Sunday, June 16, 2024

Don’t let statistics do a number on our children

UncategorizedDon’t let statistics do a number on our children

Think back to graduating high school.  While you’re celebrating with friends and devouring yummy food at your graduation party, did it ever cross your mind, that you were part of the 2.9 million out of the 3.8 million high schoolers graduating in 2015? What might have happened to the other 900,000 high school students who should’ve walked across the stage too? Some of these statistics we know all too well. According to the Washington Post,

  • Black students had only a 69% graduation rate,
  • Hispanic students had a 73% rate,
  • Asian students had a 88% graduation rate and
  • Caucasian students had an 86% rate.

Rather than helping level the playing field, our education system promotes inequality but the failure of our system does not stop with inequality. While the inequality amongst students is a factor, the problem starts long before graduation.  It starts with the teacher.

Teachers are the key to every student’s success. The way we are rewarding teachers arose from the federal law, The No Child Left Behind Act. In order to achieve the goal of being above average on state standardized tests, schools pay teachers based on student performance.

The result of this is teachers are teaching to the state standardized tests rather than physical education, arts, and history—all the things we found joy in learning about.

Without performance pay looming over their head the teacher could provide extra nourishment to children who lack a stable and positive home life. The extra nourishment could be all the child needs to stay motivated in school; however, it is nearly impossible for this to happen when the teacher is required to focus on the standardized test which will increase their below average salary of 40,000 dollars if students perform well.

OUR SCHOOLS ARE GETTING WORSE

Just how bad are American schools? Even the strongest schools are unable to compete globally.

The problems our children face stem from issues having nothing to do with education but in the end, wind up impacting it.

Flashback to your time in high school. Which is the easiest to remember? The anticipation of senior prom or Pythagorean’s Theorem? When social engagement between students was evaluated the United States came out in first.

To put things in perspective, for the majority of us, high school was a time to socialize, “working” in groups to finish an assignment as fast as possible so we could get back to playing each other in Trivia Crack.

While there are some benefits to social engagement, a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics shows when measuring academic engagement we came in far lower than our chief economic rivals. High schools in the United States require the bare minimum to graduate and that is setting up young students to fail in college. The social aspect of high school is a small factor that contributes to why less than 25% of our graduates are ready to attend a college or university.

A reason for the lack of preparedness can be seen in a poll distributed by CNN showing, 75% of high school students engage in “serious cheating” which entails:

  • Plagiarism
  • Using phones during an exam
  • Copying work from classmates.

After the results were calculated CNN came to the conclusion that to alleviate the mounting stress to constantly perform at the highest level, students cheat, compromising their own education as a solution. This is why less than 25% of students are ready to attend college; they haven’t learned the crucial study techniques or time management necessary to flourish.

Is this the teacher’s fault? Many high schools have organized programs, even with supervision from principals to ensure that it is being followed in the classroom; only 1.01 million out of 3.6 million teachers are achieving the standards to a great degree.

Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015. This law modified The No Child Left Behind Act it did not eliminate the periodic standardized tests given to students. A single test score is like a blinking check engine light on the dashboard of your car. It tells us something is wrong but not how to fix it.

U.S. Congress tried to take a stab at improving public education with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This act supported standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals could improve individual outcomes in education.

How can everyone be evaluated on the same standardized tests? Howard Gardner, the Harvard professor who originally proposed the theory, says there are multiple types of human intelligence, each representing different ways of processing information.

Under so much pressure to have their students do well the majority of time in the classroom is spent focusing on strategies and problems that the student might encounter during the standardized tests. A survey of New York State teachers who administered standardized assessments this past spring demonstrated that these tests took about 2 percent of the minimum required annual instructional hours.

Many students fall behind because only 48% of students in our country think their teachers care about them. Without this performance based pay system brought on by No Child Left Behind looming over their heads they could take a step back and focus on ways to help students individually.

The testing obsession has pushed aside visual arts, music, physical education, social studies, and science, not to mention world languages, financial literacy, and even, penmanship. It’s easy to blame teachers for why students don’t graduate on time, if at all.

Changing the ways we reward our teachers is not going to be easy.  Measuring the effectiveness of teachers is challenging in itself since the students in their classrooms each have a unique story—not one student is the same. It is time to focus on the human aspect of our students, not the statistics.

Kaitlin Gorrell is a freshman at the university. She can be reached at kgorrell@udel.edu. 

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