Friday, December 14, 2007

Get Real--It Might Actually Acomplish Something

If you are not passing more than 65% of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities. You are setting your students up for failure, which in turn limits your success as a professional.

I've done quite a bit of thinking since I read this quote in Thursday's Daily News, made by the Principal of Central Park East High School. Although I have never been, nor ever will be a fan of administrators, this comment really hit home and I made me see the situation from the principal's point of view.

Quite a few of my Math B students are not performing on level. I have tried tailoring the curriculum to their abilities, but for some, it is just not possible. The work is just too hard for them. If their math and reading levels equals that of a fifth grader (or even lower), the work they should be learning should be that of a fifth or sixth grader. They should not be expected to learn algebra and geometry. They should not be expected to read Shakespeare. And they certainly should have no expectations of being able to pass chemistry. In spite of all this, we are expected to teach these subjects to all our students. It doesn't really matter what they learn or if they learn as long as they are passing. Schools show "improvement". Report card grades go up. Principals and APs get to keep their jobs and get performance bonuses. My own AP is being forced to lower his standards this term (more about this another time). He is a new father and needs his job. Principal Suit, who I really dislike, also wants to hold onto his job. If these guys don't show results, they are worried that they will be out the door. What they are doing is not ethical. Perhaps they should rebel and do the right thing. I suppose they just want to hold on to their jobs.

Before anyone jumps on me for writing this, I want to say that these kids are not capable of learning this stuff now. They might be able to master these subjects some time in the future. They are just not ready to do so now. If a fifth grader had the ability to learn these subjects, these subjects would have been part of the fifth grade curriculum, not the high school curriculum. The principals today are given the impossible job of getting all children to succeed even though these children don't have the tools and skills needed to succeed. Maybe if the principals were just allowed to do their jobs without this pressure, they could run effective schools and get the kids to succeed. Raising a fifth grade level up to an eighth grade one is a monumental achievement. This is what should be encouraged in the schools.

It is time to start having realistic expectations for schools and maybe then principals can stop saying such dumb things and stop putting them in print.


Son of Pissed Off said...

Isn't the real issue trying to understand how someone with a 5th grade math and reading level has made it to High School. Maybe if we require a student to be at the appropriate level before we promote them to the next grade these problems won't happen. It seems to me the problems are created way before the student reaches high school and by the time they reach high school it is too late to fix.

Pissedoffteacher said...

Good point son! One I agree with 100%

17 (really 15) more years said...

I went to NYC public schools up until 6th grade. Way back in my day (which seems to be getting farther back all the time), elementary school classes were homogeneous. The kids in my classes in elementary school all consistently scored in the upper percentiles on the citywide tests. If you didn't read 3 or 4 grade levels above your actual grade level, you were placed in the "slow" class, where I assumed the pace was more suitable to their learning ability. Now, kids that consistently score a level 2 on state reading and math tests move on to the next grade- and all a level 2 means is that the child is "approaching" standards. I'm not really impressed by level 3 students either, but that's a story for another day. The bottom line is, if we continue to dumb down the tests, and push the kids through, we will see the number of high school dropouts rise (or maybe we'll just blame it on the teachers and close more high schools).