Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Education Gap

I recently had a discussion with two of the teens in the youth group at church. We were eating dinner and having a general chat about school and tests, and one of them mentioned she will be getting out early in December for break because she will have tested out of most of her exams.

I wasn't sure what she meant, so she explained that if you pass your tests during the year by a certain amount, you don't have to take the midterm (or final I presume). So she didn't need to go to class those days.

Growing up in the Knox County Public School System (lo, these 20+ years ago), I was surprised at the leniency in attendance required during exam times. We had 6 periods a day of 50 or so minutes each, with about 5-7 minutes between classes. Today's high school classes use a lot of block scheduling which means fewer but longer classes that last only a semester.

The discussion turned toward a rather nonchalant attitude toward skipping school - these are intelligent, talented and resourceful teens, but the stories they told on how they could easily ditch school for whatever reason with little notice from their parents or teachers left my jaw hanging open.

I then asked them about teachers, whether there were any teachers they'd had in high school that they particularly respected or enjoyed the classes more than other. No, was the response, they really didn't care for any of their teachers that much. Ho hum. Whatever.

I was rather appalled at the lack of interest being generated by either the teachers in their classrooms to engage these teens, or the parents that don't instill a sense of the wonder and discovery of learning to kids when they're younger.

Additionally, one of the girls goes to a local public high school, one to a private high school. Both are the same age and same social class.

Those of you who either have or had kids in high school (or are close to kids that are or were in high school recently) - how do their experiences with teachers and school compare to your own?

I could recall off the top of my head at least 5 teachers that made particular impressions on me in high school, either by challenging me to succeed or expanding my horizons to make learning interesting.

Is the education system collapsing around us while we fiddle away watching "Who Wants to Be The World's Greatest Dancer" or am I just being naive?

1 comment:

  1. It's my view that it has little to do with "we're a bad society now" and more to do with federal government and things like No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB not only uses standardized testing to measure a child's progress, but also to provide funding for the school itself. Simply put, if a school doesn't keep the the students passing the NCLB tests, they don't get funding next year. "Teach the test" is the message this sends. Worse, teacher used to be able to work to certification and degrees while teaching, now they must have it to teach - making it harder to find teachers than it already was (not many people line up for $25K a year job who already have a degree).

    NCLB and other federal acts have taken any power away from the local PTA and school board to decide what and how to teach. This is one topic where I'm hard line conservative - the federal government has no business getting involved in local schools other than to provide some funding and other assistance programs. The local school board, government and PTA should decide how that assistance is used, and how classes are taught. We are the stake holders, the one with children in the school, and we are the ones closest to the problems in our own schools.

    One of my favorite "hidden parts" of NCLB is that the pentagon gets a list of all students nearing military age and their addresses. This is required for the school to get funding. A parent can opt out, but how many even know this is happening?