The Downside of Adult Supervised Athletics: The Kids Want to Play, the Adults Want to Win

September 26, 2019 Comments off

In the early 1980s I read The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman, a book that described how parents’ smothering attention was eliminating “childhood” as those in my generation experienced it. One of the sections of the book described how the emerging trend of adult managed athletic leagues displacing playground sports was eroding one of the important skills children learned on the playground: the art of arbitration. You see when we played pick-up baseball or football and playground basketball there were no officials to monitor us and no adults to tell us how to interpret the rules. We had no umpires or referees. We called our own balls-and-strikes in baseball, made decisions about pass interference on our own in football, and determined if contact in basketball was a charging violation or not in basketball. This meant that in some cases physical brawls broke out among 10-12 year olds, but by the time we reached middle school age the kids I played with all figured out that it was far better to resolve debates by setting our own rules.

A childhood friend who became a work colleague where I worked in Western Maryland for a decade posted an article from the Martinsburg WV Journal announcing that the remainder of the youth football league’s season would be cancelled. Why?

The following statement was released to The Journal in announcing the shutdown: “Attention to all parents/coaches/players in the TCYFL: Unfortunately, it has come to the point that because of the abuse, negativity and utter disrespect shown to our officials from parents, coaches and most recently from our players, the Eastern Panhandle Officials Association (EPOA) President stated today that the association will no longer schedule officials for our league games at any field.

“This means effective immediately all remaining games are canceled. This situation is troubling because of our 20-plus-year relationship with the association, but to be honest, this season has been really bad.

“The TCYFL board has reached out to the EPOA for a meeting hoping to establish severe universal field rules for parents/coaches and players to get us back on the field.”

In response to his post I wrote the following:

I’m sure you remember the pick-up games in Roslyn. Maybe it would be a blessing if we took adults out youth athletics and let the kids figure things out on their own. I fear we lost a lot when adults insisted on “organizing” leagues and taking over the fields where kids played pick-up sports. Kids liked the uniforms, the stadiums, and the attention they got. But I think you share my fond memories of playing football and baseball on the vacant lot across the street from the old football stadium in West Chester where we learned about sportsmanship and learned how to regulate ourselves…. We didn’t have spectators, uniforms, or paid officials. But we DID have a lot of fun!

Sadly, fun is the last thing children have when they play sports under the watchful gaze of parents who are invested in seeing their child succeed it puts undue pressure on them when they could be creating their own versions of football with friends or making up their own hybrid games like tennis-baseball or soccer-football. Playing little league baseball with full baseball regalia under the lights with an umpire dressed in a professional-like uniform gives the game a luster. But playing wiffle ball with three other kids in the backyard where a hit in the rosebush is an automatic double is better.

Yet ANOTHER Study Proves Poverty’s Power to Diminish Performance… and Desegregation is the Path Out of Poverty

September 24, 2019 Comments off

The Hechinger Report posted an analysis of research done by Stanford University Education Professor Sean Reardon that demonstrates the detrimental impact of poverty of student performance as measured by standardized achievement tests. Here are Reardon’s findings as described by Hechinger Report writer Jill Barshay:

In the study, Reardon finds that racial segregation is a very strong predictor of the gaps in academic achievement between white and black or Hispanic students, but it’s school poverty — not the student’s race — that accounts for these big gaps. When the difference in poverty rates between black and white schools is larger, the achievement gaps between black and white students are larger. When the difference in poverty rates between black and white schools is smaller, the achievement gaps are smaller. The two phenomena — racial segregation and economic inequality — are intertwined because students of color are concentrated in high-poverty schools.

“There’s a common argument these days that maybe we should stop worrying about segregation and just create high-quality schools everywhere,” said Reardon. “This study shows that it doesn’t seem to be possible.”

Reardon said he couldn’t find a single school district in the country where black and Hispanic students were learning apart from white students and performing well with test scores that weren’t lagging behind those of white students.  In the cases where achievement gaps were small, such as Detroit, achievement was low for both black and whites students. They’re not models to copy.

“It doesn’t seem that we have any knowledge about how to create high-quality schools at scale under conditions of concentrated poverty,” said Reardon. “And if we can’t do that, then we have to do something about segregation. Otherwise we’re consigning black and Hispanic and low-income students to schools that we don’t know how to make as good as other schools. The implication is that you have got to address segregation.”

The nation’s failure to “create high-quality schools at scale under conditions of concentrated poverty” is widely reported and applies to charter schools as well as public schools. But Ms. Barshay notes how Mr. Reardon’s findings amply and clarify this reality:

It’s well known that high-income students perform better on tests than low-income students. Higher income students tend to have better educated parents who not only may read and talk to their kids more but also convey the importance of an education and set high academic expectations for their kids. What’s interesting in this study is that not only does the level of school segregation predict the size of the achievement gap between white and black students, it also predicts the rate at which the achievement gap grows as students progress from third to eighth grade.

In the concluding paragraphs of Ms. Barshay’s report, she describes an interactive website, the “Opportunity Explorer,” “where anyone can see the test scores for every public school in the United States“.  Mr. Reardon offers this important insight on the data he used to determine student performance:

Reardon advises visitors to the website to avoid equating test scores with school quality. “The average test scores that kids have in schools or school districts are the results of all the opportunities these kids have had to learn their whole lives, at home, in the neighborhood, in preschool and in the school year,” Reardon said, “so it’s misleading to attribute average test scores solely to the school where they take the test.”

“If you want to know how good the schools are,” Reardon said, “a better but not perfect measure would be the learning rates because those are measuring how fast are kids learning while they’re in school, regardless of where they started.”

A tool like the Opportunity Explorer offers data geeks a chance to do some comparisons… but such a tool also implies that parents could shop for a school the same way they could shop for groceries… and while grocery stores will allow anyone to come inside and look around and buy what they can afford, schools are not the same because some schools are located in communities where housing prices effectively bar anyone with a low income. Until we figure out a way to encourage people of different social strata and different races to live together we will not be able to solve the problem of unequal opportunities based on wealth and race.

Plessy v. Ferguson Comes to Football… Will Academics be Far Behind?

September 23, 2019 Comments off

This attention-grabbing headline in the NYTimes article by Timothy Williams caught my eye immediately:

The article describes the reality of team sports— and academics in high schools across the country in this analysis by Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, who noted that:

“….the sports achievement disparity between wealthy suburban public schools and their urban counterparts has degenerated into “a competitive gap that is similar to the income gap” in the nation.

The divide has always been there,” he said, “but it has widened.”

The disparity, experts say, is meaningful beyond the world of athletics because sports participation has been found to aid in academic success and college admissions, and is a predictor for professional success.

I’m not at all certain the “divide has always been there”… but I AM certain it is worsening for athletics AND academics.

The notion of using demographics to separate athletic teams is appalling… it seems to be contrary to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” provision of public services like schools. But Iowa is not alone in moving in this direction as Mr. Williams writes:

Over the past few years, officials overseeing high school sports in states including Minnesota, Oregon and Colorado have added provisions allowing schools with high poverty levels to drop down to lower athletic divisions. Washington State will introduce the idea next year, and Iowa is considering it.

This provision puts principals, parents, and athletic boosters in economically disadvantaged schools in a tough position: they can either keep their school in an athletic league where they will be overmatched or agree to being placed in a less competitive league where their students might win some games.

Once poorer schools decide to abandon athletic competition with affluent schools rather than seeking equitable funding will they also decide to abandon their fight for equitable funding for academics and shunt their students into second tier colleges? If athletics is the last bastion of true meritocracy… the last place where an athletically gifted child born into poverty can thrive despite his economic disadvantage… how can we hope to create a true meritocracy in academics if school leaders decide to abandon the effort to provide an even playing field in athletics?

 

SRO Arrests 6 and 8 Year Old at Florida Charter School

September 23, 2019 Comments off

Newsweek reported that an SRO arrested a 6 and an 8 year old child at a Florida charter school. All I am say is that I hope the day never comes when this kind of thing is NOT newsworthy. The link to the article follows:

apple.news/AVYckp9SZRwOrEgJI0L-YNA

EdBuild Study Provides Evidence of the Persistence of Racism in Public Schools

September 20, 2019 Comments off

EdBuild, whose mission is to bring common sense and fairness to the way states fund public schools, issued a report indicating that black school districts receive $23,000,000,000 LESS revenue than all white districts despite serving the same number of students. Why? Because affluent families flock to districts where property taxes can underwrite higher quality schools leaving poorer non-white students segregated in property poor districts. As the authors of the report write:

The racial and economic segregation created by gerrymandered school district boundaries continues to divide our communities and rob our nation’s children of fundamental freedoms and opportunity. Families with money or status can retain both by drawing and upholding invisible lines. Many families do just that. This, in conjunction with housing segregation, ensures that—rather than a partial remedy—district geographies serve to further entrench society’s deep divisions of opportunity

Because our system relies so heavily on community wealth, this gap reflects both the prosperity divide in our country and the fragmented nature of school district borders, designed to exclude outside students and protect internal advantage.

This residential discrepancy cannot be fixed easily… but it might be possible for the students in poorer schools to receive the same level of funding if we worked at the state level to raise and allocate funds more fairly. And the racial disparities EdBuild flags are intolerable:

For every student enrolled, the average nonwhite school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district.

Poor-white school districts receive about $150 less per student than the national average—an injustice all to itself. Yet they are still receiving nearly $1,500 more than poor-nonwhite school districts.

If we want to continue holding onto the belief that education can be a leveling force in our country, we cannot continue to use the same funding system in place today… and if we want racial and economic justice we need to face the fact that our current system is discriminatory. The report concludes with this:

Even after accounting for income, the average student in the U.S. inherits far more opportunity by attending a small, concentrated white school district. Because each state handles district boundaries and school funding differently, funding policies affect students in divergent areas in different ways.

But a single fact is clear—financially, it is far better in the United States to have the luck and lot to attend a school district that is predominantly white than one that enrolls a concentration of children of color. That is the inherent shame of the system we’ve built, and one we haven’t gone far enough to fix.

WATCH: With Gun Control Measures Held Up In Congress, ‘Gut Punch’ PSA Shows Children Trying to Survive School Shooting

September 20, 2019 Comments off

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not bring the House passed legislation to a vote for two reasons: he doesn’t want to make his party members vote against the NRA and he doesn’t want to pass a bill that the President might veto and he cannot get a clear read n what the President will or will not pass.

In the meantime, 96% of the schools in the nation do drills that are disruptive and, in some cases scary, to prepare for an event whose likelihood is extraordinarily slim and could be prevented by eliminating the sales of military grade weapons. In short, children are suffering because the adults we elected to office are unwilling to discuss an issue for fear they will lose the support of gun manufacturers.

Source: WATCH: With Gun Control Measures Held Up In Congress, ‘Gut Punch’ PSA Shows Children Trying to Survive School Shooting

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Schools are “Totally Predictable.” We Good With That? I’m Not!

September 18, 2019 Comments off

On his website Modern Learners, Will Richardson often offers thought provoking posts that force readers to examine the way our schools are structured and the way they operate. Schools are “Totally Predictable.” We Good With That? is one such post. In it he asserts that the predictability of the way schools function and the way teachers present lessons undercuts what employers and students want most: the ability to deal with changes that are occurring at an astonishing rate.

As I have often bemoaned, our accountability metrics reinforce the Factory School status quo and, in so doing, reinforce the notion that there is a discrete and finite knowledge that must be learned by students and their own curiosity and interests are not at all important. In compelling students to adhere to a predictable schedule and preordained curriculum imposed by well-intentioned adults schools are unwittingly undercutting their ability to explore information and learn independently… and in so doing are not preparing them for what exists now and will exist in the future.