[News] High School Seniors Show No Improvement on Latest Tests

What is to blame for students' poor performance in English and math?

  • Students

    Votes: 10 50.0%
  • Parents

    Votes: 10 50.0%
  • Teachers

    Votes: 6 30.0%
  • Racism/classism

    Votes: 4 20.0%
  • The design of the educational system itself

    Votes: 15 75.0%
  • The study and tests are flawed

    Votes: 6 30.0%

  • Total voters
    20
As you can read for yourself in the story here, the latest round of tests show that high school seniors are doing no better in math or English than they were 4 years ago, and barely any improvement over the last ~20 years. Only about 25% of seniors are proficient in math, while roughly 40% are proficient in reading. This despite the fact that graduation rates are actually up. This study includes public and private schools. The study also showed that there is still a huge gap in the performance of white and Asian students compared to black and Latino students.

"Among the findings:
—Students who reported rarely or never discussing reading interpretations in class had average scores lower than those who did daily or almost daily.
—An overwhelming majority reported that reading is enjoyable. Students who strongly disagreed with the idea that reading is enjoyable had an average score much lower than those who strongly agreed.
—Math scores were higher, on average, for students who took calculus and lowest for students who had not taken a math course beyond Algebra I.
—Math scores were higher for students who reported math was their favorite subject, believed the subject would help them in the future or thought their class was engaging."

My question is this: what do you see as the problem? Are teachers the problem, as some suggested? Is the Department of Education to blame? Racism inherent in our society? Is something wrong with the current generation of kids? The current generation of parents?
 
I'm certainly not an expert in the field, but I would say it is societal. Many people, parents as well as students, just don't see education as a priority. When I was in highschool, those who played football were much more rewarded, by the school and the town, than those who did well academically. I know at least two of those football players graduated without even knowing how to read. Seriously... they couldn't read, at all.
 
Obviously the real problem is that...
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Yes! We must lower our standards! Otherwise the numbers will not improve!
Oh, wait. We did that already.

--Patrick
(Personally, I believe it's a case of the students seeing no incentive/value to learning these things, and so their priorities get reassigned elsewhere)
 
As you can read for yourself in the story here, the latest round of tests show that high school seniors are doing no better in math or English than they were 4 years ago, and barely any improvement over the last ~20 years. Only about 25% of seniors are proficient in math, while roughly 40% are proficient in reading. This despite the fact that graduation rates are actually up. This study includes public and private schools. The study also showed that there is still a huge gap in the performance of white and Asian students compared to black and Latino students.

"Among the findings:
—Students who reported rarely or never discussing reading interpretations in class had average scores lower than those who did daily or almost daily.
—An overwhelming majority reported that reading is enjoyable. Students who strongly disagreed with the idea that reading is enjoyable had an average score much lower than those who strongly agreed.
—Math scores were higher, on average, for students who took calculus and lowest for students who had not taken a math course beyond Algebra I.
—Math scores were higher for students who reported math was their favorite subject, believed the subject would help them in the future or thought their class was engaging."

My question is this: what do you see as the problem? Are teachers the problem, as some suggested? Is the Department of Education to blame? Racism inherent in our society? Is something wrong with the current generation of kids? The current generation of parents?
Parents, for never allowing responsibility of education to fall on their children, and the DoE for caring more about graduation results and attendance than the actual education of students.
 
When our culture, entertainment, and society values responsibility and looking outward to others more than inward to self, then education will improve. It will certainly not be fixed by changing education methods or standards. We are only a few steps away, as a society, from taking child-raising responsibilities from families and making it a government function.
 
Here's my take. I teach 8th grade English in California. My district is better than average, but it is by no means rich.

  • Students are, by and large, lazy. They want everything done for them, and they despise working and thinking. Seriously, I often get kids telling me they hate thinking or making decisions. They don't do homework, and they don't want to do anything that they don't see as immediately fun.
  • Roughly 75% of parents fall into one of two bad categories: completely disinterested in their child's education, or over-involved. Many of the disinterested will ignore emails and phone calls from teachers. They certainly don't follow through, or hold their kids accountable in any way. They tend to get annoyed if they are forced to get involved by the administration. They are quick to blame teachers/staff/administrators for any problems. Then you have the helicopter parents. They are the ones who want email about every grade on every assignment. They are the ones who are worried that getting a C on a worksheet in 8th grade will keep their child from getting into college. They want to know why it takes more than one day for you to enter grades online for an assignment. Nothing is ever good enough, but they don't actually help. They just pester and pressure.
  • Teachers are hit and miss. I like to think of myself as a good teacher, and I'm sorry to brag, but other students and teachers seem to back that up. I also know many colleagues who are passionate and brilliant. However, when I go to a staff meeting, I am reminded that many others at the schools I've worked at suck. I've seen/heard about many teachers just handing out worksheets and telling kids to work on them day in and day out, no instruction whatsoever. I've seen teachers laugh about giving kids detentions and referrals in front of other students. I've seen teachers show up late, unprepared, hung over, and tell stories about their sex life. At least the schools I've been at, whether or not a student gets a good teacher is a gamble. Some of us care and work hard and know how to educate, and others whine about wanting to go home and watch TV every day.
  • Race is a big divide. When I have trouble with students, either behaviorally or academically, they overwhelmingly tend to be black or Latino. I DO NOT think that there is something inferior about people of color. Instead, I think that the echoes of slavery and oppression, along with modern racism, tends to keep people of color poor and uneducated. Being poor and uneducated tends to make it hard to parent properly due to time and money constraints. It becomes a vicious cycle, and I don't have an answer.
  • I'm rarely able to say this in mixed company, but fuck teachers' unions. I have been fucked over by them or watched them fuck people over more often than I've seen them help. They exist to protect the weak and old teachers from being held accountable for their poor performance, while eager and talented young teachers are told to go fuck themselves. The union's priorities are fucked, and though I understand the basic need for them, they are not working as intended. At all.
  • Somehow the least effective teachers always seem to become principals and administrators. I think it's obvious how that hurts school districts.
  • As a society, we want education that is cheap but 100% effective, while requiring virtually no involvement from parents. This is stupid and unrealistic, but it doesn't stop people from bitching.
 
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I think there should be an All the Above option.
You can select multiple (or all) answers.[DOUBLEPOST=1399482102,1399482046][/DOUBLEPOST]I'd love it if people took the time to explain what they picked. Some people have done that, but I see a lot of clicks for "the whole system" and not that many explanations.
 
Here's the thing though, I have two kids. They both like school, but one of them wants nothing to do with homework and would rather stay home than go, even though he loves his teachers and learning. The other one cries at the thought of having to go on summer break and would literally live at school if given the option. They are both very intelligent for their age, but the older one would flunk out if he wasn't being pushed and prodded every step of the way. Part of it is that he is autistic, but he is given so much leeway and reduced work loads that the only reason he has left for not acing everything is that he would rather do fun things and has no self motivation. I have spent hours fighting tooth and nail with him, I set up a plan with his teachers to increase the penalties at school instead of me crying for hours with him, but that still only lasted so long.

TLDR: While I am sure some parents are to blame, there is also plenty of room to blame students and societal influence.
 
they don't want to do anything that they don't see as immediately fun.
This really stuck out to me as both a student and teacher. The idea that the teacher needs to be entertaining to get children engaged just blows my mind. We are not going to find a million "Robin Williams" to come into classrooms and "inspire" the children. The inspiration to learn needs to be innate, or at least guided from the family (etc.) I always felt like I had to preform daily. Like being on a non-stop Broadway production for the rest of your career. It was one of the most important sources of stress for me.

This idea of entertaining education just gives kids and parents an easy cop-out if they don't like the teacher.
 
It irks me to no end. I wasn't always entertained, but I didn't expect to be in school. I understood that some days or assignments would be boring. Kids now demand to be entertained 24/7.
 

Dave

Staff member
I put the whole system because no child left behind should instead be named "No Child Can Get Ahead". Standardization of testing has made it so that other subjects that are outside the purview of the tests are basically ignored or marginalized. Art, music, recess. These things are all being removed slowly or quickly, depending on where you are. Additionally, sports teams (for high schools) are given a pass simply because they bring in money, regardless of the benefits - real or perceived - that they give.

Add in the fact that schools are so fearful of lawsuits that they implement all sorts of insane rules that do nothing more than to stifle students and kill whatever love of school these kids might have.

Also, because of politics, public schools are more and more getting the shaft as areas try to privatize schools or create a system of vouchers that are detrimental to those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

And that's why I chose what I chose.
 
We are only a few steps away, as a society, from taking child-raising responsibilities from families and making it a government function.
Don't think I haven't noticed. It's almost portrayed that an individual couldn't possibly properly raise a child, and so at every step the Government must be there to ensure the welfare of the child. You know what? A family could do an amazing job of raising a child if they didn't have to work two full-time jobs just to make ends meet.
Art, music, recess. These things are all being removed slowly or quickly, depending on where you are.
These things make students happy. Our focus is on training people to be productive, not happy. Happiness is overrated.

--Patrick
 
I don't want to be responsible for your child. I will do my best to teach them about English and help them appreciate writing, poetry, reading, etc. But I would love it if parents helped too. Many of them just want us to do everything and be done with it. When I first started teaching, there was a colleague of mine who was having problems because he made the mistake of giving some food to a student for lunch a few times. When he stopped providing free lunch, the mother complained. Like it was his job to feed the kid on top of everything else.
 

Dave

Staff member
I don't want to be responsible for your child. I will do my best to teach them about English and help them appreciate writing, poetry, reading, etc. But I would love it if parents helped too. Many of them just want us to do everything and be done with it. When I first started teaching, there was a colleague of mine who was having problems because he made the mistake of giving some food to a student for lunch a few times. When he stopped providing free lunch, the mother complained. Like it was his job to feed the kid on top of everything else.
When my kids got to high school we were told that we could no longer participate in anything except going to events. We only ever saw or spoke to their teachers if it were conference time or if there were issues.
 

Necronic

Staff member
I'm really surprised by how many people are blaming the students. Whoever students are, we as adults are pretty much entirely responsible for what they are. Unless there has been some wild dramatic genetic shift in the last 30 years I didn't know about, then "kids these days" start from the exact same position that we did. The only difference is the environment they were raised in.

Here's my take. I teach 8th grade English in California. My district is better than average, but it is by no means rich.

  • Students are, by and large, lazy. They want everything done for them, and they despise working and thinking. Seriously, I often get kids telling me they hate thinking or making decisions. They don't do homework, and they don't want to do anything that they don't see as immediately fun.
You know, that sounds exactly like me when I was a kid. And most undergrads. And a lot of people I work with. Probably me as well. Just a matter of perspective (in this case respectively: my elders, my grad school gf, me, and my boss)


True Detective said:
Jake Herbert: So you're telling me the world isn't getting worse? I've seen kids today all in black wearing makeup, shit on their faces, everything is sex, Clinton.
Detective Marty Hart: You know, throughout history, I bet every old man probably said the same thing. And old men die, and the world keeps spinnin'.

I do agree with most everything else you said though, specifically unions.
 
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I'm really surprised by how many people are blaming the students. Whoever students are, we as adults are pretty much entirely responsible for what they are. Unless there has been some wild dramatic genetic shift in the last 30 years I didn't know about, then "kids these days" start from the exact same position that we did. The only difference is the environment they were raised in.



You know, that sounds exactly like me when I was a kid. And most undergrads. And a lot of people I work with. Probably me as well. Just a matter of perspective (in this case respectively: my elders, my grad school gf, me, and my boss)





I do agree with most everything else you said though, specifically unions.
I should be clear. The current year of students that I have are lazier, compared to the ones last year and the ones in 7th grade right now. That tends to stick out in my mind, and that's why I said what I said.
 
I owe you a really well thought out and eloquent response to the poll, especially since I selected all of the options, but I spent all day at work providing really well thought out and eloquent responses to complicated questions, so you're not getting one tonight. Hopefully the rest of my week won't be as bad as today was.
 
The main problem here is that there is no one answer to your question. School isn't a singular thing. It encompasses socialization issues, latent and encouraged talent issues, economic issues, race issues, youth culture issues, technology issues, psychological development issues. There's a whole melange of forces at work there.

That is one of the major reasons that I HATE No Child Left Behind. It's taking ALL of that and compressing it into standardized learning. Learning is messy and different for everyone. There will never EVER be a one size fits all approach to it. What will work brilliantly with some students will work horribly for others. Some learn by doing, some learn by showing, some learn by reading. That's the one small thing that the whole "new math" thing got right (but as usual has been wildly twisted), kids, and adults for that matter, need to realize that there's more than one way to skin a cat.

We expect our education system to function like an assembly line, but human beings aren't like manufactured goods.
 

Necronic

Staff member
Standardized learning is unavoidable though, because it allows standardized assessment of education facilities. It's a very poor implementation of the system, I think common core will work better, but the previous system was untennable. I think that the best way is a blend of both. Have a strong universal core that will be taught, and then allow significant embellishments by the teachers.
 
Well, there's also the fact that most people think that every child has the potential to be a Nobel laureate. It just ain't so.
 
These things make students happy. Our focus is on training people to be productive, not happy. Happiness is overrated.
Um, no.

I hated music class, it was not for my happiness. But I had to do it or I'd have an F on my report card.

Studies in the last few years have shown the importance of play in development and learning. Taking away recess might not seem like it'd have a big impact, except even 3rd graders these days are coming home with two to three hours of homework.
 
Um, no. I hated music class, it was not for my happiness. But I had to do it or I'd have an F on my report card. Studies in the last few years have shown the importance of play in development and learning. Taking away recess might not seem like it'd have a big impact, except even 3rd graders these days are coming home with two to three hours of homework.
Just so there's no confusion, I was saying that from the point of view of the institution, not myself.

On a slightly different note, Kati is convinced that all of these sorts of changes were(/are) intentionally selected towards an ultimate goal of turning out a workforce of compliant, aspiration-free, complacent laborers rather than generating any kind of innovators, thinkers, or (worst of all) questioners. While I'm not convinced this is 100% true, the actions of the institutions aren't doing themselves any favors.

--Patrick
 
Just so there's no confusion, I was saying that from the point of view of the institution, not myself.

On a slightly different note, Kati is convinced that all of these sorts of changes were(/are) intentionally selected towards an ultimate goal of turning out a workforce of compliant, aspiration-free, complacent laborers rather than generating any kind of innovators, thinkers, or (worst of all) questioners. While I'm not convinced this is 100% true, the actions of the institutions aren't doing themselves any favors.

--Patrick
I think it'd be easier to keep churning out the "follow your dreams instead of get a safe career path" type of media and encourage people to follow it. Ensures a basic workforce, since not everyone can be doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc.

That said, I'm with Kati. This all seems pretty deliberate. Make sure there's easy access to entertainment, make sure the system is broken enough so only a few will rise above the bottom grade. It's Brave New World without the genetic manipulation, and I'm sure that won't be too far down the road.
 

Necronic

Staff member
I think it's fair to point out that the current generation is pretty much universally acknowledged as being highly creative in the workforce. Creativity is increasing, not decreasing. You have to remember that back in our parents days it was considered a pretty big social mistake to buck mainstream conformity.
 
Honestly, I live in a school district where my daughter's elementary school had a better music program than I have ever seen in an elementary school, and schools in general that have teachers that bend over backwards to help any kid that is struggling, so I feel like my input is biased. ;)
 
"All of the above". but with lots of caveats and different loads of "guilt" and whatnot.
1. We expect all children to reach what we consider "basic" levels of everything. Yes, I'm a renaissance man and I lile it and I want everyone ot have the option of learrning about everything. But 50 years ago, how much math did your factory labourer know? How much history was your garage mechanic aware of? How much math did the priest know his way around? Not everyone wants or needs everything, and while "basics" are nice, we're putting the bar for what "basic" is higher and higher.
2. Our whole culture is being structured around quick turn-arounds and easy gratification. Be it a computer game (compare now to 20 years ago), TV (everything has to move much faster etc), music (modern pop isn't just made by artists - there's plenty of math behind making the beats just so), etc etc. Parenting, teachers - everything's supposed to be fun, easy, and clear for children. heck, my niece is 10x as fast as I am on an iPad...But good luck making her do something she doesn't want to or that doesn't "reward" her in 5 minutes. Less so on the other side of the family where it's still farmers and mechanics and carpenters - their children play outside and stuff, and are, frankly, better behaved and easier to deal with
3. As patrThom said - 50 years ago, how many people were working 2 or 3 or 4 jobs split amongst 2 parents? I'm not at all advocating "women should stay home", but having a parent around who can focus their attention on their children is a better idea than forcing everyone to work too much and having all children in creches and after school care.
4. While I do think racism is there, obviously, I think it's more classism. A study released a few days ago found 40% of 15 year olds from migratory backgrounds, even 2nd or 3rd generation, hadn't mastered enough math to cope with daily adult life (the bar wasn't all that high - determining price per unit from package prices, factoring in coupons, working out how much gas you'd get for how much money, deciding which subscription gave more bang per buck from a phone company and such - actual "real life" adult stuff, not trigonometry :p). Are migrants just plain dumb? No, of course not. It was mostly due to parents not being able to help at home work (because of language or because they lacked the skills themselves), and partly because these children felt no "reason" to be good at math since they'd never get anywhere (because racism). Jilted and uninspired, unmotivated children without parental help, and from a poor background, and we're surprised they underperform? Well whoopdeedoo.
5. Our educational system is still geared towards pouring a bunch of information from one vessel into a bunch of others. Where we see teachers try and teach more from practice and interest, student interest peaks...But their grades drop. Just teaching facts is useless parotting. Letting children decide what and how they want to learn builds no character whatsoever. We're still evolving and we'll get there eventually.
6. While I don't think there's a sinister conspiracy to turn children into drones, I do think there's a big gulf between what you expect from schooling. CEOs want people trained for the work place - work ethic, compliant, good math and language, hard working, eager and fast to learn/pick up new stuff. This is a different "goal" than trying to make happy, productive, creative individuals who can explore their talents and can stand proudly and inquisitively in the world. We need both, but you can't jsut look at 5 year olds and say "okay, you're an Alpha, you go to Smart School; you're a Beta, you get arts and sports; you're a Gamma, you get to learn how to work the conveyor belt as efficiently as possible and how to plow the fields". And even if you could, I don't think you should.
 
We would have a happier and more productive workforce if people were encouraged to find something that they do well and get them on a mentor track for that career path. Instead we have people who are railroaded into a narrow educational path and are forced to work in cubicles and hate their jobs. I see it every day.
 

figmentPez

Staff member
One problem is our grading system. In part because every student is expected to get an A, but also because we expect that A to be 90% or better. Forget comparisons to real life and whatever "percentage" is expected in whatever job, just consider how difficult it must be for a teacher to write a test that all students can reasonably expect to get at least 70% right (and most can get 90%+), while still testing the limits of the students who are easily getting 90%+, without having the test drag on for too many questions... It's ridiculous.

Another problem is that society as a whole doesn't value intelligence. We still fear and mock smart people. At the same time we glorify the benefits of intelligence (the brilliant spy who hacks into systems while kicking ass, all our gadgets in internets), we also marginalize and even degrade intellectual pursuits. We, as a society, only want people to be smart when it's in a cool situation that's outside of our normal lives, or when they're creating something that benefits us, and we don't have to deal with them personally. Society still wants to degrade study and intellectual pursuit, still wants to degrade logical thinking, but still wants the illusion of intelligence, without actually thinking.
 
Society still wants to degrade study and intellectual pursuit, still wants to degrade logical thinking, but still wants the illusion of intelligence, without actually thinking.
Society is still uncomfortable with the notion of being forced to admit that there are other people who are better at something AND that this superiority may be demonstrated where others can see and make comparisons/judge.

--Patrick
 

figmentPez

Staff member
Society is still uncomfortable with the notion of being forced to admit that there are other people who are better at something AND that this superiority may be demonstrated where others can see and make comparisons/judge.
Really? They seem to love the Superbowl, the World Cup, the Olympics...
 
Really? They seem to love the Superbowl, the World Cup, the Olympics...
I would say that's because that invokes an "us v. them" mentality, rather than a "him v. me" situation.
I mean, there was the whole Mars lander thing, the Higgs Boson research, even the Moon landing(s). Patriotism, team efforts, all of 'em. Gives a guy a good sense of belonging to something wonderful (and thereby vicariously sharing in that success).
BUT...you wear one navy sock and one black sock, or open your door in a car wash, or forget to read a road sign, and suddenly you are a buffoon, an idiot, a subject of ridicule, like a contestant on a Japanese game show. And nobody wants to be "that guy." Better instead to make sure nobody is allowed to be smarter than you without being punished for it.

--Patrick
 
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