The wrong way to select "gifted" students.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago

A quick quote from a recent East Rib Article telling how to select "gifted" students:

"Students typically qualify for gifted programs when they test in the top 97 percent of their age group."

(Yeah, I know, the "top 97 percent" means everyone except the the lowest 3 percent, but I think they meant to say "when they test in the top 3 percent of their age group." But let's not quibble about that.)

But let's DO quibble about selecting "gifted" students by school grades.


Wrong method.

If by "gifted" you mean highly intelligent, then the correct way to choose them is to use their IQ scores, which have been proven to correlate 100% with intelligence (whatever that may be). If you choose kids by grades you let over-achiever nerds in, and leave Einsteins out.

The other thing that bothers me--even more--is that brains are not the only valuable commodity in this world.

What about artistic ability? If that's not a gift, what is? And if you want to find those folks, all you have to do is ask the art teacher.

Writing ability? See the English teachers.

Mechanical ability?

Math ability?

Let's be fair. If we are going to spend money on special classes for special people, let's make sure the people in them are truly special, not a group of overachievers.

Anything wrong with that viewpoint?


Dan Haapala 5 years, 7 months ago

Absolutely nothing. WE must turn this back to a striving to achieve. Let the best of the best rise to the top. Give everyone a goal to go for in what ever area they feel they can get there. Reward acheivers and inspire and help the non attenders. I may raise a few eyebrows here, but i'd like to ask a few adult responders to this blog, how many of you felt at some point you were smarter than your teacher? Further, you found out you were right?
I knew a lot of bright kids in high school who were shunned or ignored because they had the feeling they were smarter than the rest but know one paid attention. Some of them went on to acheive greatness, others took the rejection and faltered.

Tom, you were ( and in my opinion still are) a gifted educater, has this scenario come by you? If you are reading this, was it you?


Pat Randall 5 years, 7 months ago

Haapala, Before we get to serious, didn't we all at one time or another think our teacher was an idiot?


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago

"Before we get to serious, didn't we all at one time or another think our teacher was an idiot?'

No doubt!

I would also suppose that there has got to be some truth in it.

I read the posts, but instead of doing what I usually do, I didn't respond at first. I went off and thought about it. Now I'm back. I think I can say something sensible.

Looking back over a long time, both as a student and as a teacher, I think I have some clues as to why the kids sometimes feel they are smarter than their teacher, and why they are sometimes right.

I'll ignore all except one of the obvious (wrong) reasons why kids sometimes feel that way. I'll just lump them under one heading: Dumb-adze kids.

The one "wrong" reason I will address is this: Kids sometimes think teachers are dumb is for a reason I observed first hand while in school, and was grouped in with a small circle of little geniuses.

A couple of my "buddies" thought teachers were "dumb" because they didn't have the massive IQ's they had. All that proved was that they, themselves were so young and inexperienced they had yet to realize that being born bright is not the same thing as being born right.

Sadly, I saw some of them go on into adult life with the same attitude. I guess it proves that common sense can't be taught.



Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago

Here are some thoughts for you on why kids sometimes think they know more than teachers.

Why are the kids right at times? Here's my perception:

a. When a teacher obviously looks down upon the kids, the kids reflect what they see. b. When a teacher harps on the importance of what he is teaching he loses his credibility with the kids because his viewpoint is obviously skewed. c. When a teacher abrogates his responsibility to teach by substituting lists to be memorized or worksheets to be done. d. When a teacher assigns more than the needed amount of homework. e. When the teacher teaching an academic subject uses a grading system based on anything else than written, objective tests. f. When a teacher allows the kids to discover that he is just filling a chair and drawing a salary, sometimes using the techniques in (c), (d), and (e), which are cop-outs.

Few words of explanation:

re (c): Short term memorization is not a substitute for learning.

re (d): My personal experience, after 41 years in education, is that no homework is the best homework. Everything needed to meet the requirements in any syllabus I have ever seen can be accomplished during class time. (To allow you to judge that statement, I taught secondary chemistry, physics, biology, ecology, and the equivalent junior high courses, as well as programming and the spectrum of computer related courses. I won't list adult courses I taught since they are off the subject.) The obvious exception where homework is concerned is a course which involves creative work which cannot be accomplished during class hours. For example, learning to write well.

re (e): If we accept the fact that the primary purpose of almost all K-12 classes is to impart knowledge, then the valid measurement of success is to test the student's knowledge, not how much homework he did, how many worksheets he passed in, his attendance, or his behavior. Grading systems based on such thing allow teachers to justify passing kids who have not learned what they came to learn. What difference does it make if a kid has done all his homework if he can't pass the tests?

Exceptions are creative writing, art, music, dance, singing et al.

The only valid measurement of knowledge is an objective test, such as a multiple choice test containing questions based upon behavioral objectives. Example: "Given access to a periodic table, or a list of oxidation numbers, and the starting materials and products of an inorganic equation, the student will be able to balance the equation."

In a course where the course teaches a skill, a valid measure of success is demonstration of the student's ability to produce a product dependent upon those skills. As in shop, band, creative writing, and so on.

Strong opinions? You bet! If you want to teach, then teach. If you want to create grading systems that allow people to move on when they haven't done what they came to do, get a job writing civil service exams for congressmen.


Pat Randall 5 years, 7 months ago

Tom, What grading system did you use? If you had a hundred questions and the highest was 50 right did you grade from the 100 or the 50? When my oldest son was in the 8th grade I received a notice he was failing a class. Went to see the teacher as he had said my son was not doing his homework. He never got below a 92 on a test. Showed me the test papers. I told him my son was doing his homework as that was the second thing he did when he got home from school. Had a snack and then to the homework. I went home looked in his desk and there was all his homework. He had done it but didn't turn it in. I asked him why, and he said it was done and his test scores were good, didn't think there was a need to. He went to Carson in Mesa. When he was a fireman and had to have continuing education, he would sign up for a class at the college and ask to challange thier final tests. He never looked at a book and always aced the tests. Don't know how he did it. Guess he is like the monkeys that take multiple choice tests and pass them. (: My younger son never had any homework in high school he did it all at school in his free period. He went to Gilbert H.S. My daughter went to Westwood HS and always had home work. Yes they all graduated with a B or better.
The names of the schools are for Tom's benefit.


Pat Randall 5 years, 7 months ago

I started the last post with the thought of the advanced classes they had at Gilbert HS. a long time ago when my son was going there. Lost my thought somewhere. I think they had an advanced class for most subjects. This was when Gilbert HS was the same size as Payson. They played against each other in football. Maybe if Payson got rid of some of the frills, like cheerleading, poms, sports, and used the money for advanced students they could really brag about the graduates. How many people end up with a good paying job shaking poms or cheerleading. Not to many go on to pro sports. Some kids that are way ahead of thier class get bored and quit doing anything but goof off and disrupt the rest of the class.


Rex Hinshaw 5 years, 7 months ago

Pat, I don't agree with you.....big suprise. So you would do away with cheerleading, poms, and SPORTS ! And you would focuse on the advanced students. Extracurricular activities at school should be just that...extracurricular. If they don't make the grades, they don't get to participate. But to eliminate these activities is shortchanging our kids. What about the kids that are passing but may not be going to college ? I think school should be stimulating, fun, and designed for more than just getting a job. Readen...riden...and rithimtic is not all there is to education.


Pat Randall 5 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Hinshaw, Your last sentence is what to many people think and that is what is wrong with our education system.


Pat Randall 5 years, 7 months ago

PB, I have no clue what you are talking about. Do you? If so please explain. Also what is your IMO you are always using?


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago


When I taught I wrote a behavioral objective for each item in the syllabus, which is the list of items the schools district wants each kid to learn. I then wrote a test question which tested whether or not the student had met the objective. I then tested the students. Here's the grading scale:

90% to 100% correct: A 80% to 89% correct: B 70% to 79% correct: C 60% to 69% correct: D Any lower: F

When I went through high school I only did homework in English and French classes, where the teacher gave us writing assignments which were intended to test whether or not we had learned what he was teaching. In all other classes I turned in no homework that I remember.

In just two classes the teacher asked me about homework: Physics and Algebra II

The physics teacher, Mister Manning, a great teacher and fine man, asked me why I didn't turn in any homework. Mister Clark, the Algebra II teacher did the same. They each pointed out that their grading system was based 1/3 on tests, 1/3 on homework, and 1/3 on class participation.

I told them both the same thing: I did homework in classes, such as English et al, where the homework showed whether or not I had learned what was being taught. I also said that if I had any doubts about my ability to do any of the assigned problems in their classes, I did them. I might even do more than those assigned. But I did not hand them in because in a science or math course I felt that the only valid (and yes, I actually used the term "valid") test of whether a student had learned anything was how well he did on the tests, and if a student was acing the tests he had demonstrated his learning. I also said that I had no problem with their grading system, was well aware that it made it a little easier for kids who might not otherwise take the course to pass it, and had no opinion regarding that. I said, "I am not trying to telling you wehat is right or wrong, or what you should do."

In both classes, without homework, my grade was 66 2/3.

Mister Manning just grinned, said not a word in reply, and that was that. I earned, I think, a 97% in physics.

Mister Clark said he would give me a 66% on my report card. In that high school 70% was the minimum passing grade. We did not use letter grades. For the first grading period he gave me a 66%. For the second grading period he gave me a 66%. For the year he gave me a 99%. We never talked about it again.

I took about 100 semester hours of college courses while I was in the Air Force. About 50 of them were done in courses I attended on or near base. The rest were correspondence courses taken through universities. You could actually correspond if you wanted, doing and sending in lessons, but they really didn't matter. What mattered was how well you did on the final exam. Like your son, I just took the exams. I never got less than a 93rd percentile in any test. How do you do that? Read the book.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago


"Extracurricular activities at school should be just that…extracurricular."

I've said the same thing many times. I suspect Pat feels the same way.

"Readen…riden…and rithimtic is not all there is to education."

If you read the history of American education you'll find that a main purpose of education beyond the 8th grade is to find a place to stash kids who are too young to be useful in the world of work as yet, and too old to sit around doing nothing. (Really true. I'm not kidding or exaggerating. That's what the books say, and I agree.)

It would probably surprise people to learn that it was not unusual back in the 18th and 19th centuries for a twelve year old to enter--say--Harvard, and graduate a couple of years later.

As the nation grew, and high schools were created, the per capita wealth was such that we could afford to do more than the basics in school. That, combined with natural rivalry, led to sports programs, which were, of course, extracurricular. More money, and a wish to keep kids in school through high school, led to classes in things like music, band, art, and even "technical" subjects, such as woodworking, metalworking, and drafting. I myself attended a school where we went to classes an extra two periods a day for four years and took "shop" classes during those two extra periods. It was no--put-the-low-achievers-off-in-a-special-school program. ALL students took the shop classes, the school had the highest academic rating in Connecticut (and some years the best football team), and if you had an 85% average you could go to Yale or MIT, or anywhere else, without an entrance exam. It also had a special endowment, which paid for the extra two periods a day.

In my opinion, for what it may be worth, the error--and the waste of money--occurs when things which should be extra-curricular are put into the school day. I say that because when you do that you must then hire full time teachers to teach those subjects. This is the reason you can go to the high school and find full time coaches.

A return to a system where sports, drama, dance, band, poms, cheers physical activities, choir, and so on are a part of the school, but not of the school day, is vitally needed to cut costs. Such things should be a matter of pride and satisfaction for the kids who participate in them, but not part of the excessive burden the taxpayers now have to bear. We should only pay enough taxes to provide necessary equipment and the additional pay for the time of activity sponsors. Doing anything else makes a mockery of the word "education."


Rex Hinshaw 5 years, 7 months ago

Tom , I agree. I did not know that activities that were extracurricular when I was in school, are now part of the school day.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago


It would probably shock you to run over to most high schools, or junior highs, these days and check the employee rolls. You will find full time coaches. You will find full time teachers, even in junior highs, who teach nothing except drama, dance, music, band, and art.

At the last school where I taught, a junior high, we had four full time male and three full time female coaches. We had two full time art teachers and two full time music teachers. We had one (and maybe two) teachers who taught nothing but drama and dance. If those people make an average of $45,000 a year, then in just one junior high out of twelve we spent a half million dollars a year for them alone. Which means that for the 12 junior highs the people of Mesa spent $6 million dollars a year for just the junior highs.

The way they "justify" full time coaches is to claim that kids do not "exercise enough." Whether that is, or is not, true is immaterial. All the coaches did at the beginning of a period was toss out a ball and go back in the office. Often, they took three or four classes and dumped them in the swimming pool, where just one coach supervised.

As for art, and dance, and music et al, if anyone thinks I am opposed to the liberal arts, think again. I paint, I write, and I love music, but I do not think we can afford to keep kids in school longer and longer each year, and later and later each day, just to justify jobs. Sure, have some basic art classes et al for those who really want them, but kill the too-easy, giveaway classes, and let the kids get out of school early in the day as it used to be. And encourage those who want to really learn dance and drama to do it after school, where it belongs. And if you find there aren't enough courses to fill the school day after you get rid of the fluff, then get back to teaching a little English, or math. Could it hurt?

And at the junior high where I worked we had--honest to God!--four full time counselors, a secretary for them, and a full time school psychologist. What a terrifying waste of taxpayer money! Another quarter million dollars per year, per school.

I don't have the slightest doubt that we could cut 50% out of the state educational costs if we just applied a little common sense.

What really kills me is the fact that classes which might actually help kids in the world of work are almost totally missing. How many kids could benefit more from a drafting class or a class in basic electricity than they do from some freebie art class they will never use?

Sorry if I sound a little intense, but I had to watch all this go on for 14 years here in Arizona and keep my mouth shut about it.


Rex Hinshaw 5 years, 7 months ago

Tom, I am shocked by some of the things you describe in your last post. My youngest is 28 yrs. old and was living with his mother during junior high and highschool. I had no idea ! What the heck do counselors do in junior high! When I was in 7th and 8th grade we had a principle....he had a large wooden paddle That's how we got [counseled]....believe me I know!


John Lemon 5 years, 7 months ago

Gentlemen and Ladies: a couple of thoughts. First, "We teach as we were taught" is a saying that has a lot of truth in it. Pedagogy and Psychology has given us alternatives in recent years, but to transition is a heck of a lot of work. Perhaps like going on a diet when you love what you eat and eat like your parents did? I will mention the "Theory of Multiple Intelligences" by Gardner et. al. at Harvard. Basically, it names different types of intelligences and backs the theory with data. It also leads to the conclusion that a teacher should not always teach to the majority or the norm, but should identify the strengths of each individual an tailor some instruction to individuals as well as teaching the "normal" things that each person should know something about. Second: schools have been asked/required to cover more and more information that was formerly a province of the home, church or community. This has been a public decision and not a school's decision for the most part. The more that you cram into a school day, the more areas that have to be trimmed to allow the fit. Third; I taught students that had IQs (if you like that measurement) higher than mine. Still, they were younger than I. I had many more years to acquire knowledge, techniques, skills, methods, actions and reactions. They may have had quicker minds but I had a much deeper reservoir. Finally, I ought to add," Youth and vigor will be overcome by experience and treachery".


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago


"What the heck do counselors do in junior high!"

The odd thing about it, Rex, and I swear to God this is true, is this: If you ask junior high counselors what they do, they will tell you this: "I never get to counsel anybody."

And they mean it! They went to college, took a graduate degree in counseling, and sit in an office doing essentially nothing. What they are most closely involved in, but do not necessarily do, is scheduling. Most scheduling is done during the summer by a clerk. But when a student arrives during the school year, a counselor may be the one who squeezes the kid into classes.

I have nothing against counselors (although most teachers do, and I'll explain that in a minute**) but in my opinion--again for what it may be worth--they are not needed in a junior high. Why do I say that? because--in their own words--they "never counsel anybody." The little they do is clerical work, and we do not need to hire clerks at $50,000 a throw.

** My observation is that teachers do not like counselors. The reason, though it would not be apparent to someone who does not teach, is that counselors as often as not see themselves as "student advocates." Now we all should be student advocates, but we should not be the public education equivalent of s--thouse lawyers. You cannot imagine how many times I have heard a student say--usually not to me, thank goodness, "I'm want to see my counselor," when he or she was caught doing something wrong and was about to be punished for it. Evidently, from what some of my students have told me privately, when they are briefed by their counselors, they are told, "Don't you worry. If one of those teachers out there gets out of line, you come and see me. I'll fix him good."

No kidding. I've had at least two dozen kids tell me that, in just those words. And when the campus I worked on "blew up," resulting in the removal of both principal and assistant principal, much of the in-fighting that was going on before the balloon went up originated in the counseling office. Or so I was told. I stayed out of it, not being into "school politics" of which I had never even heard before I went to work at that school.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi John,

Always a pleasure to read your posts.

I agree, by the way, with your comments on IQ. The tests are, after all, designed to test those abilities which have proven to have a close correlation with academic success. That seems to equate, more or less, with what we "call" intelligence, but you have only to watch--say--a true artist at work to see that there are some things which fall outside the definition and yet seem to be as much as innate measure of human ability as anything on the standard tests.

I had a friend in the Air Force who taught basic electronics (which is by no means basic). He was bright individual, but my guess is that his IQ was in the upper high-average range, maybe 125 or so. But....

We both taught in a on-base tech school. I was the education guy. I taught methods classes and evaluated the other instructors, so I was always sitting someone else's classroom. Every time I went into his classroom and saw something he had drawn on the chalkboard for his students I wanted to spray it with lacquer, cut it out, and frame it. And yet, he thought nothing of it. His hobby was cabinetmaking, which is the English term for furniture making. When he would cut a mortise in a hardwood leg for a tenon to go into, he had to cut a thin slot down one side of the tenon, otherwise when it was driven into the mortise the wood would explode from air pressure.

That's the kind of hand-and-eye coordination he had. I don't think Terman and Merriill ever measured that, but I suspect it has a place in what we call intelligence. After all, it is valued life skill, and is certainly as useful as--say--spatial visualization which is part of a standard IQ test.

"This has been a public decision and not a school's decision for the most part."

You are dead right! What I see happening is this: A state legislature, wanting to show that it is "doing something for education," plays with the curriculum, adding some bit of fluff. Then we're stuck with it.

The one thing that the public, and public officials, do not seem to understand is that the educational day is just so long. Stick something in and you have to take something out. If you add fluff, you remove hard core learning.

As for teaching very bright kids, being bright and being educated are--as you know--two different things. A little genius is primarily a large empty place waiting to be filled. Teachers do not have to be Einsteins. They just have to know three things:

• The subject. • How to teach the subject. • How to be the kind of human being kids admire.

Toss in a little humility and warmth and you've got a good teacher.

As to that last comment. Thanks! I needed a smile. :-)


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago


Forgot to mention things like this:

Activities director. Who does what?

Time out teacher. Who keeps bad guys in school, instead of sending them home where they belong.

Half the faculty teaching special ed classes, with an average of 8 kids per class. Which explains why the feds keep trying to convince us that kids have learning disabilities. They lure us into applying for special grants, thereby gaining unconstitutional control over schools. This is one way they keep us from refusing to educate illegals; they cut the special ed funds if we don't. Did you know that the Arizona state department of education has over 500 employees who do nothing all day, every day, except apply for federal grants? And did I mention that each special ed teacher has an aide? If I remember right we had 18 special ed classrooms back there in their own little world.

A full time Band Director.

A secretary for the counselors, who were themselves just clerks as far as what they did was concerned.

Two full time audio-visual clerks who, did nothing except receive and return videos and run off worksheets.

And by the way, back in Texas I worked in a high school with 2,800 kids in it, in THE wealthiest school district in the state.

We had none of the positions I have mentioned.


steve bingham 5 years, 6 months ago

Hi folks,

I thought I would join in as I am a retired educator of some 33 years (teaching from grade 4 through college including principal level in California). I also taught the gifted classes for three years. What a fun trip that was!

I know many things have changed since I retired 20 years ago, but the problems are much greater here in Arizona. From statistics I have read, Arizona constantly ranks near the bottom in percentage of money spent in non-secondary education (50th).

And yet their achievement scores are consistently above average (sometimes you get more than you pay for?).

The real question might be, what are we leaving out? Real gifted classes? Real music and art classes? Adequate PE classes? You see we are teaching for the tests and leaving out what some might consider very valuable classes. Classes that inspire.

With family time diminishing every generation (due to increased divorce rate and/or both parents working), who will teach these youngsters how to cook? How to shop at the grocery store? How to appreciate something other than rap music? How to do woodwork? The list is long. You see, education means more than teaching reading, writing, and math. We live in a fascinating world, fast moving and complex.

Perhaps we need to spend more time, energy, and yes, money, teaching the love of learning. If we can do that properly, our students will teach themselves. It happens! Remember when a teacher first turned you on to something that excited you? Remember how it then became something you loved? Your passion. It happens.


steve bingham 5 years, 6 months ago

In California, our models for the identification of gifted students originated during simpler times, when one IQ test was popular throughout the United States, and it generated a single IQ score. The cut-off for admission to programs for the gifted was generally two standard deviations above the mean on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, around 132 IQ. When the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) won over the American market in the 1960s (Lubin, Wallis & Paine, 1971), some states and districts determined that admission to gifted programs would be based upon Verbal, Performance or Full Scale IQ score in the gifted range (130 or above). Regardless of which IQ test was used, the IQ scores were relatively comparable and measured similar variables.

Now enter the new arena of Gifted and Talented. It gets a lot more complicated.


Pat Randall 5 years, 6 months ago

Not all kids with a high IQ score all make good grades in school. Some are bored, some don't like school and some just don't care, would rather be doing something else. My husband had an IQ of near 130, quit school during the 10th grade because he would rather be a cowboy on his granddads ranch. Went on to other things later and was successful in all of them. I could list them but you wouldn't believe it so will leave it there.


Dan Haapala 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Bingham eluded to what I believe is the basic flaw in education. It's about people, not stuff. Inspiration, not memorization, teaches all.

The most important teachers in my world were those that sent me off to find an answer I wanted to find. They Inspired, They created in me a desire to seek knowledge. They were motivators who expressed that the answer to your question can only be answered by you through research and discovery. Those teachers who were what I considered great, challenged me, created curiosity within me, and made me want to learn more.

Today any fool can google a question and get an answer. The teacher we need is the one that says...."why is that the answer?"


John Lemon 5 years, 6 months ago

Dan; I agree with the concept in your final paragraph. Asking students to think critically , which involves many sub-steps including collecting data, analyzing, sorting and selecting, evaluating, and so forth, touches on one of the points that I attempted to make in an earlier posting. I believe that what we call Intelligence is really multiple intelligences. To ask "Why?" is to ask the person to explain the thought process. It allows for many creative paths toward solutions. Some paths may be shorter, or convoluted, or use different techniques than other people but arrive at a conclusion that is sustainable. If I may stray for a moment? The economic world is now and will continue to be global. India, for example, is not going away and jobs will continue to be exported there. The key, I think, for the U.S. is global supremacy in creativity and technology. That goal leads me to believe that teaching people how to be creative with data and materials is more important than ever. Computer Chips, Predator Drones, I Pads, Stealth aircraft and boats, etc. come to mind. Not to diminish the importance of Philosophy, History, Music, Theater, reading, and so on, but those who think that some areas of study are "frills" might want to re-think what can lead to what end.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago

Hi, Steve.

I must say I am pleasantly surprised to see the tone of this discussion. Looking around at the last few posts I can't find a doggone thing I disagree with.

That's great!


It means that my comments on waste haven't been misinterpreted to mean have an anti-education attitude. I suppose it would be a bit unusual for me to have been involved in education one way or another for most of life and to have come away with a negative attitude, but I have to tell you, it is not easy to criticize waste in schools without sounding anti-education.

My viewpoint is simple: Find out what the kids genuinely "need" and provide it. The problem is defining "need," while keeping in mind that the school day is just so long. Everything in a school should teach something. I, for example, would do away with all PE. Wastes precious time and really "teaches" nothing. If kids need exercise they can find a way get it one their own. They've been doing if for a a million years. Why not now?

My problem with education in Arizona is that is not run by educators. It appears to be run by a legislature which really doesn't know much about education.

Why do I say that? I think the AIMS test is a good example of legislative nonsense. Do this. Write for, and read, the sixth grade AIMS test for math. When you see some of the garbage in it you will know what I mean. That test makes one of the most serious errors that can be made in teaching math. It doesn't just require that kids be able to solve problems, but that they solve some them in some specific way. Now, sixth grade math isn't exactly complex, is it? But if you get a copy of that thing, and you hope to pass it, you better be able to learn a new language. For example, one question will undoubtedly ask you to take some numbers and put them in "stem and leaf" form. Can you do that? No? Sorry, you're wrong. You can. All that "stem and leaf" refers to is a number like this 99.5, where the 99 is the stem, and the 5 is the leaf. But if a kid doesn't know that he can't answer the question. So you are testing a language skill, not a math skill.

And hiring four counselors per junior high in hopes of keeping kids in school who are doomed to drop out because the school is testing them on stem and leaf problems is an example of creating a problem, and then trying to fix it by creating an even worse one.

By the way, for my last 12 years in education I was a computer instructor, so I definitely not anti-technology. In fact, at our school we had a computer lab (in addition to mine) which was there for the sole purpose of allowing English, social studies, history, music, or other teachers to make use of technology as it applied to their classes. The teachers just scheduled their classes in. And when I went down to the district Technology Department I was part of program that put computer labs in every library and a small, but effective, number of computers in each classroom.

But NO games! And NO texting!


Pat Randall 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom, We disagree big time on PE classes. I don't mean competitive sports practice. All kids should have PE classes with exercises that have nothing to do with winning some game against another school. Have you noticed all the obese kids lately? Exercise at school is all they will get, because as soon as they get home it is to sit in front of a computer, TV, or text someone on thier cell phones.


Dan Haapala 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom and Pat, Physical Education does stimulate the body and the mind IF the parents of lazy children don't bring doctors notes to excuse their child. One PE period three times a week would benefit every child in my opinion because they have to move. If a child really has a physical defermity that prevents participation in a structured excersize program, than an alternative program for that child should be developed which allows the child to participate. PE should also include the study of human tissue and muscle and organs. A knowledge of the body and how it works. Why we should move. I don't believe it needs to teach reproductive studies and It should not go so far as teaching the history of homosexuality as has been suggested in California recently.

We are more than brain, we are, or should be, healthy, creative, imaginative, intellegent, interactive and social beings that are part of a stimulating world that offers endless opportunities to those who pursue it.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago

Pat and Dan,

If you were to plot the weight of children and the increase in PE classes on the same graph you'd find that they are very similar.

That doesn't prove that PE classes are the cause of obesity, but it sure as heck demonstrates that PE classes have little or no effect on the weight or health of children. Nor do PE classes teach kids anything valuable to them in later life. And if they don't do that they have no business using up precious school time.

Why are kids fat? Because parents fail to do their job. They let kids eat too much when they are young, creating a lifetime habit pattern. Eating is not like--say--smoking. Eating is a natural urge. In nature the effect of eating is balanced out by the time and difficulty of finding enough to eat, and the effort used in getting it. But we are rich beyond the wildest dreams of our forebears, and parents must teach their kids to restrict the amount they eat at a sitting to avoid stretching their stomachs and creating a life of woe and poor health. Schools cannot solve problems over which they have no control.

Furthermore, as any honest coach will tell you, the amount of bullying that goes on during PE classes is enough to drive the average coach crazy trying to supervise the masses of children thrown at him or her. A coach cannot be everywhere and bullies are at their worst in PE classes.

In truth, even if the coaches wanted to have strong physical education programs it would be impossible. You cannot take a kid out of class, put him or her in a high energy program which creates a sweaty, dirty human being, and get that kid cleaned up and ready for academic classes afterwards in the time allotted. To do that you would need a three hour long PE period.

Or a miracle.

That is one fundamental reason why kids hate PE, by the way, which they do in case you didn't know. If you let the kids vote on whether or not they want PE, the program would vanish.

The other reasons kids hate PE is the hazing and bullying which goes on, especially in hidden showers and locker rooms.

PE is one of the greatest scams ever fostered on the American public. Think I'm kidding? Or exaggerating? Try this: Go watch the PE classes at any junior high or high school--for just one day.

Please! Go do it! Really! Get up, call a school, make an appointment and go watch.

Then come back and post, telling us how shocked you were, and how much better you understand.

PE classes exist for two reasons:

The first one is so that schools can hire full time coaches for their teams. And please do not blame the principal or teachers for that. It is a school board choice. Winning teams make happy parents.

The reason for PE other is to convince taxpayers they are getting something for their money when those coaches are hired.

Take it from me. I observed all this with my own eyes for 22 years.

Kids may need exercise, but they don't, and CAN'T, get it in school.


Dan Haapala 5 years, 6 months ago

Long before I knew of interscholastic sports, long before my elementary school had sports teams, I was one of thousands of students that participated in physical education. We were given breaks during morning classes to go out on the tarmac and participate on the ' Jungle Jim' or the 'Monkey bars' or 'Teather ball' Here are more, Hop Scotch, Marbles, or sitting with others enjoying mind games. There was no structured activity, there were teachers on break just like us watching over and seeing kids having fun and exercising. From my experience, it was the students who wanted more. Sports programs, yes, but music programs and chorus programs and even poetry programs. Those things didn't happen because some educator said 'How can we make more money?' It is my deep seated belief that it happened because children understood in the 1950's that competition was a good thing and wanted to find ways to excel. By the 1960's, elementary students were asking two questions, " how do I get to the next step?" or "How do i stay here and survive?" They may not have posed the questions that way, but that was where America was then.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago


I was there in the 50"s. What I saw was schools that did well, kids that thought the schools were what they should be, and parents who supported them. My high school had the highest academic rating in Connecticut, which was top of the line among the states. Not one of the high schools in town had a gym except for the girl's school, and it was there for after-school activities.

And there was no PE. None.

In grammar school there was recess, a chance for kids to forget about books and learning for a while, a good thing, and at that age, I believe, a necessary one.

Then I went into the Air Force (in 1951) and found myself in the educational field. Over the next few years I watched as NEA pushed harder and harder for PE, using the Cold War, and our competition with the Russians as an excuse to get Congress to pass laws enabling physical education activities.

The people I worked with--one and all--laughed at the idea that you could squeeze physical education into the school day. We were out there doing what it took to get young men and women in shape, and we knew that no school day could include the needed three hours to get out equipment, get the students broken up into scratch teams, get in an hour's hard exercise, put things away, and get the student's cleaned up, rested, and ready for academic activities again.

Remember, I did exactly what the schools were supposed to be doing, but weren't. Everyone I worked with knew the PE program was a sham, and we wondered who was pushing it. In 1962, In Utah, I finally saw what was going on. Washington kept pushing one way, and Utah kept pushing the other. Washington won.

As part of a program to work more closely with local schools that came about during the 60's, I saw with my own eyes what actually went on. A coach--now a full time employee--tossed out a ball and told the kids to play football, basketball, or whatever. Or he took them to the track and told them to "run" around it. Ever seen a herd of turtles? And then he, and his fellow coaches, sat in the shade somewhere, and that was that.

Dan, no kid that I ever met liked PE, and none that I ever saw got anything out of it other than a deep seated hatred of being forced to do something they normally do without coercion. A major cause of the current attitude among young people regarding exercise is the fact they are forced to do it.

And then came the days when I began spending my work day in a secondary school. What I saw was an appalling waste of time and money. And yet, no matter how often I tell people to just go over to the nearest school and observe I always run into the same misconceptions:

• The kids like PE. • The kids want PE. • The kids are too fat because they sit around all day, and the schools can somehow fix that problem.

Don't take my word for it. Go to a school. Look around. Ask the kids. Ask the academic teachers. It'll be all the proof you need that PE is a despised, money-wasting sham.


Dan Haapala 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom, My friend you make a strong arguement and thinking back I suppose I'd have to agree with a lot of it. I wasn't one that hated P.E. and I suppose it was because I was good at it. The competition thing. I know many of my friends would rather have been doing something else, but then again, they didn't want chores at home either. I mowed the lawn and started a business mowing lawns.

When do we do what needs to be done, instead of only doing what we want to do?


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago


What PE should be is an elective class. If it were I would have no problem with it. It's just the fact that it is mandatory that makes it so wrong. I would see elective PE in the same light I see elective art, music, or whatever--something for everyone.

It would save tax money, remove an injustice being done to kids who do not want to participate in it, and yet allow those kids who wanted something like that to enjoy its benefits.

Come to think of it, there's a simple, logical initiative that could be put on the state ballot. All it would have to say is that in future PE will be offered as an elective. Once that happened, the coaches would be forced to make it a course the kids would get something out of. No more just tossing out a ball and going into the stands to shoot the breeze. I could see it including things like archery, field and track, and other competitive, but non-contact, sports. I could also see it an a good place to find and recruit potential athletes.

Okay, where's the petition? I'll sign it.


Dan Haapala 5 years, 6 months ago

I can appreciate that totally. I'm trying to think back to my Freshman year in High School. It went something like this: First period was band. I was a trumpet player. Second period was Math. I was a trumpet player. Third period was English. They made me do it. Fourth period was P.E. nuff said. Fifth period was lunch. Sixth period was History. Seventh period was Science. Eighth period was study hall. End of Day.

Of the eight periods in a day, you can see how many were essential. In 1960 there were not so many choices for students but as the years progressed the choices became more, electives were increased and the basic courses tended to fall into the background.

So my question is this. If all we were needed to be taught were English, Math, History and science? Why were we kept in school all day? Was it so that teachers could get paid for a full week's work? So that parents didn't have to be home to watch the kids? Or, were band and P.E. and study hall actually necessary for the filling out of our educational needs? I don't know the answer, but if it's the first excuse I feel very very cheated.


Pat Randall 5 years, 6 months ago

When I was in jr. high and high school, back in the dark ages in Payson, we had math, science, history, english, chemistry. P.E the last period as we didn't have showers at school. Electives were journalism, typing and only one year were we offered Spanish, no other foreign language as none of the teachers knew how to teach them. We didn't have band or competitive sports with other schools except boy's basketball as there were not enough kids. When I graduated from the 8th grade there was less than 20 kids in the 7th, 8th and high school. 2 seniors graduated that year. 1950. School started at 9:00 am, an hour for lunch and the school day ended at 4:00 pm after P.E. There were two teachers for the grades 7 thru 12. One of them was principal of the school.
There was one teacher for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. grades and one teacher for 4th, 5th and 6th. grades. Superintendent of Gila County Schools was in Globe. We saw him about three times a year. We didn't have to have law enforcement at the school or drug programs. No sex education. None of us thought we were under privileged.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago

"Why were we kept in school all day?"

According to the literature, Dan, the answer is that society had no place for all those 14 through 18 years old kids after we changed from a subsistence society to one where there was enough to feed and clothe us without having those kids work. And so, the years of mandatory schooling changed from 6, to 8, and then to 12 in an attempt to get kids more ready to enter the world of work.

That's what they. I've read that in so many textbooks I have come to believe that it is a fair summation. If you read about the cities of the mid and late 19th century you will find them overrun by teenage gangs, and I imagine that's one thing that high school was intended to stop.

That view of the history of American education ties in perfectly with the fact that rural areas were the last to add to the school day, first to 8 years, and then to 12. Farm kids were useful workers on family farms, but as the small family farm disappeared, replaced by larger ones, rural kids began attending nearby high schools.

It also explains a couple of things, such as where electives came from. Read "electives" as "day fillers."

By the way, you'll find that teachers are paid for a given number of days in a year. The length of that day can vary widely, even within the same school district. When I was at Carson in Mesa we had a shorter day than the rest of the junior highs. Then someone complained and we had to stretch each hour longer to meet some standard or other. Wasn't a big deal. I don't even remember anyone complaining, although I may not have known the right crowd.


What color was the school? And who rang the bell? :-)

We had a school just like that in my neighborhood in New London. Nathan Hale taught in it before he went off to war.


Pat Randall 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom, The stone was natural sort of rose colored. It was the JRE School. All 12 grades. The janitor rang the bell at 9:00 am 12.00 and 1:00pm. It was a big cast iron bell hanging between trees. The teachers rang the recess bells for the 1st thru 6th grades. Julia Randall was my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teacher. Ethel Owens, and a Pat Perkins taught 4th, 5th and 6th after Mrs Owens retired. Miss Perkins was fired because someone on the school board saw her drinking alcohol one evening in the old Elks Bar or Winchester to you new comers. Can't remember what the next teachers name was. Oh yes, it was Miss O'Brien about 70 years old who wore a red curly wig. We had several different ones in the 7th, 8th and high school. There was a Mr. Cochran who was teacher and principal, then Mr. Martin who took his place as teacher and principal when he retired. A Mr. Baxter taught one semester and then left. Leona Fuel also taught 7th and 8th. We had a big turnover of teachers. in the upper grades. If you understood any of the above good for you. (:


Tom Garrett 5 years, 6 months ago

Man, Pat! You have a good memory!

I only remember a few of my teacher's names. We went in half years, not years In NYC, so in IA I had Miss Palmer, and in IB Miss Banke.

After that I would have to go all the way to 8th grade in New London to remember a name. Mrs. Sullivan.

And after that?

One here and one there. Mister Manning, Physics. Mister Conway, American History. Mister Benvenuti, Music Appreciation. Mister Foye (ex-Marine, WWII), Mechanical Drawing. Others that come to me at times.

Mister Foye was one tough Marine pilot. Crashed his plane in the jungles of New Guinea and broke his neck. Walked out. Took him two weeks and left him with a permanent crook in his neck.

Oh yeah, Mister Jascinski, Auto Mechanics. I remember him because his brother Eddie was in my class. Come to think of it, so was Mona Conway.

Oh yes, Mister Palmer, Chemistry. And Mister Mugavero and Mister Tasca, French. (I took three years of French). And Mister Sheahy, Senior English. And Mister Mclaughlin, Woodshop One.

Come to think of it I knew Judy Mugavero too. She was a little doll. You pronounce the name

We had many Italian names back east. And a lot of Polish names too. In fact, Norwich--Benedict Arnold's home town, by the way**--just 14 miles up the Thames from New London, had a Polish language radio station. Spoke nothing but Polish, all day. We thought nothing of it.

** Good old Benedict Arnold went to all the trouble of personally burning New London down during the Revolution. Maybe Norwich and New London had a problem with each other back then. :-)

And Percy Neff, a short little, twisted, hunchback who worked in Machine Shop. One great machinist, I can tell you.

Funny, I can see all the other faces just as clearly as if they were standing right in front of me, but the names have flown.

Well, I may have forgotten the names, but I will never forget the things they did for me. I had a sophomore year English teacher whose name has been gone for many decades now, who was so good that I swear I never learned another thing about English after I finished his class. And I understood what made something worth reading after that year ended too. And how to take what i was thinking and put it into words. The man was extraordinary. Quiet and reserved, and yet inspiring, all at the same time. I'd been going to school for nine years, and all of a sudden here came this great teacher who taught me all there was to know about English--in one year.


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