When both the ACT and SAT testing services report that less than half of 2013 students tested were ready for college, it is as strong an indication possible that something serious is wrong with the education system. Routinely today, students have to take a remedial side trips to community colleges, or take developmental make-up courses of high school material in their freshman year of a 4-year college, just to be able to later start the “college-level” courses.
Why? Of course the easy answer is “bad teachers” for those outside the actual classrooms. But, as with many of the system failures in urban high school education that are hidden behind the curtain of the school entryway, or behind the career DoE bureaucrat promises, few see that teachers forced to promote failing students, and forced mandates to teach to the standardized test regardless of student ability, are the real culprits here.
Anonymous is a past college professor who is now a high school English teacher in Illinois. Her perspective from receiving students who still need developmental English is a painful look at what happens when administrators force promotion of children who are failing. Her submission is a finalist – wait-listed and likely to be included in the 2nd edition of Lifting the Curtain: The disgrace we call urban high school education.
Readiness for college – English writing skills
(Anonymous, past college professor who is now a high school English teacher in Illinois)
After years of teaching developmental English to college students whose literacy skills were appalling and unready for college, I acquired certification in secondary education to teach these children when they were still in high school. In the process, I saw for myself why so many inner-city students can barely read.
Juniors and seniors were reading out loud in class as children do in the primary grades. It was clear from their lack of word recognition and mispronunciation that the literature was far beyond their comprehension. Nevertheless, teachers pressed on and found ways to impart the stories to students who couldn’t actually read the stories. There were audio versions, movie versions, class discussion of the issues raised in the play or novel, chalk-talks, graphic organizers, the drawing of pictures, and simply telling them what they read as they stumbled over words in the text.
When I questioned the appropriateness of using such sophisticated literature with students who are obviously struggling with basic literacy, the response was that The Crucible and The Great Gatsby were pretty standard for high school. The fact that they were not dealing with high school students who could read anywhere near the standard for their grade level didn’t seem to enter into the decision on curriculum.
Just as Chopin and Liszt are not for piano students in the early stages of playing, Miller and Fitzgerald are not for language-arts students in the early stages of reading. These teenagers ended the semester where they started—unable to read beyond a most elementary level—apparently because of a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy of education.