On Flint’s Water Crisis and Education

What is happening in Flint, Mchigan is an awful example of how some elected officials treat the children they represent. It’s not just in the schools system but in other aspects of their lives, as well. Why would we expect the governor of Michigan to care about the quality of public school education when he knowingly acted against their health, of all critical aspects of a persons life.

High Graduation Rates Are Sadly Inflated; H.S. Diplomas, Meaningless

This NYT article discusses how the increase in high schoool graduation rates doesnt mean more students are graduating at grade level– the truth is students are more likely to graduate far below grade level. 

What’s so disturbing about this article is that it’s not that high school graduates aren’t just unprepared for college, they’re unprepared for life. They’re underperforming in fundamental english, math and verbal skills. It’s sad that schools are sending teenagers out into the world with a valueless diploma for the sake of graduation rates. It’s sad they can do that. It’s sad that students are passing fifth grade without writing clear, coherent sentences and graduatting high school without being able to artuculate themselves. Not everyone is made for college, but most high school students should at least have the most basic skills down pat…we’re required to go to school for TWELVE years…what do we have to show for it? 
As you know, my high school was going through the turn-around process while I was a sophmore. With a little less than 200 students in my class, I was in the top twenty and scored a 5 on the AP English exam. I got to college and was able to avoid math but certainly wasn’t ready to compete with my peers in writing. My writing was atrocious. So, you can imagine how the bottom half (or even the bottom 3/4) of my high school class faired out. How was I able to write paper after paper, complete with weak sentence structure, an inability to connect thoughts and poor grammar, and still  get a 95 in English? I tend to side with teachers when it comes to attactching exams to high-stake consequences, but teachers are blantly deceiving students like myself. More shockingly, New York state and city required exams, along with AP exams, are certainly poor indicators of academic acheivement. Are the standards that low? 

Graduates are only being scarred by this false acheivement. This, to me, only proves that Common Core, No Child Left Behind and the city and state-wide exams required to graduate are in no way accurate when it comes to evaluating life-readiness. A high school diploma, unfortunately, doesn’t represent the deep content a student has learned. Nor does it  indicate that she’s mastered foundational math, literacy, written and verbal skills. Graduating high school students is far less about prepping them for the real world and more about giving off an appearnce that students are learning. This, now an apparent fact, begs the simple question: why is public high school education prioritizing graduation rates over quality education?

I feel the answer lies in high stakes testing and our schools curriculum structure. More on that in a later post.

Finally Reading Paul Tough’s “How Children Succeed”

I’m only on the first chapter, but so far I love the anecdotes, which bring the troubles some children go through to life. I’m also fascinated by economist James Heckman’s interdisciplinary work on the Perry Preschool Program and Tough’s use of the research in the book’s introduction. The reader understands what Tough is going to talk about but he provides this strong piece of research that is a catalyst in his quest to understand how children succeed. More thoughts on the book as a read!
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Minorities Less Likely to be Labeled Gifted by White Teachers

Students of colors are significantly less likely to be “deemed” gifted by caucasian teachers than students of color being taught by teachers of color. This Washington Post article lists some reasons why this may be but the question is how do we rectify this? I didn’t read the study the article is based on, but it would be interesting to see what the schools studied considered to be “gifted” and what, if anything, is being done with students who are¬†almost-gifted-but-not-there-yet? I’d like to know the¬†answer to the latter question more so than the former simply because if some “near-gifted” colored students aren’t selected for the initial gifted program, it’s important to continue to hone and challenge their minds. According to the study, they prove to be just as academically gifted, so it would be ashamed that they are denied entry into a gifted program but remain in a less engaging environment, which would leave room for them to lose that will to learn. ughhhh. It sucks because more likely that not, this is what is happening:-/

 

Teachers Get One-Size-Fits-All Training

Pauline Zdonek, a Illionois teacher and math coach, wrote a blog post on Edutopia about the importance of  effective professional development. I won’t go into too much detail, but I can’t agree with the point of her post anymore: Teachers, like students, benefit from development geared towards their individualized needs more than non-applicable, repetitive information. We should want each teacher to leave a session learning something useful, rather than waste their time, as Pauline recounts in her post. The problem, she says, is that administrators apply a one size fits all technique, which ends up being so vague, no one can benefit it.

While it is hard to provide granular, one-on-one professional development for every teacher, any attempt to “meet the teacher where she is at” is a safe bet on making an actual improvement to her skill set. Pauline recounts the all too often situation is a teacher not being asked what she would like to gain from a training session but given a requirement to attend sessions, regardless if she walks away with meaningful, useful guidance or not.

Why do we expect teachers to be amazing when we don’t understand or care for how they’re being taught? Professional development needs to be a more transparent component of education as a whole. Perhaps professional development organizers could meet with a wide range of teachers and discuss what could be covered over a series of future professional development trainings. Or, if meeting is not possible, have students fill out a detailed survey that leaves plenty of room for open-ended answers, which would be sufficient to engage the teacher about how they can be accommodated. With that said, genuine professional development for teachers that takes their needs into consideration would just let teachers know that, just as students’ individual needs matter, theirs do too…because they are…students, after all.

I know reformers don’t like accommodating teachers, but I think PD accommodation is worth the investment, no?