Sunday, June 21, 2009

American Class Divide - Widened By Summer Opportunities

I have just finished reading an excellent, excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers: The Story of Success. It is a very interesting look at what makes people succeed. The fundamental premise is that there is pretty much no such thing as a "self-made man". His arguments and examples are fairly compelling. He draws them from business (Bill Gates), Canadian youth hockey, in fact all over the place. And in doing so, takes a long view of the American education system and why some kids do better than others. I found one particular section very telling.

In looking at the "achievement gap" between rich and poor kids, he cites a study done of school kids in Baltimore over a five year period. The school system tested its kids using the California Achievement Test. What they found was fascinating. The kids started first grade with a clear, but not outstanding difference across the income divide. The first graders from the richest families have scores 32 points higher than those from the poorest. By fifth grade, the gap has more than doubled. More than doubled. What they found, when probing the numbers comparing the beginning of one year to the end of that same year is that the poor kids "out-learn" the rich kids. However, summer vacation, the rich kids scores have move ahead and poor kids have fallen back. In the end, after the first five grades, the poorest kids learned no new reading skills during the summers an the richest kids moved up by 54+ points.

In reading this, I'm definitely planning to beef up the educational regimen for the Beans this summer. We were planning on continuing Arabic lessons with a focus on reading, but now all the Beans will be getting more content. I'll still try and preserve significant play-time, but I think four hours a week of learning will be a good influence on them. The only challenge is that I actually have to develop the curricula for each according to their needed skills... Maybe I'll throw in some American social studies as well, after all, I doubt they'll be getting that in Jordan's schools, nor should they.

So, after saying all this, for those of you with teen-aged kids (I'm only wishing the beans were old enough) my friend at Whiz Kids is once again offering awesome programs for kids. Given the challenges of Jordan's education system, I'm particularly pleased to see the two workshops on writing skills. I think those are more needed than pretty much any others.

Great News Parents! Whiz Kids now has our Summer Teen Workshop schedule finalized.

Workshops topics include:
 Mind Mapping
 Communication and Presentation Skills for Teens
 Today's Teens - Tomorrow's Leader
 Nonfiction Writer's Workshop
 Essay Writing for Teens Seats are limited for each program so early registration is essential.

For more details about each workshop, or to register now, visit our events page at

Here's hoping those of you with kids in the age range targeted will help give your kids a bit of a push this summer. As for those of us with younger kids, one of these days, we need to get something going for them. I mean, besides all of the physical activities (like ballet for the girl Beans this year and tennis for the boy Bean) they should be learning too. Maybe each of us can offer a special workshop in an area of our expertise...

Happy Summer School!


At 10:07 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Whoa, staggering gaps. Staggering. Thanks for those statistics.

I'm reading Gladwell's Tipping Point right now. Fascinating.

At 1:03 PM , Anonymous Um Abdulrahman said...

Ok girls, you have me intrigued. Where can I find this book in Amman?

At 3:42 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

I got it from a small bookstore, but got his last copy I think (1000 & 1 bookstore on-line at, new location in the building next to the Department of Labor behind Cozmo). Just finished Tipping Point today, Umm Farouq. I actually think Outliers was even better, although Tipping Point is fascinating as well. Umm A, If you have trouble finding it, drop me an e-mail and I'll lend it to you.

At 10:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

a friend told me about this book a couple of months ago, but I couldn't manage to find it in Amman, any recommended bookshop to look for it?

At 12:00 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Um Tareq has the Outliers, and I have Tipping Point. We'll hook you up, Um A. :) But Reader's should carry both, I think.

At 12:03 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Actually T.P. belongs to Um al Abd, but I'm sure she'll lend it to you when I'm done.

Or MommaBean will. :)

At 1:37 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

No question. And Tha2ir, go to the website I mention and talk with Ra'ed. He's awesome and if he doesn't have any additional copies, I'm certain he can direct you or order it...

At 1:28 PM , Anonymous SOS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

To educate the younger ones, you could have a fantastic teacher from say, oh, I don't know... Indiana come in for the summer to teach a few hrs. per week!:)

At 5:18 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Oooh, come on girl! You are most welcome at any time. We have a guest bedroom just dying for a lovely guest like you! Teehee. Seriously you are truly welcome to come for a visit (and bring Mom).


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