Pro rigor

Closing the achievement gap requires students to take tough academic classes, concludes a new Education Trust West report, “In Their Own Words: Why Students and Parents Want and Need Rigorous Coursework in California’s High Schools”

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  1. I agree with the students, parents, and adminstrators. It is important that our young people brave the most challenging curriculum they are capable of mastering. I try to do this at the middle school level, preparing those capable to confront the competetion at the AP/Honors level in high school.

    Of course, teachers can only do this with support of parental and administrative backing, as a significant amount of time on the student’s part is required. If the parents have the child committed to too many outside activities, there are not enough hours in the day…

  2. Steve LaBonne says:

    I don’t fully agree with that point, as most schools could make make much more efficient use than they do now of both schoolday and after-school hours. Even in my daughter’s rather good middle school too much time is wasted on silly “projects” and other nonsense.

  3. Funny, we’ve recently introduced a more rigorous curriculum in Ontario, and now many are upset that the drop-out rate is soaring…

    What did one expect?

    Having hight standards does tend to extract the best from those who can achieve it, but it also tends to make more marginal players give up entirely. As always, it’s a question of who do we sacrifice.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    If those kids were just hanging around school and not learning anything due to the previous watered-down curriculum, then exactly what is now being “sacrificed”? Tax-funded babysitting for teenagers?

  5. exactly what is now being “sacrificed”?

    The opportunity to continue education is a community college? Even a less rigorous curriculum provides enough knowledge that those completing it can go on to further education in less academically inclined fields. Without even that, they’re dead in the water.

    Remember, less rigorous does not mean meaningless, it means less rigorous. It is a continuum, not “AP level curriculum” vs. “not being able to read”. Unless, of course, you actually desire meaningless debate rather than an attempt to find solutions.

  6. Steve LaBonne says:

    Sorry, won’t wash. If they can’t or won’t deal with a reasonably contentful curriculum (and you know perectly well that I’m not talking about “AP for everybody”, they won’t be able to handle community college any better. Yours is a fine example of msiguided compassion that does no service to its objects.

  7. I think that one of the biggest problems in a lot of low-income schools is they focus so much on remedial stuff that they don’t even offer AP or advanced courses. This restricts college opportunities in many of the most selective schools, and denies kids a chance to stretch themselves.

  8. Steve LaBonne says:

    The solution to that problem has to start with the elementary schools in those districts doing their jobs, wouldn’t you say?

  9. As I read it, the report makes it clear that all high schools should teach a university (4 year college) directed curriculum. That’s not AP-level, but there’s a lot of space between that rigorous a curriculum and a meaningless curriculum.

    Also, the implication is somewhat startling. Let’s say we consider a dropout rate of 2% to be acceptable. If IQ is a (terrible) stand-in for academic achievement, we’d be expecting anyone with an IQ above 70 to successfully complete a university-directed curriculum. A drop-out rate of 16% (way too high) maps to successful completion by anyone with an IQ of 85 or higher.

    Yeah, yeah, IQ and academic achievement aren’t strongly correlated, but it does crudely illustrate the point.

    I think we can serve a segment of the student populace well with something other than a university-directed curriculum, and it’s a mistake to think that a failure at handling a university-directed curriculum means an inability to benefit from any other form of post secondary education.

  10. Steve LaBonne says:

    That I agree with. I don’t know about Canada, but in the US there used to be strong vocational programs (witn no skimping on the academics) with good tie-ins to apprenticeship programs- as there still are in many European countries. The steady elimination of these programs has been a big mistake, in my opinion, and leaves an important segment of the student population inexcusably unserved.