along with a number of other factors, this is one reason home schooled children often do so well on standardized tests.)
Yet, assigning one computer per student is getting cheaper all the time. And computers have all the patience in the world. It's easy for a program like Aleks to generate math problems adapted on the fly to the exact level of the student -- if you miss a question, the next one is easier, if you get it right, the next one is harder. That's how big tests like the GRE and the ASVAB work today.
Computer gaming companies know how to make games that teach complex problem solving in a simple, intuitive, addictive way. It might be possible for a company to make a computer learning game that teaches sophisticated math or reading concepts (and all the steps up to such levels) using the same methodology as our best computer games. This will not be done in the current environment. No one is allowed to teach children until filtered through the ed schools and the state bureaucracy that specialize in crushing any independent thinking or creativity out of them.
[I want to be clear on something. Most teachers are dedicated professionals who work very hard trying to introduce knowledge and understanding to their often unreceptive charges. They are poorly served by the current political ethos in our country which insists they produce results in arid ground, often foist the most difficult students upon the least experienced teachers, have removed most of the disciplinary tools which have historically allowed order to emerge from the chaos of child centered environments, and expect them to supplement their supplies on their own dime. At the same time, teachers have been poorly served by their Unions, which have been extremely reactionary and primarily dedicated to preserving the wealth and privilege of their leadership, secondarily to protecting the worst teachers from accountability, and only marginally interested in the good of the children.]
As I noted in my post on Simplifying Complexity, unless we can figure out which difficult problems are solvable and which are not, we will be doomed to keep spending ever escalating amounts of money in vain attempts to square the circle.
Democracies may be better at dealing with and recognizing reality than totalitarian countries, but they do not have a monopoly on reality testing and our reality testing is clearly failing when it comes to education.