A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.
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Still No Sign of Superman « Back to Story
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This article by Diane Ravitch sums up my argument better than I can, which is why I will defer to her:
I can tell you from my own experience that parental involvement is not the be-all-end-all that public school teachers make it out to be. First, in my own experience, I have many students whose parents I never see or hear from. You would think that paying tuition would motivate parents to get involved. No doubt it does for some. But many see paying tuition as doing their part; the rest is up to me, and if I don't deliver, it is my fault. Complaining about those parents does not help my students, and does not change reality.
Second, how do you blame lack of parental involvement when the same kids (with the same parents) succeed in a charter school but not in the public school? You say that charter schools only succeed because those parents care enough to get their child a good education and are involved. So why didn't those same parents push their children to do great things at the public school? If the parents care just as much before and after the switch, doesn't that mean the environment must be responsible for the improvement? You cannot argue that the environment at home matters a great deal but the environment at school matters not.
I agree that more involved parents are better than the alternative, but good results for each individual child stem from a good system.
Again, from my own experience, high expectations works. It does not mean that students with bad study habits and emotional baggage are going to graduate magna cum laude. But an atmosphere of high expectations - both academic and behavioral -raises them above what they would be otherwise. I have seen this happen first hand. And it cuts down on a lot of the behavioral problems, classroom disruptions, and confrontations that crush teachers' spirits. I still hand out demerits for uniforms and cussing and PDAs, but we don't have locks on our lockers and cheating is minimal because of the atmosphere and severe consequences. The students see it is a culture worth preserving and they protect it.
If we commit to making each student his or her best, and provide an atmosphere where that will happen, we will see much better results overall. I suspect we would have much fewer "incorrigibles" than the current system of low expectations and bad teachers creates. Again, kids entering the system don't start out hating school. We do something to make them that way.
I am glad you agree that parents should have the choice of where to send their children. Let's make that happen and then concentrate on doing our best with those who are left. To build on another comment, maybe the most difficult students need something more like boot camp. The Marine Corps has a history of taking criminals and making men out of them.
In addition to echoing the points Terry made, I would add one more obvious difference between Catholic and Public education systems. Catholic schools are able to answer the all important question that is virtually ignored, dismissed or convoluted in the public setting. The question is "What are we educating children for?" You can not have different answers to this question and have an effective education system. Catholic schools have one answer and that answer is never open to interpretation. If you were to round up all Principals, Administrators, Bureaucrats that work in NYCDOE and ask them that question you would get a million different platitudes that mean very little and some that would be outright contradictary.
Catholic schools can eject their troublemakers. Also, since the parents are paying for a private education (in the case of the vast majority of students) they're going to motivate their kids as much as possible.
I attended Catholic schools and Honors and Gifted programs did indeed exist. Not all kids are created equal.
@CJ - If educating children as if they were all equal leads to mediocrity why do the Catholic schools do such a great job educating their charges?? In the Catholic schools, there are no Honors, Gifted & Talented or Special Education programs. There is one standard comprehensive curriculum and one set of rules and regulations. Both apply to ALL STUDENTS and Catholic schools continue to graduate 95%+ of their students year after year.
Anyone who experiences the apathy these students and their guardians possess (and somehow maintained their sanity) would agree with you 100%. Educating children as if they were all equal only leads to mediocrity.
I think at that point teachers have to perform some sort of triage. The girls you describe will never have their full attention on their studies. Spending time trying to educate the unmotivated just shortchanges kids who have a better chance of success.
The key to lifting children out of poverty is a functional family - a mother and father, married to each other and sharing household responsibilities, including sharing child care time if both parents have to work.
Programs like charter schools, special bonuses for teachers, Head Start programs, etc. are nice efforts, but they are doomed to failure.
Trying to lift third generation welfare children out of poverty is like trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom. It won't work. The dark secret of the collapsed urban society in America is that we now have thirty-five year old grandmothers raising their granddaughters' infants so that the granddaughter can finish high school. Do the math - its a tragedy no one will report on.
In the high school I graduated from in 1963, we had over 1000 students - exactly one high school girl became pregnant - she had to leave high school and move to a special home until she had her baby. In that same high school today, they have a full daycare program for the unmarried teen-age mothers, over fifty of them. All but three come from homes where their unmarried mother raised them alone on welfare. And five of the teen-age mothers became pregnant before their 13th birthday. There are 16-year old girls in the program who already have three children.
There is no hope for these children and their children. None
This is an interesting article and I want to bring up two points:
1) I'm not crazy about a college diploma being the measure of "success". There are a number of professions that require a college degree, but its not the be-all-end-all of a persons worth or contribution to society is. Some of the most successful people in America do not have college degrees.
2) One of the main reasons many KIPP students don't finish college is the financial burden that is incurred from attending universities. The cost of tuition, fees, books and other expenses is difficult for a low income family to bear. I have an Accounting degree and have a good income, but every month for the next 10 years I have to fork over $300 in student loans.
The education wing of the Catholic church and the boot camp instructors of the Armed Forces can mold gentlemen from detritus, but they are all about results, and do whatever is required to do that. Each person who comes to them, they look upon in the same way. "You are filth, and entirely useless, until you prove otherwise." Then they set about making them prove otherwise. It is the job the recruits' fathers should have done, if they had ever had a father. Their results are not perfect, but they also never give up, not like the weenie teachers we employ in schools today.
It thus is no mystery. We know how to do this. Like so much else, we have drunk deeply of the koolaid, and now can no longer see the facts plain in front of us.
On any trip to the Caribbean, some islands have simply given up, and are cesspolls that people just try toleave. But some have a certain pride and orderlyness nonetheless. They seem to say, "We may not be much, but we are the best we can be, under the circumstances." You want to know what works? Go to Antigua, and be prepared to learn how this is done.
And for God's sake, stop whining and blaming others. Just do it.
The reason any charter schools see positive results(and there are many that do not) is because of the high parental involvement. A parent who is motivated enough to advocate for their childs education is going to make sure their child is engaged. I am ALL for allowing parents more choices but eventually we reach a point where all the parents opt out of the public system and what do we do then?
The educational romanticism of high expectations as a cure all for low achieving students just does not work. Expectations must comport to reality or you risk going insane and the reality is, for whatever reason you care to mention, some students do not want or care to learn what the school system is teaching them. This is not a new phenomenon but what is new is that our approach to teaching is increasingly focused on these students and as a result all the other students suffer. We can remove the other students from the system but as I said before what do we do with the students who are left?
A school system can do a good job of compensating for absentee parenting until the student reaches puberty at which point we begin to see a precipitous drop in scores at the middle/junior high school level. Nothing we do will stop this. I can have high expectations for student X but he/she is never in class and when he/she is he/she tells me to F*** myself and when I call home the parent/guardian tells me to go F*** myself. Should I then raise my expectations more? Or should this student and his/her teacher be doing something more productive with their time?
"Or does it take six years—middle school plus high school? Or even more?"
Yes, and probably. The problem is not just middle schools -- in fact, the problem is mostly at the high-school level.
I wonder whether Messrs. Levin and Feinberg's goal of a 75% four year college graduation rate for the KIPP students was unrealistic for a simpler reason. Not everyone needs to get a bachelor's degree to enjoy a successful career and contented life, even kids coming out of affluent communities such as Grosse Point and Scarsdale. Identifying which high school graduates may be more suited to and happier in a two year or skills oriented program would go a long way toward setting more of them up for success.
Why does everyone act like a vocational school or a BA determines the rest of a person's life? Today people can go back to school to acquire skills they may need as they progress in their jobs. The whole world of books is available on Amazon, many classics for free as eBooks. Life is about being able to grow and pursue your interests as you recognize your specific skills. If KIPP has given these kids the basics to do this, they will make out fine. How many of today's lawyers are simply people of a certain class who finished college and still didn't know what they wanted to do when they grew up? I know quite a few people who started out in a rather programmed life plan yet who moved in very unexpected directions as they experienced the real world. They found niches that interested them and realized they had skills that others lacked. Don't get hung up on the degree; concentrate on the person.
No, this is a matter of great teaching and an organization that fosters that. These stellar charter schools achieve incredible results with LESS money because (1) they seek out great teachers, (2) empower them to run their classrooms in exchange for accountability, (3) communicate clearly the high standards to which students will be held, and (4) enforce those expectations. It works. And they do it with kids that come in not knowing how to read or do math or just about anything else at grade level.
If the union and the bloated, education school-dominated bureaucracy would stop blocking every attempt at real reform, it would work there too. Get rid of all the bureaucratic nonsense and the economics would sort itself out. Or, better yet, let the money follow the kids (backpack funding). That way those who can achieve will be able to go to private schools or magnet schools or high-performing public schools or successful charter schools. The public schools that share your mentality of low expectations will be able to focus on the rest of the students who don't care (or whose parents don't care).
This year, my AP U.S. Government year-end project was to identify problems in public education and devise solutions for them. The students who had been at public high school identified the problem as a lack of spirit and accountability. They said it was possible to succeed, but that it was much easier to fall through the cracks because no one was there to push them. When they came to the private school where I teach, they felt much more motivated because we have high expectations and hold them to those, both academically and in character. Believe me when I tell you that I see my share of apathy (and disabilities, and emotional issues). Teenage boys in private school care just as much about girls and xBox as do boys in poor public schools. Teenage girls are no less emotional for being in a private school, and divorce plagues the wealthy as well. And just because your parents can afford to pay tuition does not make you smart. But we start with the expectation for them that they will do their best and the expectation for ourselves that we will do all we can to make that happen. And we do it as a non-profit spending, when you factor in all the scholarships we give out, about the same per-pupil spending as my state (Virginia). I know there are many problems with which we do not have to deal, but the culture of high expectations and accountability does a lot to diminish those.
The problem with your thesis is that you are seeing kids who have been passed along by a series of teachers who share your world view. Five and six year-olds don't start school thinking "this is pointless." They have that beat into them by bad or just mediocre teachers who don't know the subject they are teaching, how to make it interesting, how to harness natural curiosity, and how to instill good habits of mind and work. Give them great or even good teachers and they will flourish. Let a generation of children come up through great schools and see whether you still believe it is just a bunch of good-for-nothing, apathetic students who are the problem.
@ Jeff Day:
This is really a matter of economics. As a public school teacher, the amount of resources (time, money, etc.) I see every day WASTED (YES WASTED) on underpreforming students who don't give a damn just to hopefully make them mediocre is atrocious. Meanwhile, those who are performing at or above level are literally ignored because they are meeting some arbirtary level set by idiotic edurocrats...and the idea of using resources to perhaps challenge them to achieve more is immediately rejected as a WASTE. We spend over 20 billion dollars to educate kids in NYC and its not enough! At some point we will have to face the fact that equality in education leads to equality in ability and thats just not good for our society.
Why is a college degree the gold standard of academic accomplishment? What if these students somehow struggle to gain a degree in "communications studies" or some other bogus major? Most, I suspect, would be far better off learning a skilled trade. This is just another example of the foolish "college for everybody" mentality.
KIPP is Superman, IMHO. Read the Time magazine story of April 27 for more details. More recent KIPP NY students are graduating college at a 46% rate.
"...95 percent high school graduation rate for students who have completed its middle schools — regardless of where they went to high school — and an 89 percent college matriculation rate."
Congratulations, KIPP. Wow.
So in order to educate kids properly, KIPP has to take over some of the parents' responsibilities because they have "checked out". Sad. Maybe it's cheaper to educate the parents on how to raise their children.
The college expectation is way too high. It is doubtful that 75% of the general population is smart enough to handle the work. We have to ditch this belief that everyone has to go to college. It just isn't realistic.
As for why KIPP (and America more generally) make college out to be better, Jewel/HL/cb, is because it is.
Acknowledging the Bill Gates exception, graduating from college is better than not, attending some college is better than not, and graduating from high school is better than dropping out. It is better in all statistical measures, including income, retirement security, life span, chances of claiming welfare, ability to weather financial storms, home ownership, net worth, passing wealth onto your children, children out of wedlock, drug addiction, a criminal record, health, and proximity to registered sexual offenders, to name a few.
There is nothing wrong with being a plumber. My dad worked in a grocery store all his life and my mom sent out bills for the local water agency, with a year of community college under her belt. But they wanted something more for their kids, so my sisters and I were the first and almost only of our relatives to go to college. No doubt you will think this proves your point, but I gave up my law practice to become a teacher, for less pay than my mom made when she retired. But I have never been happier. Going to college gave me that choice.
What you propose is to shunt large swaths of kids into trade schools without giving them the choice to decide for themselves. The KIPP schools and those by Mr. Canada and the others out busting their butts to give a quality education to poor kids are just trying to give them that choice. Please, before you argue any more that the vast majority of our high school graduates should aim for trade school (and, by implication, that KIPP is wasting its time), visit one of them and then pick out just five you would tell "College just isn't for you." You can find a school near you at www.kipp.org.
What is wrong with you people? I just read an article about a system of schools that has proven incredibly successful, graduating low-income, minority students from high school AND college at rates above the national average for ALL American students, and far above comparably positioned minority children. And all of this based solely on three years of middle school. But cb and HL write respectively that poor black kids are (1) dragging down our colleges, and (2) not really intelligent enough to aim for anything more than manual labor.
Setting aside the absurdity of a thousand or so KIPPsters undermining American universities, did you not notice that 33% of them graduate, as compared to 30%? (That means it is higher.)
As for "those who lack the requisite intelligence," HL, are you honestly contending that large swaths of black and Hispanic children, who comprise 95% of KIPP's student body, lack the intelligence to succeed in college? Did you forget to "spring forward" from the 1890s? And, please, enlighten us on the specific policies KIPP implements that have failed. Is that the high expectations? The no nonsense discipline? Or is it the hiring of high quality, dedicated teachers that rubs you the wrong way? Even if, as you contend, it would be better to feed more people into blue collar trade schools, doesn't KIPP's incredibly impressive graduation rate serve that end? Presumably the 2/3 of college attendees who did not graduate go on to do something. Our prisons are not THAT full! So even a KIPPster's fallback position is more likely to succeed. Again I ask, what were those failed policies?
Why must college be the ultimate measurement of an educational success? Where are the vocational schools in this mix? I never went to college. I went to a vocational school. Why can't the training and successful, gainful employment in the field of training be a good measurement?
Obviously, Ms. Hymowitz admits that KIPP has accomplished a great deal -- moving college graduation rates of low-income kids significantly above the national average.
That this comes from a purely middle-school intervention is all the more amazing. And it's (perhaps) even more impressive that the founders are not trumpeting this as an unalloyed success, but seeing it as still needing improvement (Ms. Hymowitz's argument).
It doesn't seem to me, then, her conclusion -- "Superman isn’t coming" -- isn't in line with the rest of her article.
The reason Superman isn't coming is because the reason the kids have such poor performance isn't the schools; the real problem is that the social situation the kids come from is utterly dysfunctional. The bad schools are more symptom than cause: It's therefore silly to blame the schools for what is a much larger social issue.
It saddens me to see KIPP continuing tried-and-failed policies of pushing those who lack the requisite intelligence for higher education into college while foregoing far more appropriate (and lucrative!) careers in high-demand fields such as plumbing.
As I tell my kiddies, good attorneys are a dime a dozen. A good plumber is worth his weight in gold.
It is not surprising that KIPP students go to college in such large numbers considering that KIPP programs constantly push college attendance. But that is exactly the problem. It sends the message that only the kinds of white collar jobs historically associated with higher education constitute "success." It lowers the quality of higher education by pumping weaker students into college classrooms. It sets students up for failure, since many are unable to keep up with even the watered-down version of education of today's colleges. KIPP and charter schools in general would do much better to conventrate on vocational training, allowing especially talented students to go on to college but not taking it as the "mission" of schools to "send" students to college.