Monday, February 14, 2011


What a Valentine's Day Present! Here is Michael wearing a tie for the first time! Muy guapo, si?!

The Valentine he's holding is not actually for Moi. It's for a girl in school who happens to be five miles taller than he is ... but I digress for moi amusement... Anyway, he's wearing a tie as the school apparently is having some sort of Valentine's Day lunch ...

And Valentine's Day is special for another reason! We just got the results of one of Michael's standardized tests. After less than two years of English, he tested 91% in Reading on a national percentile basis, which means he reads as well or better than 91% of kids his age in the United States!! Gee, do you think being the son of a poet helped? Preen.

Modeling helps, of course. Not only are there stacks of books all over Galatea's mountain, but there's this beneath the library stairs

and this atop one fireplace

The hubby and I are very pleased, of course, and I can't wait to tell Michael the news and celebrate tonight!

Having said that, questions abound -- as manifested in this "Hearts for Haiti" painting that I picked up at his school's recent fundraiser for Haiti Relief (I also thought the image befits poetry:

The results of this particular standardized test offered national percentile stats (like the reading one I share above) and a more localized percentile statistic related to a peer group of students described as "members of a small and highly competitive group of students who plan to attend some of the world's best independent schools". Within this peer group, Michael's reading at a 49% percentile.

Okay, do we understand the significance of this statistical discrepancy? 91 minus 49 is 42, which means that the quality or standards of (reading) education at "best independent schools" is so much higher (by at least 42 percentile-related points) than the sources for the national standard, e.g. public school! (42% is still great, by the way, given that he's only been at English for less than two years, versus peers who presumably have gotten the best available education all their lives.) In math, the discrepancy between Michael's peer ranking between the higher national standard vs "best independent school" standards is 72 percentile points!

Here is the class divide: without money (though these "best schools" also offer scolarships), this higher-quality education is not affordable by most. And yet I remember when I went to public school. I actually attended Gardena High School just south of L.A. which was most recently in the news for a shooting rampage! From Gardena High, and without any of the extra tutoring for classes or SATs as well as despite the presence of some of California's biggest gangs, I and others were able to be accepted by Harvard, Yale, Princeton and, in my case, Barnard College. In my day, public schools were still able to give this type of education to those students who wanted to excel academically. Public education should be the one equalizing arena where young people get equal opportunity (that was the real Golden Street for Moi as immigrant kid!) -- what happened to that ideal?

I am pleased with Michael's scores -- but I don't fool moiself. To be judged as doing better than students in schools getting subpar education is not a good threshold. We need to do a better job educating our kids! We need to support programs like THIS about Teach for America -- note what its founder Wendy Kopp says:
"When kids facing the challenges of poverty are given the chances they deserve, they excel," Kopp said. "The [Teach for America] vision is that one day all kids in America will have the chance to attain an excellent education."

Kopp ... says she's witnessed real change during her organization's existence when problems are tackled aggressively.

"Incremental change does not change lives," she said. "We need transformational change. Fifteen years ago we would not have been able to take you to one school in New York City facing challenges of poverty [that was also] putting kids in a trajectory where they would have the same educational outcomes as kids on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

"Today, we can show you 40. They are changing the trajectory of kids.

Progress, but we need more progress! I don't see why Michael who is reading better than 91 percent of his peers in the country, is only reading as well as barely half of those attending private schools et al. The last thing education should be is ... private!

Forgive the rant, but this really pisses me off. Here I am intending to post another preening post about my son and I end up ranting. No wonder poetry has a limited audience -- oh yes, it's all related!


P.S. Speaking of parenting, Tim Yu has one of the better takes on Amy Chua and her "Chinese" parenting -- CHECK IT OUT!

In fact, let me try to regain the cheery note with which I began this post ... by showing how I'm parenting Michael the non-Amy Chua way. Here is Michael in his new outfit for his latest activity: fencing! Here he is raising the foil at a sculpture by Stella Lai:

And here he is with a bemused Achillas as witness:

Let's be en garde on the deterioration of quality education, please. How else can I find readers for moi books?!

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