Monthly Archives: July 2008

What is an Acceptable Graduation Rate?

Since the 1970s some aspects of students and their lives are relatively unchanged according to a study by the Foundation for Child Development.

Reading abilities, graduation rates, and suicide rates have basically remained the same for teenagers since the 1970s. Also, math rates have risen despite the bad press math and science teachers continually receive.

To me, this speaks quite highly of the work teachers do since the social make-up of the classroom has altered dramatically. More special education students and ELL students are being taught in America’s classrooms meaning that challenges have increased without a reduction in achievement. Additionally, the internet and video games have increasingly competed with schools for time requiring teachers to change their methods. Continue reading

Family Lives and Skills Narrow the Gap

Today’s op-ed piece by David Brooks in the NY Times uses two studies to explain the widening gap between the haves and have nots.

The first study is titled “The Race Between Education and Technology” and was written by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. In a nutshell they detail how America’s technological advancements and change have risen steadily while educational progress began to stagnate around 1970. In addition from 1890 to 1960, the average U.S. citizen increased their education levels by an average of .8 years each decade, and America was educating more of its older teens than Europe. These two factors combine to show a possible solution for gaining American economic superiority once again. Continue reading

Heavy Kids Have Sagging Grades

According to a cited study in an LA Times article, overweight students average a half point lower grade point average and score almost 10 percentile points below their peers on other tests. Other findings are that overweight students:

  • are five times more likely to have six or more detentions,
  • had more absences,
  • possessed lower physical fitness scores (duh!), and
  • were less inclined to play sports.

Possibly, low self-esteem leads to decreased efficiency in making lasting relationships with peers and teachers. I can imagine the self-image issues faced and the accompanying lack of motivation to participate in activities with peers. Of course, self-esteem issues affect classroom performance and often lead to lackluster performances in school.

I would also guess that weight issues can also be linked (at times) to socio-economic status depending on the location of the school. I attended an inner-city high school, and the overweight kids (upon reflection) tended to be kids with little money and little parental oversight. They would often brush off responsibilities because of the lack of supervision and would often snack on cheap, fat and sugar-filled fast food options, which were plentiful in our neighborhood. Healthy snacks cost more and were more difficult to locate.

When looking at your classes, do you see a correlation between weight and grades?

Reading in the Contemporary World

Two of my favorite teachers, both journalism instructors, are admittedly not the typical readers. One reads only non-fiction books, newspaper and magazine articles, and online list serves while the other contends he’s “not the typical English teacher” because he only reads online articles, list serves, and blogs. Even though they both do not read the normal English teacher fare, they are both phenomenal English and journalism teachers.

How important is the reading of novels or other compositions of significant length? Must traditional readings be a part of the canon? I would say “very important” to the former and “yes” to the latter, but I am changing the way I use them. Continue reading

Raising Diploma Standards

Recently, numerous articles (here and here and here) have explained or editorialized about the Washington State Board of Education’s likely approval of a proposal to require students to complete 24 credits to graduate instead of the current 19. Since the state only funds 20 of those credits now, more money will need to be provided. Many schools currently use 5 period days, which would then need to restructure. Other factors come into play as well, including how many students currently never reach Algebra II (a new requirement under this new diploma standard).

I am again going to repost an article I wrote back in December of last year about having multiple diplomas. Maybe we can have gold, silver, bronze, and white diplomas or some other classification to show the level of work completed by students. Maybe the new standards–while not required of all students–could be the requirement for earning the top diploma. I still believe giving all kids the same diploma is disingenuous and somewhat deceptive. A diploma should reflect what is learned, the level of achievement. Here is my old post entitled “Differentiated Diplomas“: Continue reading

American Literature

I think I have a tentative plan for my College in the High School course. We are required to go through the writing periods and to follow (roughly) the AP History classes’ progress. This is quite an ambitious list of readings; this past year I would say we did not read about a dozen of these small pieces and one of the novels, but I will be better at teaching this class this year. I think we can do this. Here is the list: Continue reading