Education's Disregard for At-Risk Students

One of the unfinished books that I have on my computer is tentatively titled, Data Be Damned. It addresses what has to be the central problem with education, which is that it has no regard for data or logic. The first chapter gives a brief overview of the historical disregard the field has had for data on at-risk kids. Given that I'll probably never get the damned book published, the first chapter is going to appear in an issue of Oregon's Future, a small-circulation publication that is pretty thoughtful.

As I told the editor of Oregon's Future, I have completely given up on the idea of trying to enlist support from business groups. I've talked to these groups and have summarized some of the information in the chapter, particularly what happened with Project Follow Through. The story is so incredible that knowledgeable businessmen have serious doubts about the veracity of my contentions. And I don't blame them. Here's a guy looking you in the eye and trying to tell you that he's developed programs and techniques for teaching that have tons of data, but they are rejected by most schools and districts. This guy contends that his model of instruction had been evaluated with thousands of students and had outperformed all comparison models—yet sensible, thoughtful school administrators won't install it, even on a provisional basis by thoroughly implementing it in a school or two. As one businessman put it, "I'm sorry, but I know some school administrators, and they strike me as concerned, caring individuals. But you're trying to tell me that they would close their eyes to the welfare of children in their schools?"

Yes, unfortunately, that's the message I deliver. I wish I didn't have to. When we first got in this business, I thought DISTAR programs would be used by schools as a model of what to do and that after a few years, everybody would know how to do it, and we'd be out of a job. It didn't quite happen that way.

Anyhow, I think that this chapter shows both the power and the incredible misuse of power that policymakers use to deny sensible practices for teaching at-risk kids. I think it shows the sick logic that policymakers use, their unscientific reasoning, and most of all, the tenacity and supreme dedication they have to preserving their beliefs in the face of data that resoundingly refutes them. The rule has been that if personal prejudice is pitted against data, the prejudice prevails. If events contradict the tenets of the prejudice, the efforts to support the prejudices don't simply discredit the event, Go to chapter.




Featured Video

Kindergarteners Showing Off Their Math Skills 1966 Uncut demonstration of at-risk children who were taught math by Zig Engelmann as four year olds and five year olds. The session was filmed in front of a class of college students in August with no rehearsal. Children work addition, subtraction, multiplication, division problems, basic algebra problems, fraction problems, area problems, factoring, and simple simultaneous equations.

Watercolors by Zig

Oregon coast, south of Coos Bay

© 2012 Siegfried Engelmann. All rights reserved.

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