Monday, April 12, 2010

Forgetting the elite

In academics, making sure the elite are continually pressed to be better isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Unfortunately our society has put so much into bringing the lower end to “proficient” that we forget that those that will do wonderful things for the next generations exist on the same plane of existence.

In a recent report, Ukiah High School was said to have only about 19% of students fulfilling the A-G Requirements for enrollment into California’s University System (CSU or UC).  The state average is 33%.  I was curious why this number was so low from the point of view of the students.  The reaction was interesting.  Of course the culture of the town has something to do with it, and the number of overworked counselors that try to meet the needs of hundreds of students.  But a button seemed to be pressed regarding where the resources go.

Why is so much given to those that don’t want to be here in the first place, and why are we (the “elite”) intentionally left behind?

The point is well worth looking at.  Forget the money spent on Special Education at this school (which is well above state average), consider the money that is spent on second language learners that have been in the system for years, behavioral problems that have been a plague on the institution, and support structures that try and coax students with little academic desire to remain in a place that they loathe.  Wouldn’t it make sense that money should be allocated more towards students that want to use the opportunity to gain from the experience?

Take the STAR test.  How much money is used to prep students for a test of basic knowledge that many will intentionally fail?  We have entire classes that prepare students for Exit Exams and STAR testing, only to have to drive to student’s houses and drag them to school because some idiotic AYP score is the “real measure” of our institutions success.  Meanwhile, AP students have textbooks that are falling apart and will have to sit through a basic skills test that is so beneath them that it is insane.

In fact, let’s make a deal.  If a student takes and passes an AP class, that student is automatically considered “Advanced” on any standardized basic skills test regarding that subject.  I know what questions for U.S. History are on the STAR and my tests for my AP students are ten times more complex.  Yet they will spend a three hour testing block with questions that shouldn’t be in their ballpark, instead of being with me prepping for a test that can offer them something real; college credit. 

Public schools need to do something about stimulating the academic elite or they’ll simply give more credibility to charter schools that, besides playing by a different set of rules, can cater to their growing interests and intellects.  We pump up kids that do the minimum of showing up to school.  Now we should really pump up those that will be showing up at Stanford next fall!   

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