Saturday, October 17, 2015

Making it easier to graduate II

I read this today

Graduation rates alone are not the only thing that makes a good high school. In fact, as a former NYC high school teacher I am very wary of schools with rates that are too high. I have seen students pushed through and graduated that can barely read and do arithmetic. Regents are skewed so that a 65 on an algebra regents is the equivalent of 29 (or less) raw points. Students that don't pass the first time have the options of doing a few online problems or going to a two week after school program to make up the course they missed. Teachers are pressured to pass everyone. People should wonder why special needs students with 70 IQs are suddenly getting regents diplomas. A better guide might be a look at courses offered and the number of students taking these courses. Of course a college acceptance is important but knowing if these students will have to take and retake remediation before they can begin a path to a degree is also important, probably more important.


It is from someone in a very different state from the one I live in. One of those states who look down on us down here in the backward South. And yet, we have the same problem.

I am teaching Juniors - or should be teaching Juniors, since it is a Junior math class. There are a lot of should-be Seniors in the class - and in order to keep that holy graduation rate high, these kids are taking 2 and 3 math classes this year. Should it come as a surprise that the failure rate is high - and that the students don't feel that they have to do ANYTHING in order to pass. Math is so much simpler when you practice it.

They think they can play on their phones, talk, skip and pass.

I went down the list of things they could do outside of class to raise their grade to be interrupted by a student with an important question: what can he do to raise his grade? (So I ran through the exact same list again.)

And the principal's first question to me when he saw the grades? What are you doing, Ricochet, to help them?

But let me go back to the ones take 2 - or 3 - math classes at the same time. Some are taking them on line. They do not care about learning the math - they just guess ABCD and hope for the best. Since math (in high school especially) is cumulative - well, they are a few tools short in their toolbox to be successful.

I love math. I mostly love teaching. I feel like I am perpetuating a fraud. Do I listen to my conscience and fail them, knowing that is the grade they deserve, and find myself booted out, with all the financial implications to me that would involve. Or do I continue spoon feeding them and lowering the bar knowing I reach maybe 1 in twenty to actually learn something?

I am glad their are only a few more years left to agonize over that.

1 comment:

Rita Cat said...

Great commentary and we in the north, the ones with intelligence do not look down on you. Packemin, the pseudomyn for the school I taught in, one of the best in Queens and in the city, did the same thing. I once taught seniors who were getting two credits for my class and who were taking the exact same class with a different title at the same time. Twenty seven out of twenty eight passed. Twenty six graduated but these nice but non academic kids were not academically or emotionally ready. I've met them 5 years later, still at the community college, still taking remedial subjects.