Wednesday, September 13, 2006

From the Trenches of Public Ed.: Rosy Rhetoric From a Pro-Public Ed. Person

From the Trenches of Public Ed.: Rosy Rhetoric From a Pro-Public Ed. Person

In response to Dennis at The Trenches of Public Education and his rosy outlook of public education

"Nearly 75 percent of U.S. high school graduates enroll in college within two years of graduation,1 yet only 56 percent of 2005 high school graduates who took the ACT® test took a core preparatory curriculum in high school. And even among those who report taking a core high school curriculum—four or more years of English and three or more years each of math, social sciences, and natural sciences—a significant number are still not prepared to succeed in credit-bearing first year courses." “Nearly one-third of students entering some type of postsecondary education need to take remedial courses in one or more subjects because they lack the skills to take standard credit-bearing courses. This figure balloons to 43 percent for students entering predominantly minority colleges.”

Degree Attainment Rates at American Colleges and Universities," prepared by education professor Dr. Alexander W. Astin and doctoral student Leticia Oseguera, found that among freshmen that entered baccalaureate-granting colleges in fall 1994, only 36.4 percent were able to complete their bachelor's within four years. That compares to 39.9 percent a decade earlier and 46.7 percent in the late 1960s. The degree-completion rate jumps by nearly two-thirds, to 58.8 percent, for students taking six years to complete college, and to 61.6 percent when including those enrolled after six years are counted as "completers."

Let’s put this in to perspective. Out of my 5 kids, 1 will not graduate high school. Only 3 out of 4 of the HS graduates will enroll in college. 1 of the 3 entering college will need remedial education prior to taking basic courses. Only 1 out of my 5 kids will graduate college in 4 years, another 1 will graduate in 6 years. The 3rd will drop out. I started out with 5 kids, and only 2 of them managed to graduate college. Am I a successful parent? Personally, I hoped for better.

When we talk about whether schools are failing or merely need improvement, it’s all semantics. We need to ask ourselves if this scenario is acceptable or whether we could do a lot better than this.


Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, I really don't think that you and I are THAT far apart. We both agree that public education can and should improve. We have different ideas about how that should happen, but we even have at least one area of agreement there. Our disagreement about where public ed. is now might well be based on our different experiences in different places in the country. And I should add that I respect your opinion on that because I believe that you went into your experiences with an open mind.

One point about remediation. I talked to our math people, and they told me that we have had a number of kids who had to take remedial math classes when they went to college. The reason for this was that the kids quit taking math classes at our high school by their junior or senior years. That's partially their fault for their selection of classes, but it is also our fault for not requiring more math. We have now changed that so that kids can no longer graduate without at least three years of math. I recognize that this truly is anecdotal. I have no idea how much of the remediation that is necessary in colleges is the result of something like this.

rory said...

Location probably has a lot to do with it. You are in a state that does way above the national average, and in a small to medium size town. The population of your school is overwhelmingly white and probably has a very low crime rate. Your school is the exception on a nation basis. As well as it does (I looked it up), even it could do better. Unfortunately, change won't happen unless people get mad and motivated. By discounting the problems in schools, you contribute to the status quo. As you posted in your previous post, you as a trained teacher werent even exposed let alone trained in a teaching method that is proven to get results.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

1. As I said in the post, in Minnesota we are an average school with a lot of typical kids. And yes, we could do better, and I've worked my backside off to make that happen.

2. Who do you want me to be mad at? A bunch of teachers who are doing their best to use the methods they've been taught when they went to school and workshops to learn to do their jobs? If you want me to be angry at colleges and policy-makers, I think I've already expressed that.

3. It's a little hard to take when you say I'm contributing to the status-quo. I have "lived" trying to make education better. Before you say I'm contributing to the status quo, you'd better talk to students who've had me, parents I've dealt with, and teachers and principals I've worked with. Find out if there's been anyone in either school I've worked in who has a reputation for being more competent and working harder.

I wrote a book in which I called for major changes, one of which is unpopular with most teachers and absolutely abhorrent to our unions. I've spent between $15-20,000 on it, and plan to get back less than $10,000. When it comes to calling for change, I've put my money--and my life--where my mouth is.

rory said...

Dennis, sorry if that came across wrong. I wrote that post while in the middle of 12-hour shifts for a base exercise. It wasn't mean to come across as that accusatory. Let me see if I can clarify when I said "you are contributing to the status quo".

As I understand your general philosophy/position you are advocating for changes from within the system, are a strong supporter of the concept of public education, and believe that the system isn't broken, but just inefficient. My impression of your postings is that you are a moderate when it comes to the different views of the education debate. One of the many views of education that is held by SOME (not you) educators, is that change is not necessary and that all the problems are due to social ills and policy.

I think that we could both agree that this is wrong thinking, even if we disagree with the extent of the real problems or the degree of change that is required to improve/fix the system. Because you are one of the more articulate voices in the edublogosphere, those who would do NOTHING at all may and do misuse your arguments with us ALARMISTS to justify doing nothing.

To sum it up, What I should of said is this. “By minimizing the problems in schools, those who support the status quo, may misuse your arguments to justify not making any changes at all."

I will also freely admit that this is a fallacy on my part, since you should be free to make any argument you want to support your view, reguardless of whether others will miscontrue or misuse your words.

As to your book, I can't comment since I have not read it, so I just ordered it. As soon as I read it I will put a review on the site.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, I really appreciate your response. And believe me, I completely understand how a comment can get away. In fact, it was one of my comments that came off the wrong way that led you and I to start our dialogue.

Regarding my book, there will probably be a fair amount that you don't agree with, and I know from experience that you aren't shy about expressing it when that's the case. Oh well, it will be interesting to hear your thoughts, and I hope you enjoy it. And remember it's written from a HIGH SCHOOL teacher's point of view.