3.4.05

WHY I STAY ON THIS MESSAGE.

"If you set the bar high, people will rise to the occasion," notes Katie at A Constrained Vision, with a link to Today's Big Surprise, Not: Public High School Grads Unprepared for College, Work.
The harshest assessment of recent graduates' preparation came from college instructors. Only 18 percent of professors polled felt students came to college "extremely" or "very well prepared," while a quarter reported students are "not too well prepared" or "not well prepared at all."
That leaves 57% of the sample otherwise classified, which means I still have a lot of work to do pointing out the "access" fiction and the "retention" hustle.
Instructors estimated half of all students who arrive at their schools are inadequately prepared for college-level math and college-level writing. In addition, large percentages of instructors felt the public high schools are failing to adequately develop students' abilities to do such things as "read and comprehend complex materials" (70 percent), "think analytically" (66 percent), and "do research" (59 percent).
Ayup. But it calls for an administrator with some stones to announce, "Upward Bound University will hereafter not teach any high school courses under the rubric of 'remediation,' or to foster 'access.'" To do so would be to risk an immediate outcry from the not insubstantial membership of the faculty and support staff earning a modest living by teaching such courses or by shuffling paper in the Diversity Boondoggle, let alone from the bursar who is counting on the churn to make the interest payments on the administration's monuments.

Such intestinal fortitude, however, is likely to be appreciated by the students.
Large percentages of students, employers, and college instructors alike agreed students need more challenging course work in high school, translating into widespread support for raising standards. Eighty-two percent of college students, and 80 percent of working graduates, reported they would have worked harder in high school had their schools demanded more of them.
Per corollary to Parkinson's Law (work expands to fill the available time) the high schoolers are likely to find the time to make the extra effort should they properly recognize the stakes. Katie notes of the high schools (this would be true of not a few professors as well),
They are often content not only to ask the minimum of students but also to ask it half-heartedly, passing students through classes when they don't deserve it. When students, professors, and employers alike are calling for higher expectations, it's time for a change.
Under the existing dispensation, the kids who have strong self-motivation, or noodgy (is there an adjectival form of noodge?) parents are the ones more likely to prosper, which ought to put some of Centerfield's reflections (via Dean's World) on social mobility in perspective.
I personally am a case of meritocratic advancement. I grew up in a working class family. I'll tell you straight out that my late father, who I loved, was not particularly bright or hard-working. He was a high school dropout who did not take advantage of the GI Bill after WWII. I am convinced my intellectual abilities come from my mother, who was a housewife. Because of the American system, I was able to go to MIT, marry a similarly educated working woman, and live a fairly affluent lifestyle.
I believe in meritocracy, but I also think that over generations, meritocracy could calcify into a class system. I think we should keep this in mind when we consider proposals to abolish the inheritance tax, privatize schools, and other proposals which might be justifiable on narrow policy grounds, but could contribute to an overall climate which limits social mobility.
Research project: to what extent has the recent evidence (such as it is) on social stratification, or intergenerational heritability of status, coincided with the Softening of the common schools?

SECOND SECTION: Here we go again with the Softening, yet again of those red marking pens.
"It's not an argument we want to have at this point because what we need is the parents' understanding," [Connecticut elementary school principal Gail] Karwoski said. "The color of the message should not be the issue."
In many other schools, it's black and white when it comes to red. The color has become so symbolic of negativity that some principals and teachers will not touch it.
What rot.
The disillusionment with red is part of broader shift in grading, said Vanessa Powell, a fifth-grade teacher at Snowshoe Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska.
"It's taken a turn from 'Here's what you need to improve on' to 'Here's what you've done right,'" Powell said. "It's not that we're not pointing out mistakes, it's just that the method in which it's delivered is more positive."
What rot. Do you feel better because I changed the color?
That is a sound approach, said Leatrice Eiseman, a color specialist with a background in psychology who has written several books on the ties between colors and communication.
"The human eye is notoriously fickle and is always searching for something new to look at it," she said. "If you use a color that has long been used in a traditional way, you can lose people's attention, especially if they have a history of a lot of red marks on their papers."
You think the problem might be with a failure to pay attention, giving rise to that history?
In Charles County, Md., reading and writing specialist Janet Jones helps other teachers lead their lessons. The students at Berry Elementary School in Waldorf, Md., use colored pencils to edit each other's papers. By the time teachers get to grading, Jones said, the color they use isn't that important.
"I don't think changing to purple or green will make a huge difference if the teaching
doesn't go along with it," Jones said. "If you're just looking at avoiding the color red, the students might not be as frightened, but they won't be better writers."
At last, somebody gets to the heart of the matter.

RUNNING EXTRA. Education Wonk also sees what counts.
I can understand that parents are concerned about the self-esteem of their kids. We all want students to have a positive outlook when it comes to school. But perhaps in this case the parents' concern is misplaced. Shouldn't they be more concerned about the poor performance of their child rather than wasting their energies on such nonsense as criticizing some teacher's choice of ink color?
Hear! Hear!

No comments: