It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shame of the City III: city schools are not preparing NYC students for college

As it has been put before, the key question is:
"Is Our Children Learning?" [har, har] and the answer is No. Read on.

WNYC's Beth Fertig has an important story today on the station's website:

NYC students are ill-prepared for real college life.

NEW YORK, NY September 24, 2009 —A new study finds too many New York City high school students aren't prepared for college, and urges the state and city to take action. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: The study by the Annenberg Institute for School reform looked at students at the City University. More students are entering CUNY and fewer need remedial classes. But most students in community colleges still need remedial math or English; and the six-year graduation rate for an associate degree is less than 29 percent. Researchers say the problem lies in the lack of college readiness. They say state standards aren't well aligned to what students need to succeed. And too many students don't take four full years of math and science. The report urges public schools and colleges to collaborate in guiding students, so they'll know what they need in college. It also says students often don't aim higher on their Regents exams because they don't understand that they need a score of at least 75 to avoid remedial classes later. For WNYC I'm Beth Fertig.

A major crux of the problem is that high enough math standards are not being pursued with the students. Students' actual grade level in math and English lag at least two grade levels, throughout their careers, particularly as the tween years transition to adolescent years, i.e., in fifth grade. This lag is really not acceptable if the city expects students to have "on-par" literacy and "numeracy" by the college freshman year.
Let's look at how the basic skills are not honed in English and math. The city denigrates the focus on the fundamental ability to construct clear, grammatically sentences or spelling skills. The city subscribes --far more aggressively under Klein-- progressive education ideologies. It has allowed those ideologies to elide the development of the basic skills of written expression. In the crucial years of fifth through nine, when this skills should be refined in students, the city dogmatically avoids addressing these skills.
Regarding math, Klein's administration gullibly bought, hook, line and sinker, the constructivist dictates that students learn math best by developing theories and trying some experimentation. The city wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on worthless textbooks on the discredited "Everyday Math" and "Impact Math" series specializing in this avant garde nonsense. California experimented with this New New Math nuttiness almost two decades ago, and it rejected it with passion. Yet, the city has ruined the basic math skills of nearly a generation of students by using these approaches since 2002. (For more analysis of these discredited trends, visit the website of the venerable Thomas B. Fordham Institute.)
For those unfamiliar with graduation routines from New York State schools, final summation tests in the various academic subjects are administered in high school, mainly in ninth through eleventh grades. The bar is ridiculously lowered for the most commonly taken Math A Regents exam. Just try this January 2009 version of the test on your own, without any preparation. Most of it appears on the level of sixth or seventh grade math.

The education analysts that responded to the aforementioned reporter said that more years of math are needed in high school. Yes, maybe, but prior to that goal, they need to master pre-algebra fundamentals.

To boot, the state has lowered the passing score for one Regents exam, to make the question of judging passing scores, as the New York Times reports, even more suspicious, particularly when we are in the era of Bloomberg/Klein reform.

Further, the city schools have adopted the progressive education dictum that school must be fun and cooperative, well into high school. Thus, they coddle impulses of informality and they withhold the development of skills, mental and behavioral attitudes upon which high performance in the college level depnds. Walking around the classroom is sought as part of the lesson. Group-work is mandated.
Are these the modes of rigor in college? Are these habits that are constructive for working alone, and concentrating for long periods, on a test at the college level? No, no, no. Yet, Bloomberg/Klein have adopted and enforced this silliness that is doubtless not used in Singapore or Denmark.

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