This week’s Carnival of Education, hosted by The Education Wonks, includes Ms. Cornelius’ provocative post on creating a school community that encourages learning. In trying to be all things to all students — surrogate family, social club, sports center, health center, etc. — schools lose track of their academic mission, she writes.
For example, in an effort to prevent drop-outs, we abandon our expectation of educational behavior and lower academic standards until they are functionally meaningless. We divorce the expectation of allegiance to academic achievement and academic behaviors from the expectation for membership in the school community, and therefore undercut the very mission of the school.
If education isn’t the priority, “why not just call schools ‘community centers’ and be done with the hypocrisy?” Ms. Cornelius asks.
If schools were more dedicated to learning, parents and students might be more likely to consider it a priority too, she suggests.
Read the post below about Abdul Kargbo’s experiences in Sierra Leone, where education is a source of pride and prestige, and in a U.S. high school, where many classmates didn’t see education as valuable.
Downtown College Prep, the charter school in Our School, is organized around a clear mission: Preparing all graduates to “thrive” at four-year colleges. Most incoming ninth graders are disengaged from school. Most of their parents are not educated, fluent in English or able to help their children succeed in school. Yet the relentless focus on working hard to prepare for college has created a community that’s all about working hard to prepare for college. Ex-slackers cheer students who raise their grades or make the honor roll. Students talk in the halls about getting “on the matrix” for admission to San Jose State or Cal State Monterey Bay. Their parents show up for evening classes — in Spanish or English — on planning for college.
It’s easier to create a cohesive learning community at a school of choice, but I don’t think it’s impossible to do so at any school with a strong leader.
Update: RedKudu wants her school’s English Department to develop an academic vision for teaching average students, not just those in Advanced Placement classes.