Failing Schools Pass Students

A recent NY Times article, shows the conflict that exists in the NYC public school system between what a good education should be and the desire to raise graduation rates. The unfortunate consequence is that although many students are receiving diplomas, they are not prepared for college or any world outside of high school. What was, perhaps, designed to be a benefit to students is actually a great disservice. Today’s post looks at some of the effects of such policies and makes some recommendations about what should be done in the future.High school graduation rates around the country have been disappointing and hovering around 60%. In New York City, however, rates have been rising rapidly. Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is not that schools are doing a better job of educating students to meet those standards, but that schools are merely lowering their standards, or giving diplomas to students based on judgment calls. This is sending a message that students do not need to learn, to study, or in some cases, even go to class. On top of that, it does not prepare them for a life after high school – whether the student’s plans were for college or entering the workforce. In addition to lacking the knowledge that would have been gained in high school, students will also lack the discipline necessary to hold on a job.

In related news, the City University of New York (CUNY), is raising its admissions standards. Many within the university feel that students are unprepared for college and lack basic skills and that raising standards will raise the calibre of students in the classroom. However, critics of the plan feel that it will keep many low-income and minority students out of the institution. Either way, the debate calls into question what a role a public university should play in educating students and its relationship to the K-12 system.

TeacherJay is an employee of one of the Senior Colleges within CUNY and sees that some students are certainly unprepared for college-level work. However, CUNY, a state-funded institution receives most of its student body directly from the New York City public school system, also state-funded. Shouldn’t New York State become more involved in the process and be there to help students? It seems that the schools are not preparing “college-bound” students to survive within the public university system. While the high schools are able to improve their appearance they are merely passing on the problem to other institutions. In the long run, students are still the ones missing out.


5 Responses to “Failing Schools Pass Students”

  1. Blue Dog Says:

    Excellent points. And I’ve read enough responses to this article to realize this is not a problem limited to New York area schools and universities.

  2. Tracy Rosen Says:

    Yes, raise the standards at our higher education institutions. But by simultaneously lowering the standards at our secondary institutions a void is being created and unfortunately it is the students who are being identified with that void.

    A student will achieve what we plan for them to achieve. I have seen students succeed because teachers have held them to high standards and I have seen students fail because they were held to lower ones. The failure is not always immediate – as in the case shown here, where students pass high school but are doomed to fail just about everything else – but it does come.

    There is a quote in my office – I have no idea who originally said it – that read: They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    I like to keep an appreciative mind set when I teach. (see this on appreciative inquiry in education) Basically I look for what I want to see more of (student excitement around learning), I fan it, and I continue to create conditions for more of it to happen. There you go, not so hard. And by creating conditions for my students to succeed they know I care.

    It sounds to me like the NY public school system needs some radical PD in appreciative inquiry and good solid relationship-based teaching methodologies like differentiated instruction.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post, Teacher Jay!

  3. TeacherJay Says:

    Blue Dog and Tracy,
    Thanks for the links. I wanted to post this link about a middle school teacher frustrated with the policy of social promotion at his school and how it is passing on unprepared students to higher grades.

    In the original post we discussed how high school students are ill-prepared for college, but something we neglected was the way that elementary and middle school students are passed to higher grades. This causes a great problem for the high school teachers as students do not have the foundation they need – how can you teach algebra to kids who don’t have a grasp of multiplication?

    Tracy brought up a great point on the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy and keeping high expectations for all students, and also the link to Differentiated Instruction explained the concept in a simple straight-forward fashion.

    To TeacherJay what this comes do is a disconnect between what we, as educators and a society, expect or require our students to know and what different students are actually learning and able to demonstrate in the constraints that we set for them. What message does it send to our teachers, parents and students that when a child is not performing to the defined standards they are moved on anyway – what is the value of an education if anyone can progress through school just as easily as anyone else?

    TeacherJay also wanted to bring some attention to Robert Ramos’, a trustee and president of Brooklyn College’s University Student Senate, that “you also have to look at who CUNY is and who the mission of CUNY is to provide education for.” Let us remember that the C in CUNY does stand for city and the university should adjust itself to serve the needs of its intended student population which is graduates of the NYC public school system. Still, it would be nice to see the school district, the largest in the nation, and the university to work together to provide a direct link from K-12 to college.

  4. harmonicagoldfish Says:

    Yes, we need to get right back down to pre-k if we want to start things off right. That is why early intervention is so important.

    So, we need universal early intervention and then guaranteed outstanding educators throughout elementary, middle and high school who will continue the work started by the early intervention specialists…

    …AND we can do what we can with what we have. Early Intervention, sadly enough, does not happen nearly as much as it needs to and educators are often not trained to give the extra support to students who need it or just have too many kids in their classes and are asked to teach subjects that they are not qualified to teach…

    …SO until all of that is ‘fixed’ we can start by meeting our kids where they are and using strategies such as differentiating instruction in our high school classrooms. And then once it is all fixed we can continue to differentiate instruction because it’s good educational practice.

    Basically, I’m saying that ideally we should go back to the root, fix that, and allow the plant to flourish. It can take a while to bring a poor plant back to health though, so in the meantime I’m planning on watering and feeding what I have with the vitamins that will make them healthy now.

    I plan on doing this in a few weeks by finding out how best my students learn, what their interests are, and how ready they are to learn what I am offering them. Then I’ll figure it out from there 🙂

    I am really enjoying this discussion, TeacherJay.

  5. Conversations in edublogging Says:

    […] 2.0 on MEDagogyFailing Schools Pass Students on […]

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