Sunday, January 30, 2011

Then What Is The Answer?

If audits aren't the answer, what's the right now? We need to stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms that result in poor test scores, poor behavior and low graduation rates did not just suddenly appear when students turned into high school students. Students don't just magically need help as teenagers. They've been struggling for years by the time I see them. Some of them have been so betrayed and shuffled by the system that they have given up on school altogether.

It didn't just magically start when students entered school to begin with, either. No, the problem is based in generations of poverty and cycles of abuse and addiction that never end. If your parents never read to you, would it occur to you to read to your child? What about when your child has her own children? Is she going to read to her kids? Most of it is not willful neglect of education, but some of it is. Unfortunately, the result is the same whether the parents genuinely cared about their child or not. The student comes to school ill-equipped and behind his peers.

If you started a marathon after most runners had finished five miles, how much are you going to care about finishing? The only way to catch up is to work twice as hard as your peers. You watch everyone else do everything so easily and you start to wonder what's wrong with you. Maybe school isn't for you?

We obviously need to make strides to help the students who are already behind and in middle and high school. However, what we really need to do is make sure this type of learning gap doesn't happen anymore. How? Compulsory, free pre-school. It doesn't need to be long. There's no need for a three or four year old to sit through a six hour day. No, two to three hours tops would be perfect. Get kids in the routine of being around peers, having someone help them learn and liking school. Yes, it's going to be costly, but really, how much more than wasting millions of dollars on an inaccurate audit? How much more than the programs we have to put in place because Johnny's 18 and reading at a fourth grade reading level? How much more costly than dooming children to decades of struggle and frustration just to try to get their test scores up? How much more costly than paying for the generation and scoring of a flawed test that dooms schools to audits? How much more costly than watching as generations of teachers burn out early because of dealing with audits, test scores and watching with a feeling of futility as child after child abandons school?

Let's admit our problems and fix them rather than trying to fix years leaving children behind. We, as a society, need to admit that we've screwed up and apologize to the generations of children we've let go by the wayside in favor of test scores.

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