Monday, January 18, 2010

Public Schools = Another Look


One of my daughters teaches 7th and 8th grade science classes at an inner-city middle school. Approximately 75% of the student body is of hispanic origin, and most are not  proficient in the english language. The total school population is about 1,800 students.

Admittedly many of my concerns have been stirred by Susie's comments after school. In my eyes she has chosen to teach a difficult age group at a difficult school. . . . but SHE thinks her little gang-bangers are the neatest kids anywhere. Language is a major impediment but Susie tells me that the most significant obstacle in her attempt to teach these kids science, is THE GENERAL LACK OF PARENTAL SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT.

Most Mexican young people do not finish high school. They are removed from school to work and earn money to contribute to their family. It matters not whether they are legal or illegal, it is the way their parents were brought up, etc. In their wildest dreams these parents can hardly believe their child can achieve a high school diploma, much less go on to college. They just can't. So they would rather the kid drop out and go to work.

I think it is clear that the school my daughter teaches at is not typical across the state. It is in a disadvantaged area with a very high hispanic population. Perhaps the teaching experience is quite different elsewhere, but from what I am finding as I look into "why high schools graduate dummies". . . . . our public schools both here and there are not getting the job done. 

(1) I do listen to Fox news daily, also CNN, and the Evening News on NBC. There is no question that Fox presents conservative opinion programs, and their "fair and balanced" news also tilts to the right. I think CNN and NBC provide a reasonable counterweight.

(2) My friend Rain says she will: "do all she can to keep our public system working as anything else is the road to ignorance and religious bigotry."  I don't agree. The system is NOW on the road to ignorance (continuing to produce less than competitive students), and religious bigotry is a fact of life that reality faces constantly, and wins.

(3) I have been using several sources as I look into the obvious decline in public school education.  National High School Center (NHSC) The Nation's Report Card (NAEP) Drop Out Rate Bulletin (MSNBC) Sacramento Bee (

(3) It is reported that in 1960 1 student in 5 dropped out of college. In 1990 1 student in 3 dropped out. In 2006 1 student in 2. There are many reasons for this increasing drop out rate including the fact that "at least 70% of high school graduates require remediation classes when they enter college." They arrive at college unprepared. "Many cannot comprehend the words they read."

(4) Racial gaps are another concern. "Overall, the federal figures report 57 percent of white students finish their degree, compared with 44% of hispanics and 39% of blacks."

(5) It is reported that over the most recent 15 year period, " at least 1 million students each year have graduated from high school with reading skills well below basic levels required."


I don't know enough about proposed VOUCHER systems to venture an opinion on whether or not they could work to solve some of the problems. I will look into it.



Rain said...

In my opinion, a public school system is there for the benefit of the rest of the society. It's not just to help the children or their parents but all of us. We can see the results of lack of education in other places and it ends up with a society that fails. I can't think of a single exception to that. Vouchers once again penalize the children whose parents don't care to the benefit of those (and especially religious schools) of those who do care. We will leave behind a lot of children with a voucher system. Why would we consider that to be to our benefit as a society?

I could write more on this but already said most of it in your earlier blog. I feel if a person doesn't like the current public system, they need to get involved.

Finally, I feel that all news programs, whether it's fox or MSNBC, are intended to upset people and rile them up. it's why I rarely turn on the news these days and stick to reading newspapers. The media is all about showing us what goes wrong (sometimes with suspect facts) and not much about what is going right. I basically think it's unhealthy for anybody to watch much news on TV and I know from experience how hard it is to break the habit. I couldn't believe it when I started not turning it on with what I began to do instead. I recommend it highly :)

Kay Dennison said...

I dropped out of college in 1968 because I didn't know what I really wanted to do. I went back to college in 1985 and graduated in 1987. After I had been in college a few weeks, I dropped by my advisor's office for a chat and asked him, "Did college get easier while I was away on my extended Spring Break or did I get smarter?" He replied that it was a combination of both because he could tell that I had kept reading and learning during my hiatus but that yeah, they had had to lower their standards. That angered me but I already knew it because I saw what my own kids weren't learning.

Congrats to your daughter for taking on a challenge!!! I worked as admin asst. (my BA is in Spanish) for our local Hispanic center and really loved my job. I don't think it's the parents don't care -- most of them are working 2-3 jobs to survive and haven't a lot of time with them. The parents I met in my work wanted their children to get an education which was unavailable to them in their homeland. More than a few times mamas brought papers from school for me to translate and explain so they could help their children. My experience with Hispanic children is that they are mostly respectful and well-behaved and I saw lots of them.

I chuckled to myself one day when I was getting a family prepared to renew their passports as I copied their documents because the teenage son had gotten a B+ in English. Most of the American kids I know don't do that.

What the answer to fixing our schools is a tough one. I'm not sure vouchers are the answer -- we have them here in Ohio and a lot of alternative schools have sprung up that are merely diploma mills.

It will take a major change in our collective mentality to fix education. Excellence and challenge need to be restored.