Thursday, May 19, 2005

On the Civil Rights Project study

A superbly written editorial (reg. req'd, go to bugmenot) appears in tomorrow's Atlanta Journal Constitution. The thesis: The real education crisis in America is high dropout rates, not low test scores. As an example, the authors cite a statistic from a newly released study by Harvard's Civil Rights Project. In five southern states, the average graduation rate among minority males is 41%. Three out of five black and Hispanic males don't get a high school diploma. That, my friends, is a crisis.

And therein lies the fraud of No Child Left Behind. Lots of children are being left behind. More, in fact, now that the testing regime is nearly fully in place. Coming up with a catchy phrase to mask an education agenda that misses the point completely won't cut it: People are fooled for awhile -- dazzled by the idea that no child will be left behind -- but soon enough they realize they've been duped.

What really needs to be done? Here's the key paragraph from the editorial:

It is not sufficient to ratchet up the rhetoric about standards and impose yet more tests on students... Rather, we have to consider investing real resources in the programs and services that research shows us are effective in engaging students — such as creating smaller classes where teachers and students can develop close relationships; training and keeping strong teachers, particularly in low-performing schools; developing ninth-grade transition programs for at-risk students; increasing the counseling services available to students in schools; developing challenging, innovative curricula that will make students want to come to school each day.

Real resources. Smaller classes. Close relationships. Challenging, innovative curricula.

Should we still have testing? Sure. Of course. But testing alone -- without a concerted effort to increase graduation rates -- simply won't get it done.


Blogger Superdestroyer said...

But if you cheapen a high school diploma so much that it is meaningless, then does it matter if a student graduates or not?

If a student cannot read at the 9th grade level but "graduates" high school, did we do anything for the student to begin with.

If you put it to a referendum, most voters would probably vote for a policy of all high school graduates will read at the 12th grade level no matter the percent that gradues instead of a program of 90% graduate no matter what they can do.

2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point isn't cheapening a diploma. Why do people always think if you alter teaching methods or the way classrooms work that means you are cheapening a diploma...? Perhaps it means you are teaching better?

Schools today are different than they were three or four generations ago. More students finish high school than in the 40's for example. Our society places a different value on education, and a different value on "entertainment" than in did in the 40's or 50's.

Families are composed much differently.

The point of what I am saying is, we are educating a different population, so I think it is totally valid to suggest that the dropout rate is the real issue here, and that we do need to seek ways to engage students from an early age, especially in communities where the social safety net of family and community is not working. That is not necessarily a new idea, but the techniques may have to be different because the kids are different.

Testing students more is not going to keep them in school. And as an educator, I strongly believe that keeping a kid in school, no matter how well they are doing, provides them with a safety net in all sorts of ways, some social and some educational, but all of which make that kid a better citizen later.

Kids who drop out of high school now are at much more of a disadvantage than they might have been in the 30's or 40's, when it was more common to leave high school and work or support your family. I think anything we can do to keep kids engaged and learning, even if they don't meet the "standards" is very important to their future well being, carrers, and position in society, and anything else is giving up on them.

CF Austin

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's careers...excuse the typo.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Superdestroyer said...


Fewer students finished high school in the 1940's than today. 1954 was the first year that even 50% of the 19 year olds had completed high school.

The reasson people believe that higher graduation means lower standards is due to experience. Even in states with mandatory high school examinations, the level of the exams is at the 9th grade level.

Too many people have first had experience with high school graduates who could not make change or perform even simple academic tasks.

Making increase high school graduation the main goal leads to pencil whipping grades to ensure graduation and means that school are more of a place of social engineering than of academic learning.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't necessarily call it social engineering. I would posit that a person who stays in school through graduation, whether they make stellar scores on tests or not, but they finish school--will be a better citizen, more of a contributor, more likely to hold a job, and that to me, is a far more important thing than the diploma itself.

We could have an entire debate about what has been "dumbed down" in the last forty years--like television, newspapers, magazines, etc.....

My point is, we take society where it is, and do what we can. I am a teacher and I firmly believe that students who stay in high school and graduate, on the whole, do better in society than students who drop out, and end up having more opportunities, which helps society as a whole, and themselves as well.

7:58 PM  

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