Monday, May 21, 2007

High School Rigor

This article was in the NY Times last week and talks about high school rigor (or the lack thereof). It states that in a survey by ACT that only one-fourth of high school students who take a full college prep load end up ready for college.

This from the president and CEO of ACT:

“What’s shocking about this, is that since ‘A Nation at Risk,’ we have been encouraging students to take this core curriculum with the unspoken promise that when they do, they will be college ready,” she said. “What we have found now, is that when they do, only one in four is ready for college-level work.”

And further,

"In 1999, Clifford Adelman, then a researcher at the federal Education Department, found that the strength of high school work was the most important factor in determining college success, more than the socioeconomic status of a student’s family."

So it is vital that what is being taught, at every high school, be similiarly rigorous and high quality.

Two parts of the article struck me. One is this:

Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, another Washington group that advocates setting standards, said she finds many schools not offering challenging work. “When you look at the assignments these kids get, it is just appalling,” she said. “A course may be labeled college-preparatory English. But if the kids get more than three-paragraph-long assignments, it is unusual. Or they’ll be asked to color a poster. We say, ‘How about doing analysis?’ and they look at us like we are demented.”

In both my son's 8th grade and 9th grade LA classes, he has been asked to "draw a picture" as part of assignments. His 8th grade teacher (this was at Eckstein) said she had to do something for the "artistic" kids. The above paragraph is right on: my son is rarely asked to do beyond a page or page and a half and asked to draw a picture. I asked my son how long he spends on the picture and he said, "Thirty seconds to think it up and a minute to draw it. I don't care about drawing or coloring so I do the minimum." I told him that was just about right. If you want art in high school, take an art class. I want him reading, analyzing and writing in high school.

The second part that rang true to me was this:

"The ACT report also found that students who took more courses than the minimum core performed better on their exams and had a higher chance of doing well in college. Even then, however, college readiness was not assured. But the report said high school students should not have to take more advanced courses to be well prepared after graduation. A rigorous set of core courses should achieve that, they said. With so many high school students not fully prepared for college-level work, some critics say that the continuing push to expand the Advanced Placement Program, which offers college-level work to high school students, is misguided."

I have pushed for more AP but I'd give that the backseat to support good overall rigor in all classes.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you, we have been utterly shocked at the lack of rigor in SPS. We have a child at Salmon Bay spent his entire home room period yesterday (they have a whold period for home room) learning to crochet a box. CROCHET A BOX???????? In 6th grade!!!! He has a book report due next week, that the teacher stressed should be at least 1 page long. You heard it, 1 page.

It's absolutely appalling.

And, we wonder why our kids are not prepared for college OR choose private. UGHHHHHH

Charlie Mas said...

When I look around Seattle and the nation for what works to close the academic achievement gap and bring all students up to Standards, I see one theme more than any other.

And it is not culturally competent teachers.

It is not culturally relevant curriculum.

It is:

1) setting high expectations for all students

2) maintaining those high expectations for all students

3) supporting students who are struggling to meet those expectations

This is what works. Why isn't the District getting behind this idea and pushing hard?

Why, instead, do I continue to see evidence of low expectations everywhere?