November 16, 2006

There They Go Again

Blaming everything and everyone but themselves.

Student poverty, parent education, home resources, English-language proficiency and other factors outside our control work in tandem like a perfect storm to dampen our results in ways that few others have to contend with.

Said Michael Casserly, executive director of the ironically named Council of the Great City Schools, in reponse to the recently released NAEP results showing that at least half of fourth and eighth graders tested in science failing to demonstrate even a basic understanding of the subject in 9 of 10 major cities, and fourth graders.

No, the perfect storm is that you've been getting kids like this for at least fifty years and you still have absolutely no idea how to teach them such that they learn anything.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

His comment also ignores the problems in the suburban schools, which seem to depend heavily on outside tutoring and parental help for children who have any sort of "issues."

Anonymous said...

What I meant to say was that even in the suburbs, where kids have every advantage and parents push education, there are serious problems with the schools. These problems are hidden by all the outside tutoring and parental help that goes on.

Instructivist said...

"Student poverty, parent education, home resources, English-language proficiency and other factors outside our control..."

Blaming these factors shouldn't be the first reflexive reaction. Curriculum and instruction should be the primary focus in explaining dismal results. The above-cited litany should only be deployed after curricular and instructional matter are thoroughly examined.

Here in Chicago we have the irony that a screwball constructivist ed ideology officially known as CMSI is forced on failing schools. The school board's reasoning is that if poison doesn't work, prescribe more poison.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Casserly would explain the superior performance of many impoverished Eastern European nations that are dealing with political turmoil, high unemployment, poor nutrition and health care, lack of instructional materials, crowded classrooms that frequently are unheated, yet manage to teach their 4th and 8th graders to a much higher standard than most Americans.

Thomas Smith said...

Public school teachers are NOT in charge of their student's grades. Strange statement? Only if you aren't a public school teacher.

Here in my county-Prince George's County, Maryland-if you fail too many students it is the teacher who gets the shaft and the teacher is REQUIRED to give the students passing grades. If you don't you get transferred to the most inconvenient commute or fired (untenured). The admin then just changes the grades.

We even took the math out of chemistry. We were forbidden from doing the chapters in the new chemistry text with math in them. The kids have great grades in al of their math classes (see above) yet can't calculate a percentage WITH a graphing calculator.

The power to control who gets passed on to the next grade has been taken from teachers a long time ago. We know HOW to teach. We are not allowed to control our grades any longer. The reason is totally political. Too may minority student fail.

KDeRosa said...

That's not a strange statement. Education is a school function, not a teacher function. Ultimately, the admins are responsible for learning in their schools. Having too many minority students fail is a good indication that these studenst aren't learning what's expected of them. The school should be responsible for this outcome.

SteveH said...

" ... if you fail too many students it is the teacher who gets the shaft..."

This is true for any school, even colleges. When I taught college math and computer science, I could never make the courses as tough as in the University I went to. In fact, one of the part-time teachers got canned because he flunked too many kids. I guess the idea is that if a school allows kids into a particular class, flunking most of them makes the school look bad - or the teacher.


"We even took the math out of chemistry."

"We", or them?" I can't imagine that all of the teachers were on the same side of the issue. This is never strictly a teachers versus administration sort of problem. Many teachers don't like high expectations, especially in the lower grades. that's why you get kids dependent on calculators.


"We know HOW to teach."

You have to be careful about this "we" business. You have to be much more specific about your complaint. Many teachers can go through the motions, but aren't necessarily effective.


"The power to control who gets passed on to the next grade has been taken from teachers a long time ago."

This could be good or it could be bad. The problem is not so much whether teachers have control, but whether the standards are high, low, or non-existent.


"The reason is totally political. Too may minority student fail."

By high school, after years of social promotion and not dealing with the problems, they are stuck. The solution is not about fixing high school. The solution is not about flunking many students in high school. The solution is also not about ignoring the problem or making classes easier. The solution is to start way back at the beginning.

In the meantime, high school teachers have to do the best they can and fight to improve the pipeline, not just ask to flunk more students.

Tracy W said...

Student poverty, parent education, home resources, English-language proficiency and other factors outside our control work in tandem like a perfect storm to dampen our results in ways that few others have to contend with.

Doctors have to cope with diseases caused by poverty, lack of English-language proficiency, parent education, home resources, and other factors outside their control.

Electricity engineers have to cope with the laws of electricity physics (which means that supply and demand balance all the time and if you're not careful they'll achieve balance by melting multi-million dollar worth equipment), uncontrollable and unpredictable weather (cold fronts cause everyone to turn the heaters on), random equipment failures, and other factors outside their control.

Social workers have to cope with all of the list of factors Michael Casserly covers.

The police also cope with the list of factors Michael Casserly covers.

Traffic engineers cope with poor weather, bureaucracy, reconstructing roads while still keeping them open, unexpected geological discoveries.

Sailors have to cope with perfect storms.

Weather forecasters - enough said.

Politicians have to cope with voters, changes in world trade, natural disasters, wars started by other governments, etc.

Every profession has factors outside their control they have to cope with. Life sucks, it's true. Can teachers please just stop complaining about it and get on with improving outcomes?

CrypticLife said...

Forgive me, but does anyone know anything about FOSS? My son's only in first grade so I'm not overly worried about his science instruction, but I'm wondering if I should.

Instructivist said...

"Forgive me, but does anyone know anything about FOSS? My son's only in first grade so I'm not overly worried about his science instruction, but I'm wondering if I should."

I would worry. FOSS is heavily geared to "inquiry" (a monozygotic twin of discovery and constructivism) and doesn't use a textbook. Chicago is pushing FOSS and there is info at this site:
http://www.cmsi.cps.k12.il.us/ViewProgramDetails.aspx?pid=337

I would definitely get science books on my own to provide a solid background.