Friday, 17 August 2012

 Are  the children  in  English-speaking  countries  getting  a  good  education?
Some of the paragraphs have white backgrounds. It is an anomaly and therefor has no significance with respect to to the text itself.

In this article, I am referring to much of what has been written in the Internet about the failings of the school systems as my sources of information.

Just outside of Detroit, Indiana is a school district where only ten percent of students from third to eighth grade are proficient in reading and math. On the college-ready exam, 90 percent of the district's 11th graders failed the reading portion, 97 percent failed the math section, and 100 percent failed the social  studies and science portions.
The troubled Highland Park district has not only been in the news for poor student achievement rates; it's also been put front and center because of corruption in its school board and fo being sued by the ACLU for its dismal literacy rates.

Recently The Highland Park Schools' Emergency Manager, Joyce Parker, has selected charter operator Leona Group, LLC to take over the failing school district. This particular group operates over 60 schools in five states.
More: Single-Sex Classrooms: Good or Bad for Kids?

In a written statement Parker said—
The Leona Group offered the best fit for Highland Park students and families. In addition to their strong academic performance standards, Leona Group is committed to working in partnership with parents, the community, my office and the new board to ensure students in Highland Park receive the very best education possible.

 While this may indicate some progress being made to reform the district, the ACLU of Michigan says the parents of the students shouldn’t hold your breath. In regards to the new charter operator and the ACLU's Right to Read lawsuit, Rana Elmir, communications director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement to TakePart today—

 “We have concerns that the state [of Michigan] turned the district over to a charter operating company with a low performance record. The state must ensure that the Right to Read law is enforced no matter who runs the schools, and should put in place a panel of experts to ensure districts and charters are using the best intervention tools. Charter schools are public schools; therefore they should be held to the same standards and obligated by the same laws.

 “Recently, 250 parents and concerned citizens came together to learn about the transition the schools will be making in the fall. According to  The Wall Street Journal,   “….students and parents complain of dirty classrooms, exposed wiring in the schools, rationed textbook, and swimming pools—once used by powerhouse swim teams—that now sit drained of water.” unquote

 Leona Chief Executiv,e William Coats said during the meeting that as the charter operator builds equity, they will “give that back to the schools.”

 Cynthia Gresham, a school volunteer and parent of an incoming senior at Highland Park Community High School, said at the meeting, “I have a lot of questions, but I'm hopeful that it will turn out for the best.”

 That is the consensus for everyone involved—a hope and a prayer that students will get the education they deserve.

What follows is the first case of its kind. The American Civil Liberties Union is charging that the State of Michigan and a Detroit area school district have failed to adequately educate children, violating their “right to learn to read” under an obscure state law.

The ACLU class-action lawsuit, filed says hundreds of students in the Highland Park School District are functionally illiterate. Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan says in part—

“None of those adults charged with the care of these children . . . have done their jobs.  The Highland Park School District is among the lowest-performing districts in the nation, graduating class after class of children who are not literate. Our lawsuit . . . says that if education is to mean anything, it means that children have a right to learn to read.” unquote

The complaint, to be filed in state court in Wayne County, is based on a 1993 state law that says if public school students are not proficient in reading, as determined by tests given in grades 4 and 7, they must be provided “special assistance” to bring them to grade level within a year.

But at Highland Park, a three-school district bordering Detroit, most of the struggling students are years behind grade level and never received the kind of assistance required by law, according to the ACLU.

Sara Wurfel, press secretary for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, said it was ‘impossible and imprudent to comment on a lawsuit that we haven't been served or read yet.’ That is a cop out. The governor should have spoken about what should be done to improve the education of the state’s students. By remaining silent on that issue, the governor is part of the problem.

The governor could have said that the administration is working to address “a long overdue fiscal and academic crisis that was crippling the district, shortchanging its students and threatening the schools' very existence.” The governor could have said that everything his administration has done and are doing is to ensure that the kids of Highland Park schools get the education they need and deserve. Instead, he left it to an underling to make that statement.

Efforts to reach the Highland Park School District were naturally unsuccessful. The published telephone number at the district headquarters was busy all Wednesday afternoon. Taking it off the hook will get a busy signal.

One student in the Highland Park district, a 14-year-old boy named Quentin, just finished seventh grade. Quentin, whose mother asked that his last name be withheld, reads at a first-grade level, according to an expert hired by the ACLU.

When asked to compose a letter describing his school, Quentin misspelled his own name, writing, "My name is Quemtin  . . . and you can make the school gooder by geting people that will do the jod that is pay for get a football tame for the kinds mybe a baksball tamoe get a other jamtacher for the school get a lot of tacher.” This student is obvious not going to be a Spelling Bee contestant.

During the school year that just finished, Quentin was enrolled in both a regular language arts class and Read 180, an online program designed to help struggling readers. It was up to Quentin to decide whether to attend his regular class or participate in Read 180 each day, according to the complaint. This was the first year Highland Park used the Read 180 program, according to the ACLU.

In the Read 180 classroom, “the teacher did not provide any instruction while the students read books on their own, or in groups, or completed self-directed work on the computer. . . . The longest writing assignment Quentin had to complete this year was a three paragraph summary of a book,” according to the lawsuit.

Further in the lawsuit document it said in part—

“Kids are getting plopped in front of computers with no teacher in the classroom or the teacher is just sitting there, not engaged," Moss said in an interview. "A couple of our plaintiffs were put in the Reading 180 program, but it's not been made available to every kid. There's no individualized assessment of what they need, how they're doing or monitoring of what's going on.” unquote

The district's record-keeping is shoddy and student files are incomplete, making it nearly impossible to identify which students need remedial help, the complaint alleges.

The most recent state test scores for Highland Park schools show that 65 percent of fourth-graders and 75 percent of seventh-graders were not proficient in reading.

In addition to its academic problems, the Highland Park district is facing severe financial turmoil. Once home to Chrysler and a stable, working-class community, Highland Park's fortunes have been spiraling downward. The district faces an estimated $11.3 million deficit and a 58 percent enrollment drop since 2006.

“There's been a demise of manufacturing and exit of the taxpayer base," Moss said. "What's left is a high-poverty population of kids in a district that's struggling with any range of problems.”

Highland Park is one of three Michigan school districts that have been taken over by an emergency manager appointed by the governor. Last month, the emergency manager, Joyce Parker, announced that all three Highland Park schools will be turned over to a charter school operator in September while she restructures the district's debt. The charter operator has yet to be named. Parker said that once finances have stabilized, the district can return to a traditional model of public schools.

The lawsuit comes at a time of growing concern across the nation about early literacy. Educators say students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times as likely as proficient readers to drop out of high school. And if those students are poor, they are 13 times as likely to drop out.

These are the reasons why as many as 25 percent of students are not being properly taught in the United States.

Elizabeth Burke Bryant of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a national effort to promote early literacy said in part—

“There's more and more emphasis on this and more and more knowledge that you have to start much earlier.”

States such as Colorado have recently passed laws that require schools to take extra steps to detect and correct early literacy problems. Michigan appears to be the only state that requires schools to intervene with extra help at grades 4 and 7 to bring a student to grade level within a year.

Data from the Department for Education in England recently showed that more than a quarter of maths teachers – around 9,500 in total – fail to hold a degree in the subject. This was up by around 1,000 in just 12 months.

In England, more than one-in-five teachers had qualifications no higher than an A-level in their subject, while numbers were as high as a third in physics and geography. A study in 2002 showed that only three percent of the people in the U.K. could name three continents and only 15 percent could name all seven.

An average of more than 20 pupils are currently taught in each secondary school classroom, meaning hundreds of thousands of children are likely to be in lessons led by “under-qualified” staff every day in England.

It is believed that rises registered in the last year may be down to shortages of fully-qualified teachers in many traditional academic disciplines—forcing schools to turn to staff trained in other areas.

Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said it was ‘essential’ that teachers had expertise in their subject.

A new report published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates that American students —namely, fourth, eighth and twelfth grade students can identify the correct answers to scientific tasks and successfully complete science experiments at school, but at the same time, they struggled to use evidence from their experiments to explain their results.

Katherine Carroll, an 11th- and 12th-grade chemistry teacher in Waterboro, Maine, told the Associated Press that even her top students struggle to explain their conclusions in lab reports, as they find themselves more comfortable answering questions with just one right answer.

"Teachers have moved towards teaching more knowledge, as opposed to the understanding behind the knowledge," Carroll told AP.

The findings draw on national debate surrounding standardized testing and widespread protests  against a growing emphasis on examinations that have led to a teaching-to-the-test phenomenon.

According to a summary of the findings, students in the aforementioned grades were challenged by parts of investigations that contained more variables to manipulate or involved strategic decision-making to collect appropriate data.

Just only slightly over one-fourth of high school seniors could correctly choose and explain answers about heating and cooling. While twice that proportion—54 percent of eighth grade students could support correct responses, only 15 percent of fourth graders could explain correct experiment results with evidence.

In one task, 12th-grade students were asked to investigate the best site for building a new town based on the quality of a given water supply.While 75 percent of school seniors were able to correctly perform the experiment, only 11 percent could provide a final recommendation with supporting evidence from the data.

It's scandalous indeed to think that so many Canadians know so little about the Twentieth Century. For example, a study in 2002 showed that only 31 percent of Canadians knew anything about the Dieppe Landing in the shores of Northern France during the Second World War in which over 1,000 Canadians needlessly died in the battle. And worse yet, when the late Pierre Trudeau, a long-time prime minister of Canada (1968 - 1976 and 1980 - 1984) died in September 2000, many of a particular teacher’s own high school students didn't even know who he was and yet most knew who General Armstrong Custer of the Battle of the Big Horn was.                     

 Lord William Rees-Mogg in his book The Great Reckoning said in part about what was taught in the United States with respect to history. He said in part—

“Surveys of students suggest that they have little or no grasp of the past. They cannot say in what half century the [American] Civil War was fought much less recognize more subtle patterns in history. What Madonna (female singer) said about her latest boyfriend or girlfriend is much more known than what Winston Churchill (prime minister of Great Britain) said about Hitler during World War II. Madonna has had far more press than Churchill, who is a largely unknown figure for those who came of age in the past two decades. (1980-2000) When world historic figures are forgotten a generation after their death, it is a clear hint that popular culture has discounted history almost to the vanishing point.” unquote      

NAEP chairman David Driscoll said in a statement, according to CNN—

"It's tragic that our students are only grasping the basics and not doing the higher-level analysis and providing written explanations needed to succeed in higher education and compete in a global economy.” unquote

The testing involved over 2,000 stujdents from public and private schools during the 2009 school year.  This marked the first time the National Assessment of Educational Progress which is also known as the Nation’s Report Card,  measured how students performed on hands-on and interactive computer tasks, as opposed to more traditional ‘paper and pencil’ tests.

The report found that female students in all three grades out-performed their male counterparts on the hands-on tasks, but males scored higher on the paper-and-pencil science assessment.

As part of the assessment, students and teachers also answered survey questions about sceince learning and instruction. Approximately 92 percent of fourth-graders and 98 percent of eighth-graders had teachers who reported doing hands-on activities with students at least monthly, while only 51 percent of seniors reported designing a science experiment at least once every few weeks.

According to a report released in May, only a third of eight graders who took a national science exam administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2011 were proficient. Gerry Wheeler, interim director of the National Science Teachers Association, lamented the statistic as “simply unacceptable.”

One way to solve this problem of bad teaching

Daily and weekly reviews are keys to helping students learn and retain important material learned during class. However, many teachers have been neglectful in reviewing material during class time. They expect their students to review the information on their own. If such self-reviews do occur, they are often right before the end of unit exams. However, teachers should not neglect conducting brief daily and weekly reviews as such reviews helps teachers re-teach forgotten material and also help them correct distorted information.

Following is a list of five review techniques that can be used as teachers go about daily and weekly reviews with their students.

The first method of review has students basically parroting the information the teacher has given them. This can be used in the short term but is not necessarily the best way to help students move information from short to long term memory. I know because not all students can learn this way. When I was in grade five, we were taught Latin. Parroting Latin did nothing for me at all except to cause my eyes to close and put me to sleep.  

With this method of review, students translate information into another form. In other words, a teacher might have students restate information learned in another way. An example of this would be a science teacher asking a student to explain the water cycle in their own words. By having them explain things differently, you as a teacher can pick up any mistakes in their thinking while helping them have a deeper understanding of the material.
Teachers can help students review information by organizing that information in a new way. For example, after having been taught about mammals and reptiles, the students could help create a classroom chart and show the comparisons and contrasts of the two groups of animals to provide a better understanding of each. Then they can be presented with ‘mystery’ animals that they have to organize into the appropriate categories. This helps teachers ensure that students actually understand the material being taught.

This type of review occurs when teachers have students combine information that they have recently learned with information that they have previously learned. Thus, if a student is learning about the composition of orchestras, new information provided about specific instruments could be integrated into previously learned information about the overall organization of an orchestra. Integrating knowledge helps students gain a fuller understanding of the material.

 This review technique is the most complex of all listed here. It takes the presuppositions that students have brought to a topic and then helps them to reconstruct their own opinions  by integrating the newly learned material.

 For example, younger students might have been taught a broad overview of the America’s first Thanksgiving. Once they are in secondary school and exposed to further information, this might change what they had previously learned. They might find that some of their own presuppositions about the event were wrong. Admittedly integrating this new knowledge and therefore altering these presuppositions can be difficult for many students. For this reason, teachers can help their students reconstruct their own opinions with the newly learned material added in by purposefully including this technique in their review. As we all know, presuppositions can often be very hard to break. As an example, one teacher had learned her students stated erroneously that Abraham Lincoln  had owned slaves. Every student from that teacher's class who moved up to the next school year had a much different opinion of Lincoln and the Civil War than what the presumed in their previous class. It follows that using proper information to break this presupposition is a key part to helping these students gain a better understanding of Lincoln and the Civil War.

 In conclusion
Teachers must be taught how to teach and those that can’t be taught this fundamental aspect of teaching should be replaced by those who do know how to teach.

It has been suggested that perhaps a different way in which students can be taught is if they sit at their computers at home during the mornings and get their lessons that way and then in the afternoons, they go to school and do their homework there where they can get advice from their teachers should the need arise.
In theory, it sounds like a great idea but how can anyone be sure that the students are actually looking at their lessons on their computers. That problem could be solved if the teacher can see them through a cam that is in both the student’s room and on her desk but that won’t happen because it would be tantamount to snooping.

It is amazing when you think about it. The United States for example has some of the brightest people in the world. But be assured, bright or not bright, many of them would not have been very successful in their fields if they attended schools that are far below the expectations of being satisfactory institutions of learning.
The secret to having students successfully pass their grades is making sure that their teachers can teach and that they are extremely conversant with the subjects that they are teaching. Fail in these two attributes and you will continue to get students passing their final grades in high school despite the fact that their only knowledge that they have retained in their minds is that of a grade four student. 

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