An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.
The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.
A major reason is that adults see children differently. Parents tend to focus on their own children, while teachers work with dozens of students from different backgrounds.
A more likely reason is that teachers are seeing first hand the large scale academic failure taking place in America's classrooms. When you teach lower performing kids, year in and year out, and you see them not learning what you presented (not taught), I can see how it might cloud your perspective.
"I think the standards are being applied to everybody indiscriminately, without regard to their abilities," said Steve Peterson of Knoxville, Ill., who has been teaching for 31 years.
"Schools in general are not going to be able to meet the standards," he said.
Mr Peterson, the standards are being applied indiscriminantly because we don't wan't to discriminate against any student.
Within one sentence, our expert teacher has already managed to "blame the children" for not learning because it is their "abilities" determine whether they are capable of learning. Notice how Mr. Peterson didn't question his own or his school's ability to effectively teach these children. No, it's the students' fault that the schools won't make the standards.
The survey also found:
• 64 percent of teachers say their state standards in reading and math are about right. Most parents agreed. But parents were twice as likely as teachers -- 31 percent to 15 percent -- to say current standards are too lenient.
That's because the state standards are too lenient. On average, more than twice the number of students pass the state tests that pass the NAEP test. Coincidentally, the number of students who pass the NAEP test is roughly the same amount that successfully complete college (about 30%). And, let's not forget that about 25% of students drop out of school before they take these 11th and 12th grade tests.
Did I mention that the 11th grade math NAEP only includes question at about the 7th or 8th grade level?
• Parents with college degrees and higher salaries were more optimistic about their children's chances for success than parents with less money and less education.And well they should be. Parents with college degrees tend to be smarter than the average person and tend to have kids who are smater than average. Smarter kids tend to do better in school.
Rusty Barker, a parent in Jackson, Mich., said he's pretty optimistic that the local high school can get all students up to math and reading standards. He attended the school, and now his daughter does.
"There's more of what kids need, in a one-on-one basis," Barker said. "While kids have different backgrounds, that shouldn't be an issue for their learning experience."
Actually, it is an issue. Kids from certain backgrounds need much more careful teaching.
President Bush says it is bigotry to expect less of some students, particularly if race is a factor. As he said at the White House in 2004: "We believe every child can learn. We want to know if every child can read and write and add and subtract early, before it's too late."
Many teachers say the sentiment is right, but incomplete, or even naive.
Who's being naive now, Kay?
Some students come to school way behind their peers. They may not have good English skills, or study habits, or parents to reinforce lessons at home. The law says schools must overcome that.
Exactly. And, we know they can overcome those deficiencies.
We know some kids will come into school with these deficiencies, it is just a matter of compensating for them by providing careful teaching and acceleratingtheir learning so they catch up. Most kids should be caught up with careful teaching by the third grade.
Sara Jane Cross, a 75-year-old kindergarten teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla., said she knows that some students come from homes in which education is a priority, but that some of their classmates do not.
"You don't know who you're going to get in a classroom -- what type of child, what kind of home," Cross said. "You can't expect them to keep up with children who come from fine homes."
I think it's time for Sara Jane to retire. It's easy for schools to predict the type of students they are likely to get based on the community demographics. Then it's just a matter of giving the incoming students a pre-test to determine where the teaching should begin and then to get on with it.
We don't expect them to be able to keep up with the affluent kids completely. However, we do expect them though to at least reach an acceptable proficiency level which should be well within their ability with effective teaching.
For now, the law focuses only on the building-block subjects of reading and math. Schools must test children in those subjects in grades three to eight and once in grades 10 to 12.
On that front, many parents and teachers agree, and they aren't happy. In their view, schools have had to narrow their focus, excluding other subjects and creative learning.
"Virtually every parent I know feels the schools are educating to the two subjects they are testing," said Mitchell Stiers, a father of three children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The entire narrowing issue is a classic false dilemma.
Schools haven't had to do anything. Some schools have chosen to narrow the curriculum because they can't teach reading and math effectively. The narrowing is caused by school failure. If the teaching were more effective, there'd be no need to narrow anything.
I wonder if the poll included a question on whether parents or teachers believe that it is the school's primary responsibility to ensure that students be able to read and do math proficiently? I have a feeling the yes answers would have been off the board.