Tuned out

By high school, many students are disengaged and drifting, says a National Research Council report, “Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students’ Motivation to Learn.” Education Week summarizes:

Although the best high schools are filled with well-qualified and caring teachers in a setting where all students are valued, the book-length report says, for too many teenagers, high school has become an impersonal place where low expectations are common.

The committee recommended creating small schools within schools, pairing students with an “adult advocate” (counselor, I guess), linking curriculum to students’ lives, eliminating tracking and connecting students to social and health services.

Number 2 Pencil comments on a Seattle Times’ story on the disconnect between high school and college. Basically, if high school was easy, college will be hard. Even good students may discover they’re not prepared for higher education.

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  1. Wacky Hermit says:

    Kids are smart. They can figure out the unwritten, unspoken rules of any social game, and they figure out the rules of public education quickly. Keep your head down. Don’t appear too smart. Learn just enough to keep the teacher off your back, but not so much that you appear to be a know-it-all. Nothing you do matters, they will always send you back to class. Don’t even bother doing your assignments; they will pass you anyway. You are required to be here, and they can’t require anything more of you.

    Fortunately for all of us there is a small group of students who find they actually enjoy learning. They nurture this desire like a secret vice, hiding it from their friends and rarely revealing it to teachers (lest someone notice them cozying up to a teacher).

  2. Ken Summers says:

    I don’t disagree on preparedness and such, but I think a fundamental point was not noticed: This is exactly what is to be expected. The top student in high school is now in class not with average students, but with other top students.

    I also don’t know that this is an “increasing” problem, except that more students expect to go to college. I remember quite a number of freshmen leaving college nearly 30 years ago. Some were not prepared for the work, some were simply not prepared to be on their own yet. Are there any studies that show the problem is actually increasing?

  3. I experienced the disconnect between high school and college first hand. I graduated high school in 1979 from a rural/suburban high school near Chicago. I was third in my class even after taking all the “honors” courses possible. I still believe that my teachers were excellent, however, I never learned how to study. College study habits hit me hard (the “away from home”, social change etc. did contribute as well), it took me quite awhile to really understand the need to study differently and more effectively. My Pre-med degree and medical career was essentially ruined quite early. However, I did eventually recover to get a Ph.D. in Biology.

  4. The recommendation to eliminate tracking is unrealistic. The report seems to suggest that all students should be in the same rigorous courses, but with support for the less able.
    While I think the flexibility should be there to change tracks if there is motivation to do so, in reality it becomes more and more difficult to do in high school. In my high school, some students had their first patents for sophisticated chemical separation equipment in grade 10, while others were struggling to read at an elementary level.

  5. “if high school was easy, college will be hard”

    According to the Russian general Suvarov:

    “Easy training, hard combat. Hard training, easy combat.”

  6. My campus of 10,000 students (so roughly 3,000 freshmen) has *30 sections* of remedial Math and English scheduled for Spring 2004. They are now half-filled and early reg. isn’t over yet.

  7. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When I entered college in 1952, I aced the dumbbell english test, but half my class had to take remedial english. I hardly gloated.

  8. Ken Summers says:

    Funny, Walter. I aced the test also, but didn’t believe it after being told (repeatedly) by my HS English teachers that I couldn’t write a standard essay. I went ahead and took the bonehead English class. What the hell, I needed a breadth requirement anyway.

  9. Well, I find that in order to succeed in college, you need to do a few things.

    1. – have your reading done before coming to class (not just one time, but 3 to 4 times) so that you can spand time listening to the lecture and forming ideas, etc.

    2. – don’t put off that assignment until the last minute, get to work on it right away, and have it completed WELL before the due date (amazing how much more free time you’ll have).

    3. – If you are between fall and spring semester, use the time to get ahead in classes you’ll be taking in the spring (nothing like passing an exam with a great score and making it look easy to your other classmates) 🙂

    4. – You get out of school, what you put into it.

    5. – Don’t worry about your GPA, if you are working hard in your classes, the GPA will work itself out.

    I could go on, but I think everyone has the idea now.

    Oh, i’m afraid that you will only continue to see a rise in remedial courses being offered until universities quit offering admissions to unqualified students (i.e. – if they have a high GPA and can’t place well enuf on an assessment exam to take freshman composition (Eng 101), suspend their admission, and send them to the comm. college down the road to get their coursework and study habits in order, then have them re-admitted.

  10. Bill, Bill, Bill

    Surely you jest! (I know, I know: “No, I’m quite serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”)

    How old were you when you developed those points? Surely you didn’t adhere to them while you were IN college!

    You might also consider the assessment exams at many schools a sort of “make work” program for the underutilized English & Math departments.

  11. Actually, I learned them in high school, but I was just plain lazy in certain subjects (teachers HATE students who have potential, but don’t utilize it, I tell ya) 🙂

  12. I agree that High School can be an uncaring arena, however, the High School that I work at has started a program to connect students with one teacher for their entire High School Carreer, and to introduce them to others in the school that they may not have otherwise known. We call it, for obvious reasons, “Connections”. Every certified employee in the building (including counselors, and administration)is assigned 15 students of mixed grade levels. We meet every day (Monday, Tuesday and Friday for 7 minutes; and Wednesday and Thursday for 30 minutes), the times vary due to our modified block schedule. On the block days (30 minute days) we spend one day doing an activity based on Character Counts, and the other block day we spend in Silent Reading. It’s a great time to bond with the students, and connect on a different level.
    We are doing our best to let kids know that we care — and they are getting it!