WE CANNOT GIVE UP ON OUR YOUTH.
To ensure fewer of America's high school students are left behind in traditional high schools, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed more than $31 million to create a nationwide network of 168 small, personalized alternative schools. The Gates foundation is in the midst of a major national initiative to foster and replicate successful small schools and to break up existing, large high schools, especially those in urban areas.
Building on a previous grant to replicate the Minnesota New Country School, these grants will support the efforts of nine intermediary organizations to work with local communities to replicate high-quality alternative schools, expand and improve existing schools, convert programs that offer GEDs into high school diploma-granting schools, and initiate policy and technical assistance efforts. Awards from $887,500 to $6.3 million apiece will go to organizations, including $1.9 million to go to the Big Picture Co., which will coordinate the initiative. The Big Picture Co. is currently in the fourth year of a five-year, $4.1 million grant from the gates foundation to replicate the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, or the 'Met,' an alternative school it runs in the nonprofit organization's hometown of Providence, R.I.
We're w riting in response to the article you ran on February 4, 2006, The Vanishing Class: Failing Students Spell Profit for Some Schools. I am a teacher at Options For Youth. I teach here by choice. I am grateful to serve under the California charter to help enable students to succeed that might not otherwise do so in the traditional California school system. The article raises several issues I wish to address, including funding and graduation rates.
Yes, Options For Youth and Opportunities For Learning are publicly funded, as are all the other public schools in the state of California, accredited or not. We do happen to be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. We operate under a charter bill introduced in 1994. The original charter bill gave great latitude to charter schools to merely demonstrate progress of the students in the California curriculum. Since the bill was introduced, the state of California has implemented many rules and regulations in conjunction with that bill, with which we fully comply to align ourselves more closely with the traditional public schools. The funding we receive is legitimate.
Nor is it the case that we have no teachers or texts as O’Connell suggests. Our texts and curriculum and teachers can all be found within walls, within buildings. Incidentally, we have a good selection of math tutors behind those walls where we also hold small group classes for algebra and reading.
To add to my previous comment, the printed article fails to mention that my student and I figured out her algebra problem within moments, she was able to continue her work while I helped other students, and she passed her test that week. It fails to mention that we have a credentialed math teacher at our school center, which a Times reporter and photographer observed working with my student. All of our students working on Algebra get a chance to work with the math teacher in small groups of no more than six. She is also available to all of our students on alternating Fridays. I guess a report about this help we offer to our students wouldn't have fit into your article's main agenda.
I teach the students who are behind in credits and on the verge of dropping out. I hear the same story over and over from students that counselors were not very involved when students didn't show up to school or when they were failing over fifty percent of their classes. Yes, Algebra is a problem for many, however, school districts need to have counselors "be counselors". With most districts averaging a 500 to 1 student to counselor ratio and a 181 average school year, how are counselor going to even meet with each individual student? much less follow up on those that are experiencing diffulties at school, home or personally. If counselors ratios were reduced to at least 200 to 1 counselor could be more proactive versus reactive to students academic problems.
Telling students their Junior or Senior year that they may not graduate because they are short of credits it too late and does nothing for them except give them an excuse to drop out completely. Today's students have so many more issues that a fulltime counselor is needed to provide support so students can actually focus on their academics instead of trying to figure out how they will deal with being bullied, or parents alcohol problem, or gang threats or just fitting in etc. In addition, I agree that Math as well as English are the two most important core subjects and teachers who teach these subjects should get additonal pay. If Math and English teachers do their jobs right, then all other teachers in other subjects will benefit by having students who can read, write and figure out simple calculations in other subjects.
I learned that dropping out of High School can be a very bad thing. If you drop out of High School you can’t get into a good college, you can’t get a good job, and also you won’t be bright as you’re supposed to. I also learned that the only thing that can make you drop out is you. I also learned that the wrong things you do make you drop out. If you smoke, join a gang, steal, cheat, and etc. If you never give up and keep trying you will a good life. You will be successful and you will live a happy life. I guarantee that you will live a good life and never give up. If I was one of those drop outs I would try to do something about it. I would still try and get a good education. That’s why I would never drop out and just give up. That’s why so far I am doing good because I try and never give up and I’m just in middle school.
School is now for girls. The authors of this series fail to address the most obvious crisis in schools. Public school fails boys. The unspoken roots of this failure are the holy "gender neutral" policies of the last thirty years.
Boys and girls (on average) are different. Boys and girls learn differently. Eighty percent of dropouts, suspensions, expulsions, those diagnosed ADHD and learning problems, and kids in resource classes are boys.
The shortened school days have cheated kids out of time for supervised physical activity and much needed play at recess, lunch, and PE. Developmentally inappropriate tasks are constantly imposed on boys in the early grades.
2) Now, making matters worse, are politicized 'standards-based' testing and grading. These have morphed into chronic critical and whining accusations that kids, their teachers, and their schools are not good enough. Standards based education and grading provides excuses to eliminate those marginalized and struggling. They allow us to create a new generation of education failures.
The normal, reasonable, and weary response in children becomes "Why try?" Most boys in high school believe school offers no opportunity for them. A million new science and math teachers are not enough to address the dehumanizing process we are now allowing to be imposed on our schools, teachers, and children.
I have read this series, and Part 2 in particular, with deep interest. I was a math teacher in the St. Vrain School District in Colorado during the 2003/2004 school year. I was cedentialed as an "alternative license" teacher in the state of Colorado qualified to teach math at the secondary school level. I had earned my degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado in May 2002.
I lasted all of one year. In short, the inmates were running the asylum. No discipline, no desire to learn, and no consequences for bad decisions students made were only some of the reasons I left teaching with no intention of returning. The two major ones were lack of support from school administrators and parents. Most parents took little or no interest in their child's education. School administrators always undercut my authority in the classroom.
I took an "old school" approach to teaching math: drills, homework, and class assignments that challenged a student to think. I taught geometry, pre-algebra, and remedial math. In all three courses I would have to say that the majority of my students were unprepared to do the required work. Many could not do simple multiplication. Some were still counting on their fingers. And most shockingly of all, none had any exposure to concepts that should have been taught in elementary and middle school.
Absenteeism, ditching, behavioral problems, and racial tensions were the "extracurricular" problems I had to solve in addition to finding an effective way to sound down the material into my students' minds. Yet despite these great handicaps, I managed to get through to some of my students. My efforts were completely unappreciated by the school administration. The principal told me that I was a "brilliant" man who would make an "outstanding" teacher, but she nevertheless refused to renew my contract. My approach to teaching didn't resonate with the current fad of "standards-based education", and so I was not asked back. After I saw that her attitude was commonplace in the district, I decided to leave teaching and never return.
President Bush wants to bring more scientists and mathematicians into the nation's classrooms in the belief this will improve math education. Well, that is a good start, but only a start. When these professionals realize that discipline is absent from today's schools, and that they will get no support from school administrators and even fellow teachers (I was fortunate to have the full support of my school's math department), they will leave the profession as quickly as I did.
Those of us who have earned degrees in math and science--as opposed to being merely "certified" to teach these subjects--know what it takes to achieve success in these fields. Our input is neither welcomed nor wanted in public education today. It is no wonder to me that math and science education in America is so bad, and that will continue to be the case for as long as cosmetic solutions are proposed to this great problem.
Great series, have enjoyed each installment! If Mr. Hall thinks that 1 student out of 10 graduating from his program is a worthy benchmark one can only conclude the only metric Hall and his contemporaries are truly interested in is the number of students that enter their program---Hall's indefensible position that you cannot save many students underlines and illuminates just how misdirected and sadly ineffective his "student mill" is. All one needs now is for George Bush to exclaim ""Way to go, Hallie!" to make the nightmare complete. Demand benchmarks or award the educational contracts to someone who really was an educator not an opportunist afforded an opportunity by well placed friends.
Bravo! You hit the nail on the head. Success in school, or anything else for that matter, requires discipline. And discipline has to be taught by parents before a child begins school. Teachers can’t do this job for parents.
When I was a kid, I didn't dare ditch class. I mostly attended Catholic schools, and had I been caught outside my assigned classroom, that would have meant a visit with the Mother Superior. All the nuns were mean (so we thought), but the M.S. was the meanest of them all. M.S. also taught class, so when a student was brought to her attention, she would stop her class, pull out the leather strap, and whip the offending student's butt in front of all her students. Then, a call would be placed to the student's parents, and another whipping would be waiting at home. Needless to say, there was a lot of incentive not to be hauled before the Mother Superior. My friends who attended public school had similar experiences with their principal.
When I was a kid (in the early 60s, BTW), I don't recall too many grade-school children acting out in public. Forget "time outs"...if I acted out, I'd immediately get my face slapped. And not just a little wimpy slap, but one that would make my glasses fly off my face. Today, it's hard to walk in a grocery store without seeing unruly children screaming, running unsupervised down the aisles, pulling stuff off the shelves, etc. Once I saw a boy, perhaps ten years of age, pull down his pants and relieve himself right in the middle of a parking lot...WHILE HIS MOTHER WATCHED AND WAITED FOR HIM TO FINISH!! I don’t often stare slack-jawed at someone, but I sure did that day. Had I even THOUGHT of doing such a thing, I wouldn't have been able to sit down for a week. I would also have been grounded, and had all my favorite toys taken away from me, probably for good.
I'm sure that the vast majority of parents today would be horrified at the thought of corporal punishment, as I’ve described above, being used on their kids. But there's a lot to say for corporal punishment and public humiliation. It may sound draconian, but it worked. I'll probably get flamed for saying this, but if I were the parent of that kid shown sleeping on his desk, I'd whip his butt so hard that he'd have to stand up in class...which would solve the problem of falling asleep at his desk, wouldn't it?
Another important part of my upbringing was that my parents insisted upon knowing what homework was assigned to me, and making sure that I did it correctly. I’m an only child, and my parents owned a little mom-and-pop store in Long Beach. They both worked long hours, so I was on my own a lot. They bought a desk for me and put it in the back room of the store. After school, I was expected to go to that desk immediately, do my homework, and show it to my mom or dad. Only after it was checked and deemed acceptable was I allowed to go out and play. My parents didn't have a lot of education themselves, but they made time to read my textbooks with me so that they were sure I was doing my work correctly. They also helped me with rote-memory drills. My folks worked 14 hour days, seven days a week, and still did this for me. When playtime was over, I was expected to go home – alone – and prepare dinner for my parents and myself. I was maybe 10 years old when I was first given this chore. Would you let your ten-year-old child do this today? Probably not, and likely because they’re not responsible enough to do it. Oh, and it would probably be considered child abuse today, as would corporal punishment.
My point is that parents can instill discipline in their kids if they deem it important. It was unusual for both parents to work in the 1960s, but my folks made time for me regardless of how tired they were. And I think I turned out pretty well.
You are probably doing the better thing by getting your credential first and then going to teach. Only because it is hell to do both at the same time. This is my second year teaching math. You will probably have 35-40 students in your classroom. And most likely you'll have at least two different classes to teach. After a couple weeks into your first year, the work will start to catch up with you. You'll be taking teaching on a day by day basis. You'll be in survival mode. I want to be very creative in my instruction, but I don't have the time to properly plan it. It takes all I have now just to stay caught up with the pace of my classes.
I often work weekdays at home til 2-3 am. I don't have much of my own social life. So far, teaching has consumed 85% of all my time. I like teaching, but it is extremely demanding. I can't think of a worse day, than having one 'unplanned' day.
I commend the L.A. Times coverage of the problems facing high school education. I have some views on this subject. My father, mother, sister, and I all taught school. Social promotion needs to end! The curriculum needs to include remedial classes for kids without the skills to tackle Algebra. Kids that ditch classes must face severe consequences, failure.
Discipline problems must be addressed. I also noticed many of the teachers writing comments made spelling and syntax errors. This brings to mind another point. If the bottom rung of college students go into teaching, you can expect poor students to produce more poor students. The poor pay, working conditions, and stress of teaching in today's schools is not attracting the best candidates! Your paper has done an excellent job of reporting this story.
I teach in a drop-out "recovery" program for LAUSD and get many of the students profiled in the article. Few of the students coming to us have even the skills necessary for middle school. Those who read at fourth grade level (and as low as less than first grade) don't have the patience to work through remediation reading. Same in regards to math skills. Many of those who actually have all their algebra credits lack the ability to do even simple arithmetic on our tests. And algebra credits will not help students pass the GED exam which is used in our program for quick credits.
The majority of students I have only want to know how soon they can "get" their diplomas and don't want to do the work. Most feel that they should be exempt from doing the assignments or attending regularly, or that they can hold down 30-40 hour week jobs in addition. Or they decide to have babies at age 16 -- with the blessing of their families even. Many students who come to us have already been to several other continuation programs. I'd estimate our dropout rate to be about 98%.
I wonder, though, just how much the taxpayer should be responsible for all these costs. If a student doesn't put forth the effort, I think the taxpayer's responsibility should end and transfer over to the parents. After all, the primary causes of dropout students that I've seen are truancy and irresponsible parents. Public education should be a two-way contract. The current set-up fosters an entitlement feeling, not one of "earning" the paid-for schooling. I applaud those districts which have begun to bill parents of truant students for lost seat time. Most of these families have relied on the schools to do what should have been their jobs and have never maintained any supervision at home.
When I was in school, failing students had to stay after class everyday for extra tutoring. If that didn't work, there was summer school, and then repeating the grade over. Rather than having one watered down high school exit exam, why aren't there several exit exams for previous grades? What about entrance exams for high school? And yes, I'd support a dual-track education system and vouchers.
Thank you to the reporters who are doing this investigation piece. I am a math teacher candidate at Fresno Pacific University (in the Credentialing program as we speak) and am reading this series with great interest.
I agree and likewise disagree with many of the comments made in the article and on this discussion board. I really think the thing that we need (and are heading toward!) is allowing the freedom in the classroom of all teachers to teach their students. Standards are GOOD as long as they don't rush the teachers into putting out material too fast - the inch deep mile wide approach, etc. On the contrary, why not reach ABOVE the stated standards and encompass multiple modalities of teaching into instruction? For example, one can introduce geometric methods of factoring to help kinesthetic and visual learners, while reinforcing the content standards for those whom regular numbers suit just fine ( http://mathforum.org/alejandre/algfac.html ).
More teacher education is not the answer, but passionate teachers are. I'm not gonna say what we "need" because I'm not in the classroom yet, only as a substitute teacher, etc. But at least here in teacher Ed., we are being taught to do our dardndest to reach all kids in as many ways as we can. Yes, students need to do homework, and need to CARE - we can't make them do that, but we can model it. It's a societal issue, but it can be challenged by teachers.
It must be recognized that there are many outstanding teachers in the LAUSD, and there are definately many who are not.
If a Pediatrician had 50% of their otherwise healthy patients die there would be a criminal investigation. Allowing 50% of our students to drop out or fail should also warrant a criminal investigation.
As a history teacher, I do not envy math teachers.
It is the cliche "inch deep and mile wide" way in which we teach the subject. Understanding of math requires complex critical thinking and conceptualizing. Students in the middle schools are being taught Algebra in 7th and 8th grade, at an age where, physiologically, most are not yet capable of such higher level thinking skills.
Aside, few things are more aggrevating than the "blame the kids" teacher comments. Get out of the classroom, if you believe that!
You cannot teach Algebra to anybody that does not have the fundamentals.
Our kids come to class undisciplined, uninterested, and unprepared. Most of the failing students are just not good students. They do not study, they cannot sit and listen to lecture or explanations, most are just not ready right now to be successful. At some point in their life they will find the need and desire to abotain an education. This is not to say that we could use better trainied teachers, or teachers that are willing to put in the time to prepare interestign lessons or time to help struggling students. That is a given. But even teachers who go above and beyond hit the wall of apathy.
Since March 2000, the gates foundation has committed more than $400 million to help establish or strengthen nearly 1,100 small, personalized high schools, foundation officials report. That includes nearly 230 new schools, in addition to the 168 alternative schools to be supported by the latest grants. These grants will be supplemented by additional fund-raising efforts by the recipients, foundation officials said. They added that the $31 million will cover, on average, roughly 70 percent of the costs of the projects
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