So, in a couple of different threads, we've had a couple of people mention factors in how well a student does in school. They were brief so I thought I'd throw it out for discussion, keeping in mind that we all may disagree on what could (should) be happening.
Dan Dempsey had posted a longer comment but this was part of it:
"From National Math Advisory Panelist Vern Williams...
The question for VW......I think when we talk about success in math, we talk about books, we talk about whether the books are the correct books, but the two elephants in the room, do we have a motivated student and family involvement. I just wanted you to comment on that from your honest feelings. "
Trish Dziko had posted this as part of her comment:
"Basically what it comes down to is leadership and talent. The Ed Trust folks say that districts and schools that are successful don't get lost in the red herring idea that they should also be worrying about poverty, single parent homes, and all the other issues that shape a kids life. They focus on what they can do and they do a darn good job at it."
Against this backdrop, we have a presidential election centering on a war and a sagging economy with issues that are affecting every single family in the U.S. (the sub-prime fiasco and energy/food costs).
The elephant(s) in the room - what is happening at home and is that situation/atmosphere helping/hurting the student in school?
Trish calls it the "red herring" and I think that's pretty brave. A lot of people believe that schools should be doing a lot more than they are set up (or funded to do). I was reading an article about how the city of Chicago is thinking of setting up boarding schools for homeless children. This is setting off a firestorm over the money (well, naturally, money is always the driver) AND whether it is better for kids to have a chaotic lifestyle with a relative (mom, dad, or other relative) versus stability, regular food, bedtime, etc. with strangers (and, of course, relatives having access to the children). This is a pretty extreme case but clearly, the city of Chicago and its school system is deeply worried about these kids to propose this idea.
I know many local schools have made efforts to see that kids who may not, in their home environments, have access to the same things that kids who come from more comfortable families get. The schools try to supply them with experiences or bring in people who will inspire them. We have free and reduced breakfast and lunch. The newspapers have a drive at the end of summer to send all kids to school with a backpack and supplies for school. I've read many letters to the editor over the years in various local newspapers about how "back in my day" schools didn't need counselors or family support workers so we do we have to pay for them today? Well, we pay for them because students need the help.
But, and here's the question, how is it that some students, despite challenging backgrounds, rise above them? How is it that there are some parents of modest means who may be single parents who manage to instill in their children that education matters? Asian nations who are churning out high-level students by the thousands have little time for worrying about learning styles or home situations - you learn or you don't. (They also don't seem to have time to teach about the value of thinking and analysis in what you learn - hence the differences between the U.S. and other countries.)
Are our schools feeling pressure to try to fill all the gaps? Do parents have a right to expect that? Trish seems to believe that it will take bold and brave leadership that makes the important academic changes and paths rather than getting distracted over bigger societal issues that they cannot change.