The Ten Percent Solution?

David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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54 Responses

  1. Vikram Bath says:

    You describe two schools where radically different things are going on. Why is the solution to this to ignore the this observation and expect universities to somehow deal with it? Why is the answer to unfairness to tolerate it for 13 years and then hope a paperwork shuffle undoes it?Report

    • David Ryan in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      No one is proposing that the least able from the worst schools be foisted on universities, doing a disservice to student and institution both.

      How about the top 5%? Or the top 2%? At what point would you conceded such “grading on the curve” would have a good chance of capturing students who both deserve and would benefit from high education? Dismissing this as a “paperwork” shuffle strikes me as cruel.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to David Ryan says:

        No one is proposing that the least able from the worst schools be foisted on universities, doing a disservice to student and institution both.

        I didn’t accuse anyone of proposing that. I merely suggest that resources be directed toward fixing problems at the point at which they actually occur.

        How about the top 5%? Or the top 2%?

        I don’t have an issue with the cutoff per se. I have an issue with people taking violent kindergarten classrooms with a shrug and a promise that the top X percent will get admittance to a university somewhere and that will make everything fine.

        Dismissing this as a “paperwork” shuffle strikes me as cruel.

        I think the cruelty largely lies in the stark inequality between the classrooms described.Report

      • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

        “I have an issue with people taking violent kindergarten classrooms with a shrug and a promise that the top X percent will get admittance to a university somewhere and that will make everything fine.”

        That certainly sounds like something to take issue with. Is someone doing this? Are you suggesting *I* am doing this?Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to David Ryan says:

        Sorry, I don’t mean to say you are doing that. You are not shrugging.

        However (and correct me if I’m wrong), it does seem that you stressing the post-hoc solution here. And at least within this one particular post, the issues in the kindergarten class you saw are treated as an inalterable given around which admittance criteria should be adjusted.Report

      • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

        Grading on a curve is a long-standing academic practice that allows for variance in the student experience year to year, class to class, instructor to instructor. It is useful because it recognizes high performance against the students’ actual circumstances, rather than against an ideal circumstance. You say “adjusting admission criteria”, I say my physics prof was doing proper evaluation when he made 17/100 a passing grade.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to David Ryan says:


        As a teacher, I reject curving grades unless I have reason to suspect I am at fault for an anomalous subpar performance. Otherwise curving grades means holding students to different standards from one year to the next. Last year’s D could be this year’s C, based solely on the fact that there were–randomly–fewer A students this year. That’s hardly fair to last year’s D student, and an unearned reward for this year’s C students.Report

      • Kim in reply to David Ryan says:

        if you’re giving out 17/100, the problem is with you, and you need remediation.

        I’ve had classes where one kid got 99%, and the closest other person got 50%.
        This despite the group study session before the exam.

        With that test, there were a ton of questions,and the teacher liked penalizing for partially incorrect answers (thus using the test to teach).Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to David Ryan says:

        What if the results of grading on a curve are that students are admitted that are unable to handle the coursework for the next class they face? It’s all well and good to say that given their situations they deserve to pass or its fair for them to pass, but using those words to make that judgment doesn’t actually change the level of preparedness of the students themselves.Report

      • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:


        My point exactly.Report

      • Posing As Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec in reply to David Ryan says:


        “Unless” is far weaker than you think here. Most of my regularly repeated classes don’t change substantially from year to year. Same lectures, same assignments, same set of test questions.

        What does change is the students. Each semester is a new sample, and they are not all equal. This is especially true for me because I’m at a small college. For example, in the fall I always get an influx of frosh football players in my intro class, a significant proportion of whom fail out before the start of spring term. Spring term, any frosh football players I have are those who didn’t fail out. Spring term in that class I also sometimes get graduating seniors looking for an easy class, and satisfied with a C that (as folks who’ve spent 3 1/2 years in college), they can get without significant expenditures of effort. Some years I get a particularly large proportion of the smart frosh, some years I don’t. I can tell from behaviors other than raw scores which I have (taking notes or not; attendance; dozing off; etc. etc.).

        For most of my classes, without curving I can demonstrate from past years that for most semesters the grade distributions have only marginal variation. And for that intro class, I can show that falls compare to falls well, and springs compare to springs well.

        When I’m teaching a new class or making substantial experiments with a regular class, or there’s some other likely reason to suspect I’m a source of problems, then I’ll likely curve up, or at least be more generous.

        But “unless” all by itself really can’t bear much weight.Report

      • That’s extemely well thought out for Posing As Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec. Considering the participatns in this discussion, I can only assume that PAC-EHE is really Johanna… who is really…Report

      • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

        Shorter PAC-EHE: There are circumstances in which I find relational grading to be a better tool than absolute grading, and I use my experience and judgement to make that call.

        IOW: unlessReport

      • NewDealer in reply to David Ryan says:


        Do you teach Rocks for Jocks?Report

  2. other state says:

    Some other states (notably California and Texas) do use the 10% rule for admission to their University of… system. They may not gain admission to their preferred University of (e.g., in CA, UCLA & Berkeley dont’ take the top 10%; in practice, they are much more selective because they can be), but they can go t SOME UC or UT. Students not making this cutoff can then go to another Cal State or other state U in Texas, or go to community college and transfer in.

    I have no comments / data / information on how well this does or does not work, only that it has been in effect in these states (and possibly others) for some time.Report

  3. Steve says:

    As a substitute teacher, I’ve seen what a lot of kids are forced into in my community. I can’t say I completely agree that the kids who are weaker in some areas are given easier work. A class can be split into four or five groups depending on strengths, and the smartest get the most challenging work, while the weakest get the easiest. On the one hand, it slows their education down to allow them to learn what they are struggling with, but by the time they reach middle school, this is no longer the case, and they haven’t been pushed to learn what’s expected of the other students. It also means that the schools are pushing through more weakly educated students and isn’t doing as much as it can for them.

    I’m not very old, just out of college for a couple of years now, and the kids when I was their age were all taught at the same pace. Weaker kids were given supplementary lessons. However, now it’s all data meetings, and passing kids because you don’t want to look bad. Even my high school had a standard where you couldn’t get lower than a 50/100 for the first quarter grade, enabling kids to slack off for the first couple of months.

    Once, I filled in for an MCAS class. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a Massachusetts standardized test that all students need to pass to graduate. It consisted of one kid, whose language was English, and I had to help him read Charge of the Light Brigade. He was 17-ish, and I remember being so surprised that he didn’t know what the word bold meant, and had to sound out the word to read it.

    But this is also about resources, and I should say that for people who don’t know the tax formula, it’s based, in my area, around property values. I live in a community of low middle class people with high property values. My schools got poor funding as a result because the formula assumes we can provide for the schools as a city, because it assumes we have a lot more money than we do. I haven’t seen many signs of a good system for public education these days.Report

    • David Ryan in reply to Steve says:

      Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment.

      The (sad) punchline on the NYS tests my daughter took is that across the state so many kids failed to score above a mark that required remediation (I think they call it “intervention” now) that there wasn’t enough money to do all the remediation indicated by the test scores.

      So what did they do? They lowered the passing grade after the fact to a point that the resources available for remediation were not overwhelmed by the students deemed to be in need of remediation. Problem solved.Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    I grew up in a similar community as your daughter but on the other end of Long Island and my school district was largely filled with the children of upper-middle class professionals. When it came to college admittance we probably sent an uncommonly high share of students to the Ivies or almost equivalently selective schools like MIT, Tufts, Vassar, the Public Ivies like Michigan, etc.

    The 10 percent Solution was the original “Master Plan for Higher Education” that California tried to institute in the 1950s or 60s. A students would go to the UCs, B students to the CSU system, and anyone could go to community college (called City College in California).

    The Community College of San Francisco is on the verge of losing their accreddidation for a lot of very complicated reasons. The curve is appealing to me as well but there is a big elephant in the room of how do you help the kids from East New York compete with the kids from Scarsdale? The kid from Scarsdale might be somewhat at a loss compared to the kid from Exeter (I have classmates from my Scarsdale equivalent town who felt the Exeter kids were more prepared for college work) but the Scarsdale kid is going to catch up quickly. Will the kid from East New York be able to catch up as quickly? We talked about this on the League over the summer.

    Did you see the article in New York magazine about Ethical Parenting? I think where people choose to send their kids to school is a very hotly debated issue and there is a lot of argument about people making the wrong choice.

    Recently there was an article on thought catalogue that was roughly “40 reasons you shouldn’t live in New York”. This caused an actor to write a counter-blog post about why living in NYC is the greatest thing ever. One of the actor’s points was that his kid (a 2nd grader) goes to a good public school and when the actor (not a famous actor but a working actor) calls and asks to speak to the Principal, the Principal gets on the line. I wonder how often this is true or merely anecdotal evidence parading as evidence and data. The actor did mention he pays a high rent for a 2 bedroom apartment and the elementary school has 1400 students but the diversity and richness in NYC make up for it.

    I know a lot of people with small children who rave about their NYC public elementary schools. They tend to live in gentrified and somewhat gentrified neighborhoods. However, I wonder what their reaction will be if and when their kids fail to get into Bronx Science, Stuy, Brooklyn Tech, LaGaurdia, or any of the other good public high schools. Probably not very good despite what they say as adamant defense of NYC public schools. Yet these same people would probably accuse me of some kind of betraying thought if I had kids and decided to move to Westchester.Report

    • David Ryan in reply to NewDealer says:

      Thanks for the background, I’ve been doing some reading.

      The big difference appears to be that California’s sorting was state-wide, with whatever by-school consideration being extrapolated from a student’s GPA, where as the 10% solution I heard on the radio places a high value on a student’s ability to perform and compete within the circumstances in which they actually live and study.

      Put another way, my daughters circumstances actually allow them to get 100% on the test; a student from difficult circumstance may only realistically be able to get a max score of 75%, the other 25% is illusory. If under such trying circumstances that student can consistently get 70%+ that seems to indicate there’s something in that student that’s worth nurturing and investing in, even recognizing that in some instances that investment will never realize a return.

      But as I said, the appeal for me as an emotional appeal to my sense of fairness, using the poor performances of this school or that as a metric for how much to adjust a student’s score when guessing at what their potential might be. It does not address the reasons why one district or another might be excellent or terrible. That seems beyond the ability of a board of regents to address, or even a state-wide plebiscite.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to David Ryan says:

        I would also be supportive of making it a decision on a school basis. This does raise the question of how to handle it in states where not all state schools are considered equal. All UCs are very good but UC-Berkeley and UCLA are still considered much much better schools than UC-Santa Cruz, Irving, Davis, Santa Barbara, and Riverside as far as I can tell. Though all those UCs are fine schools. I worry about the kids from Marin and Beverly Hills getting into Berkeley and UCLA while kids from Watts are shuffled to Riverside.Report

      • Tex Thompson in reply to David Ryan says:

        Texas’ Ten Percent program is probably what you’re talking about in the main post. The top 10% of the class of any school has admission to any public school in Texas except UT, where it’s the top 5% or something like that.

        It has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, it does let high-achievers from lesser schools get a chance at going to UT or A&M, which they often wouldn’t have. It does, however, prevent a lot of kids who are probably more prepared for college from getting into the same schools. They go to a school full of the children of engineers and so have a much tougher time getting to the top 5% or 10% even though they’re great students. Next-step-down schools like Texas Tech and Houston end up getting a lot of these kids, as do private schools and out-of-state colleges.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to David Ryan says:

        On the net, the Ten Percent Program in Texas is a great boon, both for its flagship universities and for the second tier. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with it, so long as the universities themselves are structured to help students adjust as well. UT’s a great school (whatever other experiences I have with their adminstration), and part of what makes it good is the diversity that comes from Ten Percent.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to David Ryan says:

        California’s program is on a school by school basis as well, IIRC.

        It hit some rocks during our financial crunch, and was changed so that the top 10% would get in… eventually. Rather that guarenteed Freshman admission, students were guaranteed transfer admission after completing two years at community college.Report

      • Chris in reply to David Ryan says:

        Ugh, I had intended to include the abstract and just saw that I didn’t:

        The Texas 10% law states that students who graduated among the top 10% of their high school class are guaranteed admission to public universities in Texas. We estimate the causal effects of this admissions guarantee on a sequence of connected decisions: students’ application behavior, admission decisions by the university, students’ enrollment choices conditional on admission; as well as the resulting college achievement. We identify these effects by comparing students just above and just below the top 10% rank cutoff. While this design is in the spirit of a regression discontinuity, we note important differences in approach and interpretation. We find that students react to incentives created by the admissions guarantee – for example, by reducing applications to competing private universities. The results also suggest that the effects of the admissions guarantee depend on the university and the type of students it attracts, and that the law is binding and alters the decisions of the admissions committees. We find little evidence that the law increases diversity or leads to meaningful mismatch for the marginal student admitted.


  5. Kazzy says:


    First, let me thank you for attempting to tackle an exceedingly complex topic in a thoughtful and nuanced way. So often this conversation is framed as one between angels and demons, with each side laying claim to the former and accusing the other of being the latter. Kudos to you.

    Now, if I may offer some pushback, I am a bit uncomfortable with some of the language you used in describing your friend’s kindergarten classroom. I would not use the word “violent” to describe a 5-year-old except in extreme circumstances. “Physical” or “physically aggressive” would be more neutral terms. While their behavior may technically qualify as violence, it is generally so far removed from our typical understanding of the term as to risk being prejudicial. Coupled with the fact that you are talking about inner city kids, who already are subject to a host of assumptions, biases, and stereotypes, this term can too easily be used to affirm these. A little further on you refer to the other students who are “imprisoned” in class with them, which honestly made me recoil a bit. While what you describe is no doubt a concerning situation, remember you are talking about a kindergarten here, a classroom full of 5-year-olds. Likening it to our prison industrial complex… well, we already have a school-to-prison pipeline. No need to start it earlier than it already is. I don’t know if you chose these terms purposefully or casually, but I wanted to offer my reaction.

    To the meat of that section, there is a broader trend that truly exacerbates what you saw. You noted that many of the children lacked basic social skills. Well, once upon a time, Kindergarten was where children went to learn basic social skills. For the vast, vast majority of children, it was their first time in school and their first time spending extended periods away from their family unit. Kindergarten was where socialization happened. So, it isn’t unheard of, either historically or developmentally, for 5-year-olds to lack certain social skills. But what has happened is that some kids are being loaded up with these (and other) skills at younger and younger ages. While it is now much more normal for children of both greater and lesser means to attend some form of preschool, the form and function varies greatly. Upper-class people often avail themselves of preschool programs which are attached to larger, independent K-6/8/12 institutions. These offer a far different type of program than your more traditional nursery, day care, or standalone preschool setting.

    So what happens is that today’s Kindergartens look like yesterday’s 1st grades, because the people in position to drive curriculum and school decisions are sending their kids to preschools that look like yesterday’s Kindergartens. But this leaves many kids in a lurch, kids who would have been well-targeted and supported by a traditional Kindergarten program, but who instead are treated as if they are behind the curve because their neighbors have accelerated ahead.

    It is a complex issue. As a PreK4 teacher in an independent PK3-9th grade school, I feel this tension every day. I have parents and colleagues telling me I need to push their kids academically. The pushdown effect is huge… and real. And while some of these kids are ready for more, either because they are developmentally advanced and/or they’ve been pushed to do more earlier, many are not. It is almost as if there are two classes in one. You can typically expect a range of up to 24 months in a given class: you always have 12 months worth of kids plus the potential for 6 months of range in either direction. But now that can feel more like 30 or 36 months at times.

    I don’t know what the solution is. On the one hand, it would be great if we could get more kids the opportunities that privileged kids have. But there is also concern that childhood is being lost. And the reality is we simply can’t provide top notch preschool programs for everyone, not unless we make some much bigger shifts first.

    So, while I feel for your friend who was no doubt put in a difficult position, when I hear about 5-year-olds being admonished for a lack of social skills, all I can think is, “That is why they are there! To learn social skills! Teach them!” Unfortunately, teachers are being robbed of the opportunity to do just that.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

      “PreK4 teacher” + “I have parents and colleagues telling me I need to push their kids academically.

      Those two data bits coupled together make me want to shake somebody, and it ain’t you.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

        Heh… I’ll avoid telling you what the PK3 teacher is asked to do.

        “My daughter does calculus at home.”
        “She peed in a chair yesterday.”
        “She’s probably just bored.”

        True story.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Patrick says:

        I really wish their was an effective way to call Bullshit on parents who say this and have them shut up. Stories like that are one of the reasons I am weary of sending any future, hypothetical children to Independent schools.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Patrick says:

        Any parent who goes about making excuses for their child’s behaviour should be issued a citation of some sort. Like a traffic ticket or something of that sort. With a large fine associated with it, too. The very idea.

        It was a ritual with my kids in grade school, first possible opportunity with the teacher. “This is your teacher. If your teacher tells you to do something, it’s as good as me telling you to do it.” And to the teacher “You’re empowered to act as you see fit with my child. It’s your classroom. Here’s my business card. Any problems, don’t hesitate to call.”Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Patrick says:

        That said, there was one teacher who was no end of trouble for my son. I ended up having to take it to the school principal, with the teacher there. Eventually transferred my son out of her classroom, that was the principal’s decision. She really was a problem case. Didn’t last the whole year at that school.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        “My daughter does calculus at home.”

        “Excellent! I’ll be sure to give her appropriate problem sets from here on out.”

        Send me or Mike an email. We can work out some hilarity.Report

    • David Ryan in reply to Kazzy says:

      Kazzy, I appreciate your comment and understand your concern about the language I used.

      I was not suggesting that these children (and remember, these children were the minority, most of the kids were delightful as puppy dogs) were retarded in their socialization. Quite to the contrary, some of them were quite precocious. But the socialization they received did not prepare them for reasonable kindergarden behavioral expectation.

      I get and share your concerns about children being pushed, regardless of their development. Both my daughters are young for their cohort, and despite their intellectual precociousness I’ve seen both of them struggle at times with physical tasks or emotional situations that were simply beyond their level of development. My youngest used to get terrible marks in penmanship, my eldest found her classmates burgeoning boy-craziness utterly baffling. You can’t tell a 6 year old to “try harder” and expect that will magically increase her fine motor skills and more than you can tell an 11 year old that it’s time to be interest in boys because there’s a school dance tonight.

      There was no admonishing, no expecting that these children behave older than they were. If anything, it was the opposite. These children were more developmentally advanced, which made their bad behavior an even bigger problem. Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:


        Thank you for clarifying. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they lacked the social skills the K program demanded than to say they had no social skills. Now, at this point, we can get into cultural norming and the like. But I’ll accept that the behavior these kids were exhibiting would be almost universally recognized as poor or inappropriate.

        That said, to what extent do you think their behavior was learned and to what extent do you think it was innate?

        An example of a learned bad behavior is a child who hits another child who upset him because a parent told him, “If someone hits you, hit them back.” An example of a more innate “bad” behavior would be a child who has underdeveloped language skills and struggles to articulate feelings and needs, leading to physical responses borne out of either frustration or finding greater effectiveness with them than with language.Report

      • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

        I didn’t say they had no social skills. I said they “lacked the basic social skills needed to be in a kindergarden classroom.”

        I can’t say whether the disruptive and abusive behavior I saw was innate or learned. How could I know that?

        I do not think it was an inevitable product of the environment or innate to the people in that environment. If it were, then most of the children would have been like that. But they weren’t. The majority of the children were as sweet and tractable as any other kindergardeners.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:

        I apologize for misreading you then. “[L]acked the basic social skills needed to be in a kindergarden classroom” is about as neutral phrasing as one can expect. My graduate school professor might have nitpicked and insisted that you specify that it was THAT particular classroom but perhaps not ALL classrooms for which they were unprepared but, yea, I catch your drift.

        One day was likely insufficient to determine what was learned and what was innate. I think it is important to determine that as best as possible because it will guide the response. In the former example, with the child being told to “hit back”, that child would need to be disarmed of that response and rearmed with more effective tools for conflict resolution. If it was the latter example, with the child with language weakness, that child would need specific support in developing the requisite language skills and/or appropriate compensation strategies.

        I’ve written on the topic before, but with exceedingly rare exception is there a 5-year-old that is beyond redemption. And those rare exceptions are usually the result of something highly atypical in the child’s background. So when I hear about 5-year-olds demonstrating the sort of behavior your spoke about, especially in an environment where better is clearly possible (as evidenced by the 75% of other kids), I tend to think, “We can do this.” Unfortunately, too many people with too much power do not share this belief. This is why I focused on the language as I did. Even something as simple as describing the act instead of the actor can go a long way towards how we view and ultimately respond to children. “Bad kids”… well, they’re bad kids… we can’t expect much from them… let’s just mitigate the harm they do to other. “Kids who did/do bad things”… well, okay… let’s help them do the right things. Better still, “Good kids who sometimes do bad things”… well, ain’t that just the norm?Report

      • Cascadian in reply to David Ryan says:

        If a five year old is being taught to hit back, I’d say the situation is already out of control. A five year old shouldn’t have to do this. The initial violent action should have been definitively addressed. Five year olds should not be responsible for their own safety. That’s what the adults are for.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:


        With all due respect, I think your statement here demonstrates a much oversimplified understanding of the world of 5-year-olds.

        My children are safe. However, that does not mean they will never come into physical contact with another child in a manner that they do not like. Which is really all that must occur for many of them to conclude that they have been hit. And while ultimate responsibility for their safety lies with me and the other adults, we want to empower the children to have agency over themselves and to possess effective strategies for securing their safety and/or resolving conflict. I don’t think I am doing my job if every conflict, physical or otherwise, must be adjudicated entirely by an adult.

        And while it would be easy to demonize the parents who encourage this tactic with their children, I often wonder about the tension that exists between a broader societal value that claims violence is not the answer and a country that is in perpetual war.

        “Don’t hit! Ever! Even if he hits you first.”
        “Okay. Oh, hey, why are we bombing that country?”
        “Because we thought people there hurt people here.”
        “But you said…”Report

      • Cascadian in reply to David Ryan says:

        @kazzy I’m often struck by the argument of diversified schools. How can kids expect to know how to handle the real world without experiencing first hand the realities of different classes in their youth. This just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. When you’re an adult, you don’t deal with intimidating people, you call the cops. Kids don’t have this option. They tell their teacher, then they are ignored. We wouldn’t be having all of the anti-bullying campaigns if this wasn’t true. Disruptive students need to be dealt with. If they are unable to change their behaviour quickly they should be removed until such time that they are able to deal with the norms required for a first world education. It’s unfair to expect the rest of the class to put their own learning on hold while Johnny figures out how to use a chair.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:

        Yes and no. First off, if we are talking about 5-year-olds, then how to use a chair or desk or pencil or block IS the learning that should be happening. That isn’t prior knowledge we can yet assume for all comers to K, though we often act as it is because the people in power’s kids do have that.

        I agree that we shouldn’t ignore bad behavior. But we should treat it, not warehouse it. A lot of these kids can be put on a better path if we focus on what we should be focusing on with young kids. We don’t teach the kids how to be and then punish them for not being how we want. That is as dumb as not teaching them to read and then punishing them for not being able to read.

        Schools are not solely academic institutions. They are the primary way we socialize citizens. We have lost sight of that.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to David Ryan says:

        Hard saying Kazzy. My experience was with schools/programs where these things were the norms (private coop preschools and test-in gifted programs). Perhaps, my problem was with insufficient tracking, bringing up echoes of your math genius who wet herself. I’m sure it’s hard saying, “Mr. Mrs. X little Johnny really isn’t up to snuff no matter how you wish it were true.” I take your point that kids do need to be taught the basics somewhere. It’s just that there needs to be a place for those that can or have moved beyond the basics already.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:

        I can agree with that, Cascadian. However, sometimes (not always) those kids are strong in one area but weak in another. Everyone in my PreK is working on something. Martin can read but not self-regulate. Randi is well-behaved but can’t write her name. Etc. Every now and the you get an All-Star and you challenge individually.

        Class size has a huge impact on this. My class sizes typically range 13-18 (this year is an outlier at 9, too small if you ask me), but those are smaller than average, especially compared to public schools.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to David Ryan says:

        Kazzy: Ah, class size. This is where I must be completely wrong. I’m strongly of the opinion that if you have the right ratios of big people to little people, just about anything can be corrected.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to David Ryan says:

        Why is nine too small?

        When I was subbing, one of the reasons I didn’t mind special ed was that I had such small class sizes. Yeah, they were more attention-intensive kids, but it was still a net plus over 25 or so first graders and all of their concomitant energy. Not that the latter couldn’t also be fun. Or interesting, at least!Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:


        Perhaps it is better to say that student:teacher ratio is important.

        If it is just me and 25 kids, my attention is increasingly divided. Put two or three teachers in that mix, and not only can we give each child more attention, BUT each child benefits from a variety of adults and their unique perspectives.

        This will partially answer @will-truman ‘s question as well, but I’d rather have 20 kids with two teachers than 10 kids with one. With very young kids, the opportunities for social interaction and learning are hugely important. These are limited by smaller class sizes.

        I do learning centers in my classroom… blocks, art, dramatic play, painting, etc. I also put limits on the number of children that can be in a given center to ensure everyone can work productively (this also teaches lessons in turn taking, responding to the needs of others, etc.). With a crew as small as this year’s, sometimes I only have one or two kids in each space, which makes the learning less vibrant and more isolated. The only way I can really avoid this is to close centers on a given day, which then limits their opportunities in those spaces.

        For young children, I think 15-18 is an ideal class size. Of course, if you are dealing with special or unique needs, that number will be different.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to David Ryan says:

        @kazzy “I’d rather have 20 kids with two teachers than 10 kids with one.” That makes a lot of intuitive sense. Hard to argue with that.

        The tougher question, and the one I’ve avoided, is what do you do if this isn’t available?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to David Ryan says:


        Before I would propose an alternative, I’d want to know why it isn’t available. But I tend to view problems strangely like that.

        Bigger picture, before I propose any real ideas about ed reform, I always ask this question: What is the purpose of education? If we want to get a bit more concrete, let’s focus on that which we can really account for: What is the purpose of public education?

        If we don’t know what our goal is, we’re sunk before we start.Report

    • Cascadian in reply to Kazzy says:

      Kazzy, I think you’re on to something with the two classes in one. At some point you just need to split those classes. This usually leads to a conversation on vocational schools, or schools for boys that rely on more tactile instruction rather than the structured learning currently favoured. Calling a kid physical instead of violent isn’t going to make a bit a difference to the parent of the kid they’re using for their development. Teachers and schools need to ensure a safe place where kids have a positive learning environment. If they can’t do that they shouldn’t be in the job. “Little Jimmy is just going through a phase and that’s why little Lisa got beat up, physically intimidated, be patient” isn’t going to cut it.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Cascadian says:

        Well, I’m not talking about that sort of violence. That sort of violence is something different and needs a different method of addressing. As I mention above, I’m talking about the sort of physicality that is somewhat natural for young children.

        And splitting the classes up doesn’t resolve the long term issue. To paraphrase The Simpsons, “We’re going to catch up to the smart class by going slower?”

        The acceleration of the top kids is not without cost, mind you. Those children suffer through the loss of their childhood, the increased stress and anxiety surrounding their performance, and missing out on what we used to see as key elements of early life. The goal isn’t just to get everyone going faster. That isn’t right for children.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Cascadian says:

        Kazzy, most kids won’t be able to catch up to the fast ones. That’s just the way it is. There needs to be options for the slow, medium, and fast. Kid doesn’t have a normal childhood. She won’t have a normal life. She works hard so that she won’t have to.

        I just got back from our ski club fall meetings. There are eleven year old kids that are going to be starting their first year racing. Will they be able to catch up to the kids that have been training since they were five? Doubtful. Will the Canadian kids that have been racing since they were five be able to compete with similar Austrians? Again doubtful, but entirely impossible unless they work at least as hard if not harder than their euro counterparts. If there is not a program for elite students, you won’t have world competitive adults. There is no place where magic happens of this sort.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Cascadian says:


        I am on board with divergent programs with older children as passions and aptitudes become clearer. And while I won’t pretend that all 5-year-olds are inherently equal, we should seek to standardize their overall experience while allowing for the necessary individualization. So, I would disagree with saying this group of 6-year-olds gets ski lessons because they are strong readers and that group doesn’t because they need remediation. I would be okay with saying this group will get the level A books and that group the level C books.

        Of course, parents are free to and ought to share experiences with their children as they see fit. But I would advise them to be mindful of their children’s developmental needs.Report

      • Kim in reply to Cascadian says:

        Kid loses focal length at age 10, necessitating glasses. So she doesn’t have to work harder later in life.

        It’s an epidemic in Korea.Report

    • BITFU in reply to Kazzy says:

      Kazzy, there are a lot of moving parts to all this–from proposing a 10% Solution to what to do with certain children that behave so poorly and so aggressively that are deemed violent at even the tender age of 5.

      Even so, you focus on that fact that…“I am a bit uncomfortable with some of the language you used…”

      OK, fine. I’m uncomfortable too, so here goes my attempt to fit in here at Ordinary Gentlemen.

      Kazzy, I applaud you for your nuanced take on David’s post…blah, blah, blah. Kudos to you Kazzy…blah, blah.

      OK, now that we got that out of the way, let me get to the real point of my comment here today. I am nauseated uncomfortable with your use of language. It wasn’t any particular word that offended me, rather–and I repeat–it was your use of language that made me uncomfortable. See, I feel that your insistence that the author use 10 words to describe a condition, when a single word like “violent” worked just fine was a subtle take-over of the conversation.

      When you engage in this behavior, Kazzy, it makes it seem like you are far more interested in controlling the terms of the dialogue as opposed to discussing the welfare of these children. Additionally, it makes me lose confidence your reasoning faculties because instead of discussing the issue at hand–10%solution—you are diverting attention to traversing The Obstacle Course of Not Offending Kazzy…an obstacle course subject to change without notice, I might add.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my comment, Kazzy.


      I was recently in a classroom with certain children of privilege who were emotionally-neglected by their fathers and overly-doted upon by their mothers, resulting in troubling passive-aggressive behavior. So that I avoid using uncomfortable language that might offend, how shall I refer to these annoying children going forward?

      Thanks so much!Report