Monday, July 07, 2008

High School Diploma = Literacy?

A woman in the beauty shop was complaining about all the remedial courses college students now have to take. She said "These kids all graduated with regents diplomas. How can they be graduates and still need all this remediation? The colleges are just trying to make extra money." I tried to explain the low grades needed to pass these exams. I wish she culd read some of the stuff that is considered acceptable by the powers that be today. Here is a writing sample from a girl who was in an AP calculus class. She has only been in this country a short time. She tested out of ESL almost immediately and passed the English regents on her first try. And, no, she is not using computer shorthand in her letter.

Dear Ms POd:

I'm jun, i own your a calculator.I was thinking to give it to you the last day for class, but you were absent in that i want to give it to u tomorrow after my physics regent.if u get my email, can you email me back, cas i want make sure what time and what room you are in school.


Mamacita (Mamacita) said...

Compared to some of the essays I get in my Introduction to College Writing classes, that looks pretty darn good.

Sad, ain't it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mamam,
Thank you for your response to Ann Coulter. It was much appreciated.

As for the writing piece:
This is one of the reasons I did love Columbia Writing. Rather than just correct it and give it back, I think it's best to conference with the student. So them examples, and let them try to self-correct. No published piece would leave my classroom unless it was edited and revised.

A group of (idiot) teachers in my school had their students write Thank Yous to a local business for donating food for their Thanksgiving Feast. Not one piece was edited. They were given to a parent to pass on to the business owner. Instead she passed them to the principal who was not pleased.
They were mad at the parent, but I told them they were lucky those pieces didn't go out. It would reflect both on the school and their teaching abilities. (Really, they are good teachers but were lazy on this one.)


NYC Educator said...

Actually very little of that would matter on the Regents exam. If the student could communicate her ideas one way or another, grammar and usage receive very little consideration. And I'm not saying that's a good thing, either.

But when I teach kids like these how to pass the Regents, I don't waste what little time I have on things that won't be counted. Kids like these would certainly benefit more from regular ESL instruction, which I'd happily provide.

But if they have to pass this test, they have to pass this test. I think I can help them, so I'll continue to do it. They're certainly being sent to remedial courses, but remediation is really needed.

It would be needed far less if we dropped the preposterous requirement that newly-arrived kids take and pass this test, designed exclusively for native-born kids.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Ah, "text message English." Sad.

17 (really 15) more years said...

We have all become masters at teaching to the test. While that might be ok in science, and history, it is absolutely absurd when it comes to English.

Before I get on my soapbox about the whole language approach to reading and writing, I'll stop now.

Anonymous said...

Columbia reading, I may agree with you, although I have cheated and used it with Basal Readers which seems to be the better approach.

Writing, I have to tell you, I have grown to love the process, but test prep takes too much time away from it. But I am coming from the elementary side where the same students were with me for the whole day. And, before test prep, I did see growth. But now the admin wants a new "genre" writing piece by the end of the month. That's terrible pressure especially for the month of September when you are launching the program. We work for IDIOTS!!

As for science tests, I graded the 4th-grade tests and some of those explanations were horrible to read or understand.

I think the girl who wrote the email might be a good reader and comprehended the questions. That is why she was able to pass her other tests.


Pissed Off said...

She is an extremely bright girl, just not here long enough to be literate in English. I just think it is sad that this passes the English regents.

Anonymous said...

You are right about the lowering of standards. Years ago, depending on the number of years she was in the city school system, she would have been exempt from taking this test. But under NCLB, the exemption rule was altered from 3 to either 1 or 2. Not enough time for anyone to acquire a new language. According to most studies, it takes 5 years to acquire a new language.


Chaz said...

You can teach to the test and still enrich the students' academic ability. Like many of the teachers that commented here, you are judged on how many pass the Regents. That doesn't mean doing test prep, test prep, test prep. instead it is to work with the students on how the subject relates to their everyday lives. Once you can achieve this connection, you have gone a long way in having your students be successful.