Stack of BooksRead an interesting op-ed piece about the high drop out rate in the United States. According to this piece, the U.S. high school system is out of date and does not prepare students for life. Students graduate without basic skills and even basic knowledge of historical facts. It is one more piece attacking our public education.

As an educator who has taught in both public and private schools, I am well aware that there are many problems with our educational system. However, studies comparing U.S. students to the world often fail to consider that in we educate everyone. For the most part students channeled into college prep and vocational tracts. Part of the “American Dream” is that if a student is willing to work hard enough they can achieve a college education no matter regardless of test results. Instead of college, being for the elite is almost we have a sense of entitlement regarding higher education.

The obsession with test scores in my opinion has greatly harmed our educational system. In an effort to prepare students for the almighty tests elements of the curriculum deemed not essential has been jettisoned. In many cases, education consists of teaching to the test. That does not prepare students for anything beyond a test. In some cases, it is possible to do well on the tests without gaining basic skills. Several years ago the basic skills test in Texas for third graders focused on only on solving word problems in math. Students were to select the operation but not actually solve the problems. In fact in training for teachers we were instructed to discourage students from solving the problems because it slowed them down on the tests.

While No Child Left Behind was intended to help at-risk students and students in low performing schools. In my opinion, it has created an emphasis on teaching only basic skills. Students will meet the standards that are expected of them. It is better to have higher standards and provide remediation or extra assistance when needed.

One last thought, I was shocked several years ago when we moved to a different state and discovered that it is assumed only very few students will be able to enter a 4-year university upon graduation from high school. I had a school administrator inform me that only the elite students would gain direct admission into a university. I was instructed to lower my standards because the students were headed for community college. In many cases, community colleges are taking the place of high schools. They must provide prep courses to bridge between high school and a 4-year university.

Yes, many high school graduates are clueless and ill prepared for life. Yes, our educational system has serious problems. It is time for to get serious about fixing the problem instead of making more laws, regulations or adding more tests. It is time to provide schools with the funding needed. It is time to give educators the respect, support and pay they deserve. Change is not going to happen with more federal intervention but with local grassroots support.What are you doing to support schools, teachers and students in your community?

14 thoughts on “Clueless?

  1. SAT, ACT, GRE are no longer designed to help a counselor to aid a student in placement, they are discriminators to keep all but the high achievers out of college. Those students who score low on these tests struggle through college if they make it at all. I have been amazed in my journey in college as an older student how the whole grading system works. Multiple choice tests answered on scantron with no regard to what the student can tell you about what he learned. No application necessary. It is unbelievable how unrelated tests and actual lectures are sometimes. Test banks with questions on three levels. I just shake my head. What happened to essay questions where you proved what you had learned?


  2. Mamacurry,

    None of the profs the Big Guy has TA’d for uses scantron. The tests are all essays.

    This summer The Big Guy is planning on using a combination of multiple choice and essay for his tests. The reason for including multiple choice is that he will have a large number of freshman not used to writing.

    In my own college experience we had a mixture of scantron, essay and application questions.


  3. I wish other profs were like The Big Guy then. And he is so right…they have no idea how to write. I’ve worked in a writing lab on campus helping students with papers for 2 years. I am appalled at the lack of writing skills.


  4. I agree with you, DeeZ.

    Even though I understand the basis for ‘No Child,’ I believe it slows down other students. By assigning different curriculum you’re not making a judgement on students. You should allow every child to reach their potential. Not every student is going to be a genius, & that’s ok. But let’s not hold back the ones that are.


  5. After 35 years in a public school, I thought that I had died and gone to heaven when I began teaching in a private school 8 years ago.

    I teach STUDENTS, not tests. I am free to change stategies, techniques, and materials, as needed to meet the need of students.

    Seven years ago, one of my second grade students did not understand the value of “one.” In second grade he repeated first grade math, still without understanding “one,” In third grade,that student began to understand math–using TOUCH MATH techniques.

    In 8th grade he does 8th grade math, and can compute many answers in his head. He still does not know many math facts and has not been able to memorize multiplication tables–but he can sequence count rapidly. (He counts by 2’s to 20, 3’s to 30, ect to 13’s to 169′ also by 25’s and 50’s to whatever. He can arrive at the correct answer–and that is the most important thing.

    For a few years in oral reading (which we do EVERY day) I told him every other word. Now he reads well.

    In 3rd grade, I thought that I was “crazy” to expect him to learn English. Now he can rapidly identify and classify verbals (participles, gerunds, and infinitives.) Can you do this?

    NEVER, NEVER underestimate what a child can learn. NEVER, NEVER tell a child that he/she cannot learn something. Challenge, challenge, challenge! Repeat, repeat, and repeat!


  6. I agree with you Dee. Even when I was in high school some 15 years ago it was horrid. I went back to tech school a few years ago just to get an associates and have something to do…and I was amazed at what I didn’t know in the gen ed courses!!! Things that, not that I had forgotten, but were never taught. I am sure it is worse now. I struggled through the first year of TECH SCHOOL because I wasn’t taught certain maths. I remember my health teacher (who was a coach) would never grade our work properly. We could put “I don’t know” in an answer field and he would mark it as correct!

    When we went on vaca in TN, some of the family were complaining that they didn’t know their kids had TCAP that week and the teachers were furious (apparently they had a whole day or two to prepare instead of a week or more) because they had to switch gears so quickly to “teach the test”.

    What are we doing now? Well, where we live now has a good school system. The cost of living is higher…but much of that money (certain taxes property) go only towards the schools. The teachers are paid well and required to have at least a Master’s degree with some training in education. Where I went to school in TN you could be a teacher as long as you had a high school diploma and subbed for 2 years! Yea, we could find a cheaper place to live…but I would rather pay the money in taxes to make sure the teachers are not only well educated, but well paid, then live some place cheaper and my kid(s) not be taught anything.


  7. Sandy,

    I didn’t know any state allowed teachers to teach without a college degree. As for requiring a Masters if they require a masters to start it may be hard to get teachers. I have heard districts that require teachers who didn’t have a masters to get one within 5 yrs.


  8. I know about the non degree thing…isn’t that insane!!! I only know because that is what I was going to do myself since it was so easy… However, in all fairness it could have changed since I haven’t been there in a few years…but that is what it was like when I lived there. Everyone (even my teachers) encouraged me to go for it since I would just have to sub for 2 years and then get 2 teachers to sign for me…my teachers loved me. LOL I didn’t do it only because I couldn’t find the admin building. 😛

    I don’t know if it is hard to get teachers here…but I do know they make killer money…they should because they have to have a master’s degree…but that is only in the district we want to stay in. I am sure it is different in surrounding districts mainly because everyone talks about how great this one is.

    I do know that in the state of PA you need at least a Bachelors (how do you spell that? I always leave out letters!) and it is preferred that you have some education courses. I looked into that as well when I was in Tech School and thought maybe to try to apply to teach at the school once I was done. They really didn’t care what you had your degree in as long as it was a bachelors degree. I got my associate, but then had my son 3 months after graduation and never had the time or inclination to go back to school just yet. I still may go back later though…

    Anyway, DH and I talk about it all the time how I feel so stupid and inferior to the people around me because the education system up here is so much better than what I went to down South…and that is what my family doesn’t understand…they want me to move back there but I am not going to sacrifice my kids education and have them feel stupid like I feel just so they can be happy and we can live cheaper.


  9. Sandy,

    All of the states I know of require at least a bachelors. If you want to progress from the classroom then a masters is necessary. I have a masters degree and work in a bookstore. I enjoy it.


  10. Well, like I said…it was a quite a few years ago that I contemplated teaching where I went to school and it is totally possible that they changed the requirements…I hope so as maybe the kids now have a better chance at an education than I did in school…

    I still kinda want to teach something one day…I just enjoy it when I can teach someone something…but…at the moment my priority is my family and when my kids get to be teenagers maybe then I can look into it. 😉


  11. No Child Left Behind sacrifices the quality education our brighter children could get, in exchange for keeping the not-so-bright children up to certain government-mandated standards. It is destroying our educational system, and should be abolished before the damage to our society becomes irreparable.


  12. I still think the parents are the key to academic success or failure. Kids who have parents that are involved in their lives do better. Up through 3rd grade I was in good schools and had outstanding teachers. I also have dyslexia. I learned to read because my mom spent time with me every night reading even when I spent more time protesting than actually reading. I taught in a school that required students to read 15 minutes a night and have a form signed by their parents. It was amazing how many 1st and 2nd graders received failing grades because their parents didn’t want to “waste” 15 minutes on reading. I have also had parents tell me that they couldn’t make their child read because the child put up such a fuss and said they hated the parents. Gee, I’m glad my mom didn’t listen when I said similar things. I learned to read because of my mom not just my teachers and my kindergarten and 1st grade teachers were excellent teachers.


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