Friday, November 12, 2010

Sad? Pathetic? Criminal?

Eight of 10 public high school juniors in Illinois weren't considered ready for college classes in all subjects based on ACT testing last spring — and many students missed the mark even at posh suburban Chicago schools that graduate some of the state's brightest kids...

The Tribune calculated college readiness figures from student ACT scores released for the first time by the state under the Freedom of Information Act. They reveal a less-flattering picture of schools accustomed to high rankings and raise questions about the rigor of high school classes...

High schools typically offer rigorous honors and Advanced Placement classes for top students, followed by regular classes and then lower-level classes for struggling students.

"We all know that Algebra 2 is not always Algebra 2," said Weeks of ACT. In reality, he said, rigor differs from classroom to classroom. link


Standards are supposed to be just that, standard.

And teachers wonder why there's such a push for some form of accountability.

7 comments:

Ellen K said...

True. Unfortunately, no district wants to have twenty year olds hanging around trying to pass PreCal or lower AYP courtesy of dropouts who have given up. Texas mandated a four by four-four core subjects and four years-despite the fact that we have significant numbers of students who can barely pass basic geometry. We need to address this. Not every student is destined for college, nor should they be. We must have some sort of vocational programs in place for students who cannot or will not do the work needed in rigorous classes. I see too many socalled "upper level" classes in math, science and even some PreAP courses, watered down to accommodate the image of having students take the classes. It's all smoke and mirrors. This is why we have remedial classes at major universities. In a true meritocracy, that would never happen.

mazenko said...

Coming from Illinois, and knowing the Chicago suburbs well, I am a little surprised and disappointed. And there is merit to the issue of accountability.

However, Illinois' push for accountability isn't new, and they have been taking a statewide ACT called the Prairie State Exam for at least a decade. I know because I proctored it. Interestingly, in a "high performing" middle class suburban school, I was faced with hundreds of kids who blew off the "state ACT." Many said they would try when they took it later.

Thus, I have a problem with the "accountability" argument when there is none for kids. The problem is, even with those lower scores, they can still get into college. Many might be ready in three of four areas, but haven't taken specific aspects of science or math for "a while." And they justify it by arguing they aren't "going to major in math." If the only issue is a "threat" of remedial classes, many of these kids don't care. They can afford it, and it's too ambiguous for them. If any chance of college was at risk, the scores would change.

Because there is no problem for them in "getting into college," there is no incentive and no accountability. That has to change.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Oh, let's not go looking for excuses for not taking a hard look at the people pulling a paycheck, shall we? That might lead us to overlook the fact that those same professionals still aren't, to any worthwhile degree, and never have been under any obligation to demonstrate professional skills.

Bill said...

It is criminal, but there's a lot of blame to go around. No Child Left Behind (a fine case of bipartisan stupidity) let the states do their own testing, with penalties for low passing or low graduation rates. That made the incentives completely opposite of what they should be... easy tests, and passing students who have not achieved. Race to The Top seems even worse since it asks states to make changes, then only funds the changes for the few "winners" that they pick. Everyone else is stuck with unfunded "reforms" (which DC has now managed to get them to pass at the state level, letting themselves off of the hook)

Ellen K said...

Allen-with all due respect, I don't teach a core class, but I do volunteer to tutor English two afternoons a week for students who are at risk or have previously failed classes. We offer these classes for free and even give students transportation home. It is appalling at how few students and parents will take the steps offered to improve their outcomes. And while we are on the subject of parents, as a teacher and a parent who raised three teens, there are an appalling number of adults that would rather renege on expectations that dare to call their kids on their failure to comply with rules, achieve academically or even to abide by the law. Where it used to be a social stigma to be arrested, in my suburban neighborhood, kids wear that as some sort of badge of honor. And their parents simply shrug. That's not proactive. Just this week I was on a panel trying address a growing use of prescription and designer drugs at our school. Almost without exception, the parents on the panel believed that being a cheerleader or on a sports team was a guarantee that their kids were not part of the problem. Ironically, the daughter of one of the panel members is a very obvious part of the problem since she supplies other teens with alcohol at parties. Until parents are involved in education as partners, nothing will change.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Actually Ellen I'm surprised there isn't even greater indifference on the part of parents and kids.

After all, as I wrote above, teaching is a professional skill that's neither measured nor is it in any important respect required to be demonstrated. Certainly demonstrating teaching skill isn't a factor that urgently engages the interest of those higher up the administrative ladder. The primary motivations of teacher's superiors seems to be to avoid various sorts of unpleasentnesses like having to get rid of lousy teachers or disruptive students, dealing with unhappy or demanding parents or any incident that would draw the attention of the media. If those tasked with managing the public education system see education as a secondary responsibility and one that will, if other factors are dealt with, take care of it self why should those mandated to attend and those mandated to see to the attendance of their children place a higher importance on education?

mazenko said...

Allen, the problem is your overgeneralization. Teaching is a skill that is measured and seriously evaluated in many schools and school districts. I know because I work at one. The top 30% of schools are quite demanding of their professional staff. The reality is that communities get the quality they demand - that's no different than any other component of the economy or, really, society. Take the fast food and processed foods industries. Not a lot of pressure for quality in those areas - if it fills consumers up, they are fine with it. That is true for many schools/parents - their schools are good enough.

You can't just call "teaching" a profession that doesn't require demonstrated skill. Some places it does - many it doesn't