To Fail Or Not To Fail: The Fierce Debate Over High Standards

Discussion in 'Career, Work, Finances and Education' started by OckyDub, Nov 1, 2017.

  1. OckyDub

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    "I can't teach the book right now," says Shaka Greene, algebra teacher at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. "Because my students are still learning to add 49 plus 17."

    So begins Part 3 — the conclusion of our podcast series: Raising Kings: A Year of Love and Struggle at Ron Brown College Prep.

    This radical new high school in Washington, D.C., is really two schools — two approaches — in one. It strives to teach students traditional subjects, including algebra and English, while also helping them grow socially and emotionally. But both efforts require valuable class time, and the school struggles to find a balance.

    Raising Kings is a three-part series from NPR Ed and Education Week. This yearlong collaboration tells the story of a radical new high school designed specifically for young men of color. Listen to the series here.

    In the second half of the school year, that struggle for balance reaches a crisis: Roughly 40 percent of the students are at risk of failing ninth grade.

    In response, Principal Ben Williams makes several big changes. He gives students more time in their core classes, including math. He creates a special, seven-week session of optional Saturday classes.

    "It's like a light bulb in my head came on," says Paul, a freshman who attends Saturday school to get much-needed algebra practice. "I started getting more help and more support. I went from an F to a B." (We're not using the students' last names to protect their privacy.)

    But many students don't take advantage, and the grades aren't improving fast enough.

    The showdown that's been looming all year comes in May, when teachers learn about a pair of district wide grading policies that will make it easier for students to pass.

    And this leads to a bitter divide at the school, with Greene and most teachers on one side and Principal Williams and the school's psychologist, Charles Curtis, on the other.

    "A black male who drops out of high school is, at best, going to struggle from [pay]check to check," Curtis says, "and more likely, get incarcerated, hurt, or hurt somebody, and, worst case scenario, be dead."

    Research shows that 1 in 4 young, black men who drop out of high school will be locked up by the time they're 24. And holding them back in ninth grade makes them much more likely to drop out.

    "There is this indignant righteousness about what should be and what shouldn't be," Curtis says of Greene's insistence on high standards. "But this is their life ... Like, you're talking about letting [a student] fail. What happens when he fails for real, and he drops out, and we could have prevented it?"

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    Curtis and Principal Williams insist that academic progress will come in this dramatically different school, but that no one should expect it so soon, after what is still Ron Brown's first year.

    "Don't judge me on one year," Williams says, "when we're fundamentally trying to build our young men from the ground up, breaking down every bad habit, every poor experience and giving them a space where they can believe in themselves."

    But Greene argues that schools need to be less patient.

    "I'm looking at the crisis that is affecting our young black men," Greene says. "It is a state of war. It is a state of emergency. If you're not attacking it like that, then you're essentially putting Band-Aids on gunshot wounds. And I don't wanna be a part of that."

    While Greene is the only teacher who says he won't be coming back because of these district policies, every member of the Ron Brown faculty agrees with his opposition.

    "I understand the statistics, that if a student fails ninth grade he is bound to drop out of high school," says Gudger, the English teacher. "I get it. However, it's like, 'So, if we pass him through, what can he do with his life? What have we prepared him for?' "

    This debate is not unique to Ron Brown. It has roiled teachers' lounges and principals' offices across the country.

    On one side: the belief that lowering standards is a betrayal of students who are constantly told "you're not good enough."

    On the other: the fear that high standards, at any cost, will push at-risk students out of school.

    The difficult truth for the passionate educators of Ron Brown is that both sides are right.

    This is the last installment of our yearlong reporting project, "Raising Kings, A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep."
     
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  2. SB3

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    They need to spend less time on bs, and more time making sure these kids knew how to speak and write correctly. I tutored underclassmen in English for my work study job in college, and it was mind blowing to see the levels at which some kids who had graduated high school and were now college freshmen, were reading.

    By high school, it's too late to just be getting to the point. Call me crazy, but I say there is no reason for any kid to not know the difference between there, their and they're before leaving elementary school.

    The system is failing these kids left and right.
     
  3. mojoreece

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    The whole situation is sad. I briefly worked and volunteered in urban schools. You see how poverty and racism locked theses kids out from access to resources and the right support systems need to be prepared in life.

    I felt bad having to ask teachers if students can make up multiple assignments they just didn't do. I mean students had 0.00, 0.15, 0.25 Zero GPAs for the whole semester. I was like damn brih what do u do in class? Why do u even come to school if u dont do schoolwork?!!! :what:
    I remember a student n his brother repeating the 9th grade 3 times. :lupe1:No one was telling them they should start going to an alternative school, GED program and trade school or community college.

    Despite all that the schools and teachers do really hard work. But it's really too much of a responsibly for a school to be all things to students. I'm sorry the main job of a school and teacher is to teach and provide a good safe environment for learning. It's not a place to babysit teenagers.

    I really don't know how some of these teachers do this type of work for the long-term. The low pay, disrespect, unachieved goals u only have but sooo energy to give.:( I burned out just after the 1st year. :dead1:
     
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