Friday, July 22, 2011

More Bad News About U.S. Students

Recently released national geography test scores add to the growing list of surveys showing the ignorance of U.S. students. This survey from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed for example that only a third of U.S. students know how to determine distance on a map or that the American Southwest has water-shortage problems. Less than a half of 8th graders know that Islam originated in Saudi Arabia.
On the latest national exam, the percentage of students scoring as “proficient” or higher was only 23% of fourth graders, 30% of eighth graders, and 21% of twelfth graders. When the scores were compared with those on the test when last given in 2001, there was no improvement in either eighth or twelfth graders.

The only good news is that some mild improvement occurred with lowest-scoring students. This is a dubious achievement of the “No Child Left Behind Law” which otherwise stated should be called the “No Child Pushed Forward.” In other words, the obsessive focus on the poorest students is punishing students with more promise. Of course, this is totally congruent with our current political climate of pushing for equal outcomes and  punishing success.
Similar dismal results have been reported in recent surveys of performance in history and civics. And student mastery of science and math is notoriously unimpressive. The education professionals don’t seem to understand the cause. I’ll tell you the cause: students don’t know how to learn. That is the one skill that schools studiously seem to avoid. They are so focused on teaching to these high-stakes tests that little attention is devoted to anything else, particularly learning skills.  
Students these days do almost everything wrong when it comes to learning. They can’t pay attention, they multitask like crazy, their mind is abuzz with everything other than school, and they don’t know how to study or memorize.
And only a handful has been willing to spend a meager $2.49 on my e-book which could change their life. I am about to decide they won’t buy the book because it has to be read. In general, students hate to read. I give many professional development workshops to teachers and at every single one teachers complain about so many of their students being at least two grades below the expected reading grade level. Some teachers say none of their students are at grade level.
So, guess what: I am starting to make the book an audio book. We’ll see what their excuse is now. I am not sanguine about the  possibilities. Teachers tell me the real problem in education is that too many students don’t want to learn anything. They just want to be entertained.
More and more of these poorly prepared students are going to college. You have to be my age to know just how markedly the quality of college students has deteriorated since 1950. I used to love to teach. It’s not fun any more.

The e-book, by the way, is available in all formats from http://smashwords.com. The title is Better Grades. Less Effort.

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