Archive for May, 2020

A ROUGH DRAFT FOR HS REFORM I: Blow Up High School by Offering Vouchers for Students…

May 26, 2020 Comments off

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden lately, and in doing so am spending a lot of time mulling over how to take advantage of the pandemic crisis to introduce some new ways of doing high school. Based on my personal and professional experience high schools are the worst part of the education system in our country. Here’s why:

  • TRACKING: High School drives the final nail into the equity coffin by segregating students into tracks based on how rapidly they’ve learned up to the point they enter ninth grade and how much control their parents wield.
  • COLLEGE OVER-VALUED: Students who aspire to college get 90% of the attention and time of guidance counselors and teachers because guidance counselors and teachers know how college works and see it as the only way to attain economic well-being.
  • CONTENT OVER-VALUED: There is an aphorism that elementary teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach subjects…. and high schools are set up to reinforce that aphorism. It is unrealistic for a high school teacher to know and care about the lives of 100+ students assigned to them in 4-5 classes but completely realistic for them to be well-versed in one subject area that they can teach to students and assess their progress using some kind of “objective test” that can be rapidly graded. This emphasis on content, in turn, can lead to a siloing whereby no single teacher gets to know and care about an individual student. And the cult of AP testing only exacerbates this emphasis on content over character development.
  • SOCIAL SKILLS UNDER-VALUED: Working on teams, getting along with people from other socio-economic, racial, and ethic groups, and developing healthy relationships with individuals are all part of the hidden curriculum in high schools… but, in many (if not most) cases, high schools are reinforcing tribalism instead of harmony.
  • PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE UNDER-VALUED: There is a premium on the development of abstract skills like the ability to solve complex quadratic equations but no value placed on the ability to put together a nutritious meal from left-overs, to develop and manage a budget, or to complete the paperwork needed to buy a house, start a small business, or apply on-line for a job.

Here’s a solution to all of this: end high school once students pass a basic competency test and give them a voucher for education four the next four years or until the age of 20, whichever comes first. The competency test would be initially administered when teachers certify the student is ready, which ideally would be before the student’s 16ht birthday. The competency test would include:

  • The US Citizenship test: Clearly every graduate should know how the government works if they are to vote intelligently.
  • A Consumer Awareness test: A “consumer awareness” test could be developed by ETS– who would be happy to have a new assessment to replace the SAT which is being phased out. This test would help avoid the debt trap that currently ensnares millions in our country.
  • A Health and Nutrition test: Public schools ostensibly educate students about nutrition and health through the school lunch program and various mandated health courses but there are no high stakes tests associated with either area.

By giving STUDENTS the funds to pursue more education it will emphasize the importance of making prudent financial decisions and underscore the importance of developing a transition plan to go from a world where every hour is scheduled by adults to a world where the student is a self-regulated adult.

Two more elements of the blown up HS will follow in future posts:

  • Mandatory Community Service
  • The Development of a Individualized Post-Graduate Work Plan which includes a personal budget

Covid-19 Positive Consequence: NYC “Elite” High Schools Cannot Use Screens

May 25, 2020 Comments off

This NYDaily News op ed piece by three social justice advocates describes one of the positive consequences of the pandemic: NY high schools will need to revamp their admissions criteria. Because schools were closed from March 15 onward and the Regents and other standardized tests were cancelled, all of the traditional means of selecting students for the elite high schools in the city will not be available for next years eighth grade students. This provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the current criteria in a fashion that will eliminate the de facto economic and racial segregation that results from the use of tests as the primary metric for admission. As the writers describe, such a change would benefit all high schools:

Reforming and eventually eliminating screened school admissions would do more than fix a deeply inequitable process. It would also improve student and school performance. While the evidence on peer effects and tracking is mixed, research generally finds that middle- and low-performing students benefit from learning with higher-achieving students. Siphoning the highest-achieving students into selective programs limits these interactions and draws resources — high-quality teachers and honors courses, for example — away from regular schools. What is more, as some evidence has shown, racially and economically diverse classroom settings benefit all students and reflect our country’s democratic values.

Change of this magnitude seemed politically impossible six months ago… but after the pandemic many ideas that seemed impossible are now being examined as realistic alternatives to the dominant paradigm.

Will PARENTS Be Getting Their Moneys Worth in Public Schools This Fall?

May 24, 2020 Comments off

I’ve read several articles of late about how students have either sued colleges and universities for the poorer quality of schooling they got in Spring or are planning to stay away from college entirely this fall because of the pandemic. The articles all described the possibility of colleges and universities closing as a consequence of the lost tuitions and how students are consequently asking themselves whether college is even worth it given the debts they incur and the lack of work for graduates.

I haven’t seen any articles yet asking similar questions about the education K-12 students received in spring or the diminished quality of the programs they are likely to be receiving in the future… but it is clear that the costs for that schooling will be shifted onto property taxes and when that occurs schools will be facing the same issue as colleges and universities… and perhaps the same existential threat.