The full title is The High School Failures: A Study of the School Records of Pupils Failing in Academic or Commercial High School Subjects.

“The recognition of individual differences urged in section 1 necessitates a differentiation and a flexibility of the high school curriculum that is limited only by the social and individual needs to be served, the size of the school, and the availability of means. The rigid inflexibility of the inherited course of study has contributed perhaps more than its full share to the waste product of the educational machinery. … ‘Specialization of instruction for different pupils within one class is needed as well as specialization of the curriculum for different classes.’ There must be less of the assumption that the pupils are made for the schools, whose regime they must fit or else fail repeatedly where they do not fit.”

From the dissertation of Francis P. O'Brien

The subquote is from Edward L. Thorndike, from his book Individuality (1911). The next line of that quote is "Since human nature does not all into sharply defined groups, we can generally never be sure of having a dozen pupols who need to be treated exactly alike."
Not "a," "an," or "the." Not even "el" or "de."

Articles as in journal or blog format.

What makes something a good article to you? Do you have standards you apply either consciously or, now that you are thinking of it, automatically?

Is there a consistent balance between statistics and discussion? Do you prefer opinion pieces? How much evidence needs to be present to support the author's conclusions before they become your conclusions, as well?

Do you find, as one person put it, that the sheer volume of references in a piece makes the author(s) better writers?

Please do share your thoughts. (and if you want to amplify the question, I would not mind that at all!)
"The fewer American (born) grandparents a pupil has, the higher his achievement ratio is likely to be."

The time was 1940. The study was of 297 students across 4 (white) Baltimore high schools, each of whom had scored over 120 IQ on an Otis-Lennon (or other) IQ test. Of the 297 students, 125 had 4 American-born grandparents. 91 had none. 24 did not know where all of their grandparents had been born.

A similar split was seen in pupils whose dominant language at home was not English, though that was a bit more skewed by gender than the grandparent question was (with boys being higher than the girls among those with non-English speaking homes).

Achievement Ratio was a comparison between the IQ score and a performance measure.

"...the pupils who were deprived of privileges by their parents as a method of punishment had a lower mean achievement ratio than the pupils who were lectured or punished in any other way. Those pupils who received no punishment at all were ranked next in mean achievement ratio. Apparently, low achievement ratio is associated with being deprived of privileges, and high achievement ratio is associated with whipping and lecturing by parents."

Factors Associated with the Achievement of High School Pupils of Superior Intelligence(pp. 53-68) ~John W. Musselman, The Journal of Experimental Education (Vol. 11, No. 1, Sep., 1942).
This is one of a series of pieces from the past that capture the state of the present all too well.

by Milton Kornrich, in Underachievement, which he edited in 1965.

One might suppose that a definition of academic underachievement is a simple matter. After all, intuitively, does not the term directly suggest that a student is functioning less well than he or she could? But what is the meaning of "less well" and "could?" Is it less well in terms of a standard established by the student ("I think I could do better"); by the student's parents ("We know he could do better"); by the student's teacher ("He has more ability than he shows"); or by an objective intelligence or aptitude test which predicts a certain level of performance? Some focus on the imperfectness of this prediction: "Underachievement and overachievement are concepts which demonstrate the inability to predict performance accurately due to the influence of factors other than general ability or past record." (Carlson and Fullmer, 1959) Finally, if the researcher decides how "less well" is to be determined, what techniques will be used to measure it?

There are numerous related problems that only a more ambitious paper (i.e. Davis, 1959; Farquhar) would review. The purpose of this brief communication is to stimulate the reader to consider and evaluate a sample of definitions, and to emphasize, perhaps unnecessarily, that the multitudinous definitions reflect our insufficient comprehension of a most significant and obviously highly overdetermined phenomenon.

various definitions )

A definition that is rather broad and lacking in precision but which more than compensates for it in humor is offered by Russell: "In a very general sense, the 'underachiever' is the person who performs markedly below his capacities to learn, to make applications of learning, and to complete tasks. Speaking figuratively, he is the person who sits on his potential, resisting various motivational procedures to get him off his potential, and possibly needing an adroitly directed kick in that same potential." (Russell, 1958). The humor in Russell's definition appears to be the only indirect reference to the impatience and anger that the underachiever can arouse in us. Often, the underachiever's passive way of coping with hostility is stressed. If underachievement is a highly active* maneuver that indeed achieves something, and I believe it surely does, it would be fruitful for some investigator to describe the underachiever's impact on peers, parents, and teachers.

Newman's definition is thoughtful and novel: "It is our conclusion that a student's own sense of underachievement and voluntary participation in a project such as ours are the essential criteria for the identification and selection of underachievers. We would estimate that 25 per cent of Hofstra (University) students would meet such criteria. (Newman, undated).

Only recently have some investigators (e.g. Davis, 1959; Farquhar; Raph and Tannenbaum, 1961; Thordike, 1963) critically examined the voluminous underachievement literature to account for inconsistent findings, to suggest more sophisticated methodology, or even to challenge the concept of underachievement (Kowitz, 1965; Schwitzgebel, 1965). Perhaps, in Professor Thorndike's words, this effort "Will lead to fewer and better publications in the future." (Thorndike, 1963). It may eventually lead to fewer, less arbitrary definitions of underachievement.

(references to specifics available, but the fingers got tired)
As with many other aspects of education, the approach to gifted children goes through cycles. There is a push, currently, toward seeing giftedness only in the product of ones labors rather than in the individual that is reminiscent of the early days of Joseph Renzulli's Three Ring Conception of Giftedness, which posited the three components of gifted behavior to be "above average ability, above average creativity, and above average task commitment."

In "Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science," Rena Subotnik and her co-authors have proposed a definition of giftedness that remarkably has absolutely nothing to do with a person:

Giftedness is the manifestation of performance that is clearly at the upper end of the distribution in a talent domain even relative to other high-functioning individuals in that domain.

No longer are we, the educators, seeking to nurture individuals. We are purely and simply seeking to turn out displays and products, albeit of the highest quality.

Let me set aside the broader issue of whether we wish to return our view of education to the factory model, and the pure linguistic issue of defining a person's attributes in terms of external valuation of their production.

Instead, I would like to focus on the implications for late bloomers and underachievers.

In a view that focuses on the child and the child's potential, there is purpose in looking at what blocks it, at what prevents that child from fulfillment. The child who is stuck is as worth our effort as the child who achieves. Giftedness is the high potential.

In a view that focuses on the fruits of a child's labors, there is no purpose in looking beyond whether the child produces or not. The child's fulfillment has no relevance to schooling or, dare I say it, upbringing. Giftedness is, somehow, in the product and not the child.

I do not come at this from a detached point of view. My perspective is that of a classic underachiever whose parents, teachers, and counselors were quite frustrated; that of an adult who works with others who have been so labeled.

I have reason to believe that my efforts have made a difference in the lives of dozens of other underachievers, helping them to find their feet. Pardon me if I cannot see how declaring these children a waste of time and effort would make this a better world.



February 2017



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