Grades up, knowledge down

Full story: Newsday 28
The year is 2007, but it might as well be 1991, 1983, 1967 or any number of points when brows were furrowed and hands were wrung over the state of education. Full Story
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Fred Keating

New City, NY

#1 Mar 8, 2007
It is not surprising, as Skube asserts, that GPAs are up while real knowledge is down. Teacher tend to teach the way they were taught, which means that they lecture, especially at the high school level. So the students are passive, not intellectually engaged. Then the testing tends to be short answer items. Why? They are easier to correct than essays. But short answer items only test recall and the lowest levels of knowledge. They rarely involve integration, synthesis, hypothesis--real thought. In language arts, students rarely write essays. Why? Teachers would have to read those essays, perhaps even mark for such things as spelling, sentence structure and grammar--which, as most teachers will advmit, they do not know themselves. So they don't assign essays. Even Englsh teachers don't assign essays. Why? Most have five classes of twenty-five, or a total of about 125 students, and where does one find the time to grade all of those essays at say twenty minutes per paper?
The bottom line? Students are rarely asked to think; they are passive learners; they are tested on simple recall; they rarely practice their composition skills. Such is the "modern" classroom. Unless we reverse these trends, all the "reforms" in the world will not correct the situation, and Skube's article could be reprinted, without changing a word, every few years.

Fred Keating
Sayville
Bobby

Spring Hill, FL

#2 Mar 12, 2007
What's really scarey is that a lot of the teachers don't know the answers either. Instead of teaching clay & pottery teach these kids the basics skills of life. Math-Making Change of a dollar without looking at the register; ethics-Respecting others and their property, economics-investing for future, common sense-be accountable for your actions. It's no big mystery: the kids don't want to be there, the parents aren't there and sadly enough the teachers don't care.
Mark

Bakersfield, CA

#3 Mar 12, 2007
Bobby wrote:
What's really scarey is that a lot of the teachers don't know the answers either. Instead of teaching clay & pottery teach these kids the basics skills of life. Math-Making Change of a dollar without looking at the register; ethics-Respecting others and their property, economics-investing for future, common sense-be accountable for your actions. It's no big mystery: the kids don't want to be there, the parents aren't there and sadly enough the teachers don't care.
The teaching community is too wrapped up in its own self- importance to begin to think of the right thing. It should all begin with ethics, the development of the character, which is an intrinsic endeavor. The plain and simple fact is that without teachers who have developed their own character and virtue, students don't have adequate role models, and ironically, teachers are the first to criticiize what is an obvious lack of development. It is irrational, but continues to thrive in the public schools. Mark

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#4 Mar 13, 2007
Bobby wrote:
What's really scarey is that a lot of the teachers don't know the answers either. Instead of teaching clay & pottery teach these kids the basics skills of life. Math-Making Change of a dollar without looking at the register; ethics-Respecting others and their property, economics-investing for future, common sense-be accountable for your actions. It's no big mystery: the kids don't want to be there, the parents aren't there and sadly enough the teachers don't care.
This is unfortunate, but I remember in grade school one year I had a Social Studies teacher that couldn't read on the level of of the 7th graders she was teaching. I could read better than her at the time or at the very least articulate better. I don't believe she had any understanding about what she was reading neither how to engage the class in a discussion. It was just Teacher Manual outlines, read verbatim with little enthusiam.

I wonder if she was even qualified to be teaching?

It was annoying and ridiculous, in my opinion, that I was being taught by someone who seemed borderline illiterate. She would stand in class shaking a container of slim fast or crunching on crackers while trying to read from a teachers manual about Amerigo Vespucci. By the tenth stumble on his name the whole class joined in to correct her. I got the feeling they were a bit frustrated as well.

*sighs*

Since: Jan 07

Jamestown, TN

#5 Mar 19, 2007
I plan to become a teacher after I finish college. I have also noticed the things you are talking about. Not all of us are afraid of the extra work we put into grading papers. A lot of the kids I went to school with just wanted to get through the year. They felt they were forced to finish school. I enjoyed learning and took classes that would broaden my mind and help me succeed in college. But never in my high school experience did I learn how to take notes. That is one of the many problems our students encounter. Even though I am just going to be a boring History teacher, I hope to teach my students how note-taking, simple morals, and a good education are some of the keys to making it through life.

I have planned out a basic strategy for educating my students on life skills and teaching them the required curriculum. Several times in the year I will go over note-taking skills, study skills, and other tips for those going on to a institute of higher education. I also want to challenge my students and help them build critical thinking skills. One of my approaches is to ask them to think about an important event in human history (or US history) and write a acceptable research/opinion paper. Another approach is to keep the tests challenging. Make sure they know what they have learned. No multiple choice or matching tests. That is too easy. I'd rather challenge their critical thinking skills by asking them to tell me about what an important event meant to the historical era. Also at least once in my tests I'd like to ask them their opinion on what they would have done had they been living during this era.

So I ask, what can teachers do for you and your children? Any tips or suggestions you give out will be important to your child's future.

Since: Jan 07

Jamestown, TN

#6 Mar 19, 2007
I forgot to add something. Parents and teachers have argued for a long time about whose responsibility it is to teach our children what is right, what is wrong, and other important life lessons. Do you feel that parents should be teaching these lessons? Do you feel teachers should be teaching these lessons? Or do you feel that they should share in teaching life lessons? How about when a teacher wants to teach basic life lessons, but the parent doesn't want the teacher to "warp" the child's mind? Do you think this is a situation that is likely to happen?

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#7 Mar 20, 2007
The Librarian wrote:
I plan to become a teacher after I finish college. I have also noticed the things you are talking about. Not all of us are afraid of the extra work we put into grading papers. A lot of the kids I went to school with just wanted to get through the year. They felt they were forced to finish school. I enjoyed learning and took classes that would broaden my mind and help me succeed in college. But never in my high school experience did I learn how to take notes. That is one of the many problems our students encounter. Even though I am just going to be a boring History teacher, I hope to teach my students how note-taking, simple morals, and a good education are some of the keys to making it through life.
I have planned out a basic strategy for educating my students on life skills and teaching them the required curriculum. Several times in the year I will go over note-taking skills, study skills, and other tips for those going on to a institute of higher education. I also want to challenge my students and help them build critical thinking skills. One of my approaches is to ask them to think about an important event in human history (or US history) and write a acceptable research/opinion paper. Another approach is to keep the tests challenging. Make sure they know what they have learned. No multiple choice or matching tests. That is too easy. I'd rather challenge their critical thinking skills by asking them to tell me about what an important event meant to the historical era. Also at least once in my tests I'd like to ask them their opinion on what they would have done had they been living during this era.
So I ask, what can teachers do for you and your children? Any tips or suggestions you give out will be important to your child's future.
A boring history teacher? I think history is fascinating. I believe a creative teacher can "teach" the material and make it exciting and engaging for the students. As you suggested by asking their opinion and getting them involved in the lesson, rather than constantly lecturing.

I think both parents and teachers can share in teaching students moral responsibility however it should rest more with the parents. They are the homefront and "first" teachers of their children. That is my opinion as a parent.

Since: Jan 07

Knoxville, TN

#8 Mar 20, 2007
I agree with that. And I love history but a lot of my friends who are still in high school look at me with that "EWWWW" look when I say what I want to teach.
Mark

Bakersfield, CA

#9 Mar 20, 2007
The Librarian wrote:
I forgot to add something. Parents and teachers have argued for a long time about whose responsibility it is to teach our children what is right, what is wrong, and other important life lessons. Do you feel that parents should be teaching these lessons? Do you feel teachers should be teaching these lessons? Or do you feel that they should share in teaching life lessons? How about when a teacher wants to teach basic life lessons, but the parent doesn't want the teacher to "warp" the child's mind? Do you think this is a situation that is likely to happen?
Of course it is optimal when parents teach their kids right from wrong, but there should be no exception for teachers. They must always be excellent role models of good character providing examples of justice, courage, fairness, compassion, temperance and other forms of excellence. There should be no debate if teachers want to consider themselves professionals. Parents properly raising children is icing on the cake and teachers are also in a position to facilitate parental development by being excellent role models for their children. Unfortunately, teachers do the opposite and have allowed themselves to be provoked into a dog fight with parents that does little more than degrade the credibility of the teaching profession. You are asking the wrong question. A better question might be, how can we teachers become the excellent role models requisite of our postitions. Leave the petty arguements to Jerry Springer. mark
student

Homestead, FL

#10 Mar 20, 2007
The Librarian wrote:
I agree with that. And I love history but a lot of my friends who are still in high school look at me with that "EWWWW" look when I say what I want to teach.
I'm in the tenth grade, currently taking A.P. world history. One method that I find works really well isn't when the teacher has the students do the work, like acting things out, it's when the teacher actually teaches. make class interesting PLEASE!!
student

Homestead, FL

#11 Mar 20, 2007
Fred Keating wrote:
It is not surprising, as Skube asserts, that GPAs are up while real knowledge is down. Teacher tend to teach the way they were taught, which means that they lecture, especially at the high school level. So the students are passive, not intellectually engaged. Then the testing tends to be short answer items. Why? They are easier to correct than essays. But short answer items only test recall and the lowest levels of knowledge. They rarely involve integration, synthesis, hypothesis--real thought. In language arts, students rarely write essays. Why? Teachers would have to read those essays, perhaps even mark for such things as spelling, sentence structure and grammar--which, as most teachers will advmit, they do not know themselves. So they don't assign essays. Even Englsh teachers don't assign essays. Why? Most have five classes of twenty-five, or a total of about 125 students, and where does one find the time to grade all of those essays at say twenty minutes per paper?
The bottom line? Students are rarely asked to think; they are passive learners; they are tested on simple recall; they rarely practice their composition skills. Such is the "modern" classroom. Unless we reverse these trends, all the "reforms" in the world will not correct the situation, and Skube's article could be reprinted, without changing a word, every few years.
Fred Keating
Sayville
That's a very good point, except you're wrong. You see, NONE of my teachers lecture, except my math teacher, and how else can she teach? By the way, reading your article I see your grammar basically sucks, how can you expect the teachers to be perfect 24/7? I bet screw up at your job, if you even have one, many more times than my english teacher messes up at hers. By the way, I am stuck writing essays in A.P. biology, A.P. world history, english and spanish. So, next time you try to give an invalid opinion, please think otherwise. thanks.

Since: Jan 07

Jamestown, TN

#12 Mar 20, 2007
Mark wrote:
<quoted text>
Of course it is optimal when parents teach their kids right from wrong, but there should be no exception for teachers. They must always be excellent role models of good character providing examples of justice, courage, fairness, compassion, temperance and other forms of excellence. There should be no debate if teachers want to consider themselves professionals. Parents properly raising children is icing on the cake and teachers are also in a position to facilitate parental development by being excellent role models for their children. Unfortunately, teachers do the opposite and have allowed themselves to be provoked into a dog fight with parents that does little more than degrade the credibility of the teaching profession. You are asking the wrong question. A better question might be, how can we teachers become the excellent role models requisite of our postitions. Leave the petty arguements to Jerry Springer. mark
Here is an example of what I am talking about. A teacher instructs an English class. One of their readings deals with friendly love between two men. Not sexual but friendly love. A student says that the guys are fags and they will burn in hell. The teacher explains to the students that fag is not an appropriate term in which to call someone who is homosexual. Then he/she tells the class that the men are not sexually attracted to one another, they are just expressing the love between two friends.

That night the student tells his parents that his teacher told him not to call people fags. One of the parents gets angry and calls the school complaining that the teacher is teaching their children it is okay to be homosexual. The parent tells the principal that their religion says homosexuality is wrong.

The next day the teacher is approached by the principal and the parent. The teacher explains the situation to the parent and principal. The principal says that the teacher did the right thing. However, the parent continues to say the teacher is advocating homosexuality. The parent refuses to listen to the principal and teacher. The parent then threatens to sue the school.

Do you think this is right? The teacher was being a role model and instructing the students that it is right to call people degrading names. The teacher was also instructing the students on the difference between companion love and sexual love. The whole argument was brought up by the student who said the degrading remark. How should the teacher have reacted to this? Do you feel teachers should walk on eggshells around topics that could possibly turn into something else?

The parents want to teacher their children that homosexuality is wrong. The teacher wants to teach the student that calling people names is wrong. The parent wants to defend their religious beliefs. The teacher just wants the student to learn that name calling is wrong. The parent threatens the teacher and school with a lawsuit. The teacher just wanted the parent to see what they were talking about. Who is to blame in this situation?

Since: Mar 07

Location hidden

#13 Mar 20, 2007
The Librarian wrote:
So I ask, what can teachers do for you and your children? Any tips or suggestions you give out will be important to your child's future.
Teach the basics; reading, writing, and arithmatic.

I'll teach my kids to be moral. Wish other parents would do the same.

Since: Mar 07

Location hidden

#14 Mar 20, 2007
Noelani wrote:
<quoted text>
A boring history teacher? I think history is fascinating. I believe a creative teacher can "teach" the material and make it exciting and engaging for the students. As you suggested by asking their opinion and getting them involved in the lesson, rather than constantly lecturing.
I think both parents and teachers can share in teaching students moral responsibility however it should rest more with the parents. They are the homefront and "first" teachers of their children. That is my opinion as a parent.
History is tough. Not from an educational standpoint but it's tough because most kids just don't get the whole concept of history and their minds just arent mature enough yet to grasp all the things that went on past and present.

As an adult I find history more interesting because now I'm more concerned about world events.

Since: Jan 07

Jamestown, TN

#15 Mar 20, 2007
Fed up Suffolk Taxpayer wrote:
<quoted text>
Teach the basics; reading, writing, and arithmatic.
I'll teach my kids to be moral. Wish other parents would do the same.
I wish they would to. But we get a few parents who are not willing to hold up their part and then..well nothing good comes of it. So many teachers are pulled in each direction that it is hard to know what to do. Then you get these crazies in the position of teacher. People like my cousin Pamela, they use their position as a teacher to get their kiddie sex kicks. It makes me want to give it all up and study to be a museum employee.
Mark

Bakersfield, CA

#16 Mar 21, 2007
The Librarian wrote:
<quoted text>
Here is an example of what I am talking about.
The teacher just wanted the parent to see what they were talking about. Who is to blame in this situation?
Dear Librarian, I enjoyed and appreciated the scenario you set up. I hate to admit that what you describe is an all to common occurrence at its roots. You may not believe me, but everything you described is easily eliminated by healthy relationships based on mutual respect. It is incumbent upon the teacher to set the tone, rate and depth of a relationship with students based on mutual respect and an open and positive rapport. I am in the classroom for 16 years in a gang infested low socio economic area and not once have I had the problems you describe, although it happens almost incessantly to my peers. The only difference is that I have unconditional respect for the inviolable and sacred nature of every soul that passes through my classroom and that respect extends to the family. Of course I have discipline issues that I deal with directly, face to face with students and families, and it never leaves my room. I have the highest standards of courtesy and respect, but I have to initiate and model both.
What you describe, if you dig a little deeper requires that the teacher is in the victim role. If you allow yourself to be the victim, there is a 100% chance that you will be the victim of all the ills you perceive in the community. If you take full responsibility for the relationships in your class, not counting on admin for back up or to do your dirty work for you, you will place yourself in a position of a very natural authority with will benefit all you are involved with.
I must repeat, these situations can not take place in the context of a healthy relationship and usually, sexuality, faggots and other difficult topics are not the real motivation. There is usually such tension between schools, students and communities that students want to get even with teachers, so situations get hyperbolized and even if you try to deal with the hyperbolized situation, the tension only gets worse, because at the root of it all is an adversarial and combative relationship, that not only disrupts class, but prevents everyone form learning. Sincerely mark.
Mark

Bakersfield, CA

#17 Mar 21, 2007
Fed up Suffolk Taxpayer wrote:
<quoted text>
Teach the basics; reading, writing, and arithmatic.
I'll teach my kids to be moral. Wish other parents would do the same.
I am sure you have good intentions, and it is obvious you are fed up, but if you think it is as simple as teaching the basics you than you are sorely misinformed. mark

Since: Jan 07

Jamestown, TN

#18 Mar 21, 2007
Mark wrote:
<quoted text>
Dear Librarian, I enjoyed and appreciated the scenario you set up. I hate to admit that what you describe is an all to common occurrence at its roots. You may not believe me, but everything you described is easily eliminated by healthy relationships based on mutual respect. It is incumbent upon the teacher to set the tone, rate and depth of a relationship with students based on mutual respect and an open and positive rapport. I am in the classroom for 16 years in a gang infested low socio economic area and not once have I had the problems you describe, although it happens almost incessantly to my peers. The only difference is that I have unconditional respect for the inviolable and sacred nature of every soul that passes through my classroom and that respect extends to the family. Of course I have discipline issues that I deal with directly, face to face with students and families, and it never leaves my room. I have the highest standards of courtesy and respect, but I have to initiate and model both.
What you describe, if you dig a little deeper requires that the teacher is in the victim role. If you allow yourself to be the victim, there is a 100% chance that you will be the victim of all the ills you perceive in the community. If you take full responsibility for the relationships in your class, not counting on admin for back up or to do your dirty work for you, you will place yourself in a position of a very natural authority with will benefit all you are involved with.
I must repeat, these situations can not take place in the context of a healthy relationship and usually, sexuality, faggots and other difficult topics are not the real motivation. There is usually such tension between schools, students and communities that students want to get even with teachers, so situations get hyperbolized and even if you try to deal with the hyperbolized situation, the tension only gets worse, because at the root of it all is an adversarial and combative relationship, that not only disrupts class, but prevents everyone form learning. Sincerely mark.
So should the teacher have ignore the students comment? This is something that happens quite often in our rural school. I personally would have informed the student that we do not call names and then moved the subject to another topic. This situation came out of my teaching profession textbook. My teacher never went over it though.

So you have taught for 16 years? Wow. What do you feel should be done about the region where you work? We don't have gangs here in my part of Tennessee, but we do have a few issues with students doing drugs, getting pregnant, and low parent involvement. The only thing I can think of to do about this is to be there for the kids if they need my help. I'd hate to lecture them on the consequences of their actions because 1) Many will not listen to what I have to say. 2) I don't think the parents who join in with their children on these "extracurricular activites" would like it very much.

I'd love to mention things such as these to my students, just for the chance of me actually getting through to even one of my students. I guess I will know how to deal with these things after I have been in the field. Its easy to read the text and get scared of all the issues I will have to deal with, but for the sake of reaching that one child and making a difference, I have to continue on my path.

I don't think anyone knows how brave teachers are when facing their students. I take my hat off to you considering the region in which you are teaching. It's teachers like you who deal with the worst of the worst situations that make all of us feel proud.
Failed

Elkhart, IN

#19 Mar 22, 2007
It's not really the teachers fault that students are becoming less and less intelligent. I get B's C's and D's but I have no problem in school and all I have (ADD) along with most of the teens that go to school with me. Yes I agree that alot of teachers dont know what there teaching but with me I'd rather draw or sleep then listen. Even though I have a low GPA I work fast food but every time some one has a problem with the cash register i am the first they call for. so its not the teachers fualt its more the schools because they limit the teachers to the amount of fun they can put in the lessons.
Mark

Bakersfield, CA

#20 Mar 22, 2007
Failed wrote:
It's not really the teachers fault that students are becoming less and less intelligent. I get B's C's and D's but I have no problem in school and all I have (ADD) along with most of the teens that go to school with me. Yes I agree that alot of teachers dont know what there teaching but with me I'd rather draw or sleep then listen. Even though I have a low GPA I work fast food but every time some one has a problem with the cash register i am the first they call for. so its not the teachers fualt its more the schools because they limit the teachers to the amount of fun they can put in the lessons.
Good Point, what you are describing is the gap between modern society and the relevance of schools. It is so disconnected from our world now, you and your freinds are appropriately bored and instead of dealing with the gap, they lable you and all your friends as ADD or ADHD and try to medicate you because school sucks. Yes schoolsa are boring, but every teacher who does nothing about it is a part of the problem. Your silence is your consent teachers and if you consent to medicating children instead of innovativly re-modeling curriculum than you are committing a crime against humanity, and if you plead ignorance, it absolves you of nothing. mark

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