Skip to comments.Despite Focus on Data, Standards for Diploma May Still Lack Rigor (high school grads cannot write)
Posted on 02/06/2012 6:16:00 AM PST by reaganaut1
The next time people try to tell you how much the data-driven education reform programs of President George W. Bush (No Child Left Behind) and President Obama (Race to the Top) have raised academic standards in America, suggest that they take a look at the Jan. 24, 2012, New York State English Regents exam.
This year, for the first time, high schools students must score at least 65 on the English exam, as well as on four other state tests math, science, global history and United States history to earn a diploma.
The three-hour English test includes 25 multiple choice questions; one essay; and two short responses that are each supposed to be a paragraph long. A short response is scored 0 to 2 points. A student who gets 1s on both responses has a pretty good shot at scoring 65 and passing the exam.
Here, from the state teachers scoring guide, is an excerpt from a short response written by an unnamed student. The guide says it deserves a score of 1:
These two Charater have very different mind Sets because they are creative in away that no one would imagen just put clay together and using leaves to create Art.
Theoretically, passing the English Regents would mean that a student could read and write.
Here is the topic sentence of another students short response that, according to the state guide, also deserves a 1:
In the poem, the poets use of language was very depth into it.
Until recently there were two main graduation options in New York. Students could earn a Regents-endorsed diploma by passing several state exams, or they could earn a local diploma. But the two-tier system has been phased out. No longer will there be a local diploma option.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Now, most people are not going to be real writers -- that's a rather special skill. But anyone should be competent in their native language. Anyone should be able to write the way they talk. That doesn't make you a real writer, but it allows you to get ideas and feelings across to other humans.
These essays are saying something about a widespread lack of skill in spelling and grammar, but even more, they are saying something about an ability to converse and even to think in one's native language. Many people today cannot talk. They cannot think.
And here we see what their essays look like.
Actually, many ARE intelligent enough ... but are NOT challenged and REQUIRED to perform.
“They cannot think.”
THIS is crucial. It is something my husband and I have often discussed. Unfortunately, the ability to look at an issue or a problem from several different perspectives and consider an appropriate solution (or solutions) is NOT taught. This holds true in math as much as in the humanities.
Teachers teach, that which they know and what they know is what they teach. It is not the students failing as much as it is the teachers failing to teach them properly.
metmom, here is one for the homeschooling ping list!
True critical thinking isn’t wanted in today’s schools. Critical thinking leads to opinions which leads to challenging the vast authority of the state.
My 13 year old niece recently received a failing grade on a report she wrote on my grandmother’s time in the WAVES during WWII. The teacher didn’t fail her on writing ability or coherency which was at par. The teacher failed her on subject matter. The assignment was to interview someone who had taken part in a historical event that affects us today.
The teacher sent a letter home and suggested that next time my niece should write about someone who had taken part in civil rights marches or the women’s rights movement. The idiot teacher couldn’t see the relevance of women signing up for military service during WWII in advancing women’s rights.
Actually, many ARE intelligent enough ... but are NOT challenged and REQUIRED to perform.
Now that is a can of worms to open.
I taught for a while, started a year or so after I left the Army. One year I was given the what we here politely call the sink class. The deadbeats, the ones with learning difficulties, the ones who were illiterate or innumerate, the gangbangers, the drug users. The ones pulled out of the other science classes to allow those students to at least attempt to learn. All 37 of them.
No variation in what I was to teach them - they were to sit the exact same exam as the top class at the end of the year.
It was the best and most fun class I ever taught, even though the first month was total chaos.
I challenged them, insisted that they did the work or had a very good excuse not to and that they caught up on any work they missed. (several had court appearances, or missed class by getting arrested. One missed every friday class because he was the sole support of his mother and sisters). You don’t come into my class stoned (a problem as one of the slots was immediately after lunch) or stinking of breath mints.
When I started phoning in the evening and pointedly asking why they had not been in class and offering to tutor them on the spot, they got the message. Show up to class and do the work.
They were challenged. They were required to not just go through the motions, but to think. To take some pride in themselves. They actually liked it!
I was required to work and think too, probably harder than I ever have in my life. Try explaining the various gas laws to someone who has never even heard of algebra! Or reading the handwriting of someone who is basically learning to read and write at the same time as he is learning about covalent bonding!
The GCSE test results are released on a Thurday in August. Got a phone call from the school with the results.
ONE of them failed the exam. Of the other 31 (5 by the end of the year had been removed from school, usually to head to Feltham Boys Prison, one was killed in a gang fight), 6 scraped A’s, there was a smattering of C’s and D’s and a solid core of B’s.
Never taught the sink class after that, it made the rest of the department (ie my boss) look bad.
Kept the habit of running after school drop in sessions for anyone with a problem they couldn’t understand, but challenging the students to perform and treating them as human beings worth my time was apparently not appropriate. Eventually I got frustrated and quit teaching altogether.
30 years later, still get cards, letters and (now) emails from most of that class. Four of them, through the quirks of fate, live within a couple miles of me and come over to see me from time to time - usually at dinner time!
Long and rambling, but kids doing well does not just happen in bad movies. A friend in the same school taught French. She had one fixed classroom rule - you could talk as much as you wanted - quietly - as long as you only spoke French. You could hear her class three rooms away some days, but they all aced the exam.
What is killing these kids is the idea of tenure - the teacher does not have to do their best, so why should they. Add in educational voodoo - grab a kid, label her as dyslexic and watch her fail - and the fault is down to the very people supposed to teach.
Wouldn’t want those on the lower part of that bell curve to feel bad about themselves - it might hurt their self esteem, and they might turn to lives of crime.
I’m sure the sociologists looked at the statistics, saw that those on the low end of the bell curve were more likely to be criminals, and determined that they must have turned to crime in despair because their sense of self-esteem was lowered because they failed in school.
Twisted conclusions are the product of the left, and it’s because they start out with wrong assumptions of human nature (and origins).
A student need only be taught a few academic things -
math, (English) language, mostly how to read, and some thinking/logic skills.
The rest is character building. Character building is the purview of the home. The other basics can also EASILY be taught at home, as well.
“What is killing these kids is the idea of tenure ...”
I so agree and YES, these kids LIKE to be challenged. Earlier in my career, I taught several classes similar to the one you have described. I will go one step further on the tenure issue. From what I have observed in many schools over the years, I will say that, at least, on third of those who are presently “teaching” ...should NOT be.
Of course, there ARE many other factors that contribute to all of this ...such as lack of a good, healthy family environment, lack of parent involvement in the schools (starting somewhere around Middle School)...and much more.
At this point, I would encourage almost anyone to utilize private school or to home school rather than use the public school system...if at all possible. If one must use public school, parental involvement and awareness of what takes place in the classroom and/or at that school in general is ESSENTIAL.
One other point: Teacher education MUST be improved and prospective teachers need to ALSO be challenged as to how to use a variety of teaching methods and intelligent, common-sense solutions in various classroom situations...not to mention raising their expectations for all students.
Much more should be expected from school administrators as well...but that is another can of worms...as I’m sure you know. ;-)
In general, I agree with you, but what about science, history, civics, basic economics?
“Character building is the purview of the home.”
Absolutely ...and good teachers should reinforce that at school.
Most of that half can still learn to spell, write in complete sentences, and capitalize the first word and proper nouns. Whether they want to or not is a different issue.
Yes, but it’s not quite that simple. There are many different factors...and those can factors can vary from district to district.
Example: If a good teacher is not adequately supported by the school administration, it can become a barrier to good teaching. (There are some administrators who even frown on giving students the grades they deserve. There are others who are so cloistered in their offices, that they have no idea of what is taking place in the classrooms.)
It’s so funny it is sad. People twist themselves into pretzels trying to blame teachers, parents, and others for illiterate and innumerate students.
The fact remains, the average IQ of the inner city poor child is below 85. Add lack of motivation to the mix and you get a hopeless situation.
We address those topics after teaching reading and instilling the love of learning.
When a question is asked, I’ll explain what I know about the topic and encourage them to seek out the “fleshed out” information through reading and research.
Again, reading (English) is the basis of learning, so it has to be stressed.
I’m betting these “high school students that cannot write “don’t like to” (cannot) read, either.
You’d win that bet. Usually, such students have not been held accountable for their learning in the earlier grades and simply passed up to the next level ...where they are even more unable to achieve.
This is due to many factors and depends on the district, parents, etc. In many districts these days, parents will DEMAND that their child be passed whether the student can read/write/has worked...or not.
This is a cultural factor...again demonstrating how sick the culture of this nation has become. The problems do not emanate solely from the schools ...but from our more and more secularized and liberal culture in general.
A few weeks ago, we attended a shindig at one of the top 20 high schools in the country. Soon to be freshman students were handed “welcome” packets that contained a letter written by a current student at the school. The letter began, “Dear Perspective Student.” This shindig was intended to be a sales pitch for prospective students in order to persuade the students and their parents to send their young geniuses to the school. One of the sales pitches came from a student who kept using the phrase, “the both of us.” I assume these students excel at mathematics or science because English is not a strong point.
Oh, Lord. Terrible teachers are a bane to the profession.
The UK tried to do something about that. Every school gets inspected, and every teacher within that school gets monitored for a two week period, at random. You never know when an inspector will drop into your class. Sounds like a good idea, right?
My first and only inspection, my inspector was someone I knew about, who had been fired from another school for incompetance! You know how rare THAT is! Yet now, she was judging me on MY competence.
Of my class, when I got my teaching certificate (already had a degree, so only needed a certificate to teach) there is not one left actually in education, as far as I know. Don’t keep up with all of them.
We had all come from industry, or the army. Even had a Navy taxi driver. Sightly older than the norm, we all went into teaching because we wanted to teach.
Sure, the holidays are nice, and the pay isn’t terrible (your teachers get paid far better) but we all were young enough or dumb enough to actively want to make a difference.
They left for the same reason I did. We were not allowed to teach. Form filling, box ticking, awareness conferences - bleh. We are teachers. Not blehrocrats! You want some empty pantsuit to talk to me about teen pregnancy when I have two girls in my class currently pregnant? To talk about “sensitivty to Muslim culture” when a quarter of my students are and I get invites to eat with the families?
I know we have slightly different systems, but I have always been one for payment by results. Maybe slightly weighted to consider the kids you are working with. Grab some of the BEST teachers to inspect schools, not the washouts or the ones straight from college.
Most importantly - have an open door policy. Let parents not only come in for a PT conference, but come and watch the classes themselves.
I won’t say get the Dept of Education’s nose out of the system completely. The good students are going to go all over the world to carry on their education, to work and to live. MIT should be able to know, reliably, that the standards in a Utah school are the same as in one in the middle of NYC.
Yet they keep dumbing down, in the names of fairness and inclusiveness - that should stop. Right now.
It fails, no worse, it disrespects the kids in school.
Much prefer the homeschooling option, or a good private school, but a lot of parents simply cannot do that. Those who do, I respect immensely (I homeschool the grandkids AFTER their school day, and it takes a lot out of you. Got 8 here now, and following 8 lessons and discussions simultaneously is hard!).
While we are in the era of a two wage earner household, or indeed a one wage earner that is also the lone parent, public schools are necessary. They should be the BEST they can be, not a babysitting service.
Get rid of tenure. Pay by results - bankers get bonuses, why not teachers. Clear out the deadwood. Get rid of idealogical bias in the curriculum. Facts, figures and how to actually think should be the core, not what to think.
It won’t be perfect, but it will help.
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Homeschooling in NYS is among the most regulated in the country but it IS doable.
The regs are a nuisance, not an impediment. Get your kids out of the public school system.
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