Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The problem seems to be that by defining the goal of education as college prep we succeed in preparing a small percentage of students, at least half of whom were probably going to qualify on the basis of acquired family knowledge and skills, to be successful in college. Meanwhile, by our own definitions, over 75% of students fail to become proficient in math by traditional definitions while somewhere over half become functionally literate, by traditional definitions. For the employer the result is that less than a third of candidates that are high school graduates actually possess needed skills.

Part of the problem is attitudinal and developmental - adolescence in contemporary USA. A capable student who is actively disinterested will not learn in spite of almost all effort by others.

I have personal experience of frustrated efforts with a nephew who blew off all attempts to help him with algebra and chemistry yet graduated with 'honors' from a Los Angeles performing arts magnet only to be placed in remedial courses for both math and English when he enrolled in one of the California State Universities. (This is the norm now.) He was a talented musician but did not finish his first quarter at university. Once he turned 18 he did whatever he wanted.

When he became interested he did just fine. He joined the Air Force to get trained as a fire fighter and paramedic, was deployed to Kyrgystan in 2002, married the daughter of a fireman, at first he took what  openings he could find and is now a captain in a municipal fire department. So much energy is devoted to maintenance of self esteem in adolescence that it is very difficult for children with adverse home situations to do well and my nephew had had conflicts with his father before he came to stay with us to finish high school.

Then too, to many of us at ET ratios and proportions, reading symbolic information from prints, being able to obtain and use detailed information from written documents and to compose competent written business documents seems trivial. But it appears it is not. So perhaps it would be better for all if we adopted Laurie Nehf's recommendation and met students where they are and did all we could to at least insure that they possessed the skills to earn a living when they exited high school. If nothing else this would better expose the problem of job shortages. If students could leave school at age 16 with a degree that meant something to employers, the remainder of high school might be more productive for those who are interested in college. And if even the college bound became certified as competent for the workplace they would be better positioned for work-study programs and have a Plan B.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:52:17 AM EST
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