So, I meant to write about this on Thursday, but I got bogged down with life, and well, here it is Sunday.
Anyway, on Thursday, my students and I came back to school after a long snow-filled weekend. Many of them came back to standardized tests that they had to retake because they had failed them in the past. First, they know they failed these tests to begin with. Second, there have been lists posted on the walls of the school since the beginning of December with test retaker information. Third, there have been announcements daily regarding these tests since December. Fourth, there was a weekly email sent out to students, parents and teachers since December. Fifth, the night before we returned to school, there was a robocall to all students, parents and teachers.
Yet, here we are, Thursday morning — “What?!”
“I didn’t know I had to take a test.”
“When did they tell us this?”
“This isn’t fair! I didn’t know.”
You get the idea. I can almost forgive them for having snow brain–almost. But what bothered me most was at least three students, although one was far more vocal than the others saying (and I’m paraphrasing):
“How do they expect me to take this test? I didn’t get no remediation. They can’t make me take a test without remediation. This school sucks. I’m just going to click and fail anyway. What’s the point? I’ll fail every time I take it because I don’t care. My dad won’t care either.”
She then proceeded to demand-and note I say demand–that she be allowed to go see the principal to tell him how she feels about this whole situation. Because it is easier to let her go then listen, I allowed her to go. When she returned, her tirade continued:
“I hate that Mr. . . . He so stupid. Tell me I have to take my test and I shoulda gone to tutoring. When was there tutoring? No one told me. I got better things to do than this. I got work and I’ll make more money than him. I’m gonna call my dad and get him fired. He so stupid. ”
There are a number of things that bother me about this. First, that anyone would fail these tests to begin with. My states’ tests are a minimum standard–to get the passing score, you need to get 58% right, and the high school tests are written on a 5th grade reading level. So, my state basically says it’s okay to know a little more than half of what you should. I don’t want a doctor that knows only a little more than half of what he should.
Second, that it is somehow the school’s fault that they are not prepared. We have tutoring available after school pretty much everyday, and if they don’t like us, our local university offers free tutoring, career counseling, college application help, internship help, etc. The representatives for the university are in our building, and they come to the classrooms on a regular basis.
Third, that they feel entitled to confront an adult about something and then call them stupid and threaten to have them fired. And along with that, that a parent will support their child on that.
Now, most of my students are not like this. Which is why she stands out. However, what I do see more and more of, except in the very brightest students, is a pure apathy regarding anything that does not directly relate to them. If it’s not entertaining or interesting, they want to have nothing to do with it. And many of them tell me that “When they get to college” it will be different.
I have taught at the local community college. This is what I observed. Students over the age of 30, regardless of how long they had been out of school, no matter how weak a student they had been in the past, were able to stay on task, get their work completed on time, and were able to pass with a B or better. Students between 25 and 30 struggled more with time management and in actual work created–their work quality was much poorer than their older classmates, but they usually showed improvement, and all passed the class. The worst students were those under 25, and specifically, one’s who had graduated in the last few years. Coming to class unprepared, staying on their cellphones, not completing assignments, arriving late or not showing up at all. They were all intelligent, what little work I could get from them was always of good quality. In the three years I taught at community college, 90% of the students out of high school in the last five years either failed or received D’s in the course. And it didn’t matter if they came from the worst or the best schools in our area–they were all the same. I stay in touch with many of my former students, and the majority of those who started at community college, either because they were trying to save money or their grades weren’t up to snuff are still there, or quit, even five to eight years after graduation.
So, do I fear for our future? Yes I do.