Friday, August 22, 2008

How We're Contributing to a Growing Underclass Part 2

OK, I'm going to trust you. Click on the link below first to see another way we are helping to stock the pool of underclass in our society.

I cannot imagine why more and more parents aren't livid when it comes to this. Note that the report isn't saying that 75% of students aren't prepared to do freshman work at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford or Southern Methodist University - we're talking about community college.

Granted, high school graduates have any number of reasons for choosing community college over four year colleges or universities. But whatever the reason, students ought to be prepared to read and write on grade level when they get to community college.

There is something worse, however. The Dallas County Community College District has been telling us this for years! Which means that there is a systemic problem when it comes public education. And it is one that we consistently ignore.

Now, brace yourself as see the Dallas Independent School District's solution to the problem:

In order to correct a problem that is leaving our children uneducated, and unprepared, the academic strategy is to require less of them! A very simple question to all of the Ph.D's and E.D.'s at the district: Is this how you began your academic careers?

The fact is, I understand why this is being done. It is no fault of good teachers and sincere administrators that students face domestic and societal pathologies that leave many of them unprepared and unsupported when it comes to schoolwork.

Politicians have placed downward pressure on public school administrators who in turn put pressure on teachers to get students to pass state mandated standardized tests. And parents, some of whom work jobs with long hours, some who work two or more jobs, and some parents whose time in school was, shall we say, less than successful don't or can't provide the support that public schools used to depend to help students learn and keep them in line. I get that.

But look at what is happening to a system (public education), which is probably our country's greatest gift to modern civilization:

middle class families are moving to the suburbs (both black and white), meaning that our urban schools are populated by some of our poorer students

we syphon out dollars from public schools through vouchers and charter schools leaving fewer resources for urban public schools

we have a 50% drop out rate among the poorer students left in public schools and we have a 'teach to the test' strategy of education that leaves them trained, but uneducated

Consequently, we are intentionally or collaterally creating a class of students who are prepared for nothing but low-wage, dead end jobs and a severely truncated quality of life.

The answer cannot be to look for less from the students who are currently in public schools.

What can be done? We could seriously enlist the aid of business, parents, faith based organizations and community organizations to build a real constituency for public schools. This can't be an artificial, rubber stamp committee for education 'experts'. This must be a group which holds the schools accountable and who, in turn, are willing to be held accountable for aiding schools in stemming the drop out rate and preparing kids for meaningful education and graduation. This is a group that will join community schools in promoting education as a way out of poverty, and a pathway to a better quality of life.

We can also pay teachers like education professionals instead of clerks and promote classroom teaching a noble profession, instead of a pathway to professional academic bureaucratic careers. And we can begin when children enter school talking with them and with their parents about what it will take to get their children in college, thereby changing their mindset and expectations from 12 years of eduction, to at least 16.

There are other things, but without doing at least some of the above, we are adding to an underclass. Some of these kids will make it no matter what. They are bright, they will acquire other support systems and mentors.

But others, some who graduate valedictorian and salutatorian, will go to college and find out that their high school diploma is really a certificate of public school attendance. It will be devastating...and criminal.

Oh, to be fair, the Dallas Independent School District did try to reassure the public regarding its intentions:

It wasn't the strategy; it was the MEMO!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your position. The direction in which DISD is leading our children points them to a continous cycle of failure. It is evident that the words responsibility and accountablity do not exist in regards to the student population. Yet, their teachers are held responsible and accountable for failures of students who are being trained that completing assignments, studying, and making an honest effort at learning are not necessary to receive a quality education.