"PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT SERVING OUR CHILDREN WELL…" PART ONE: Walk your Conviction. [10 minutes] What do you think? Do you agree with this statement? YES NO Please list the reasons why you agree or disagree with this statement: PART TWO: Use the following information to help consider the opinion you stated earlier. [20 mins] A little background information A little less than twenty years ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education was commissioned by the secretary of Education, T.H. Bell, "to examine the quality of education in the United States" because of "the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system" (Bell in NCEE, 1983). Among the opening statements of the final report were the following: …We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well- being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people… … If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament. (NCEE, 1983) Considerable Debate This report sparked considerable debate about whether or not schools are the source of the problems that the Commission observed. In addition there was not only considerable debate about where reform should happen, but also what form it should take. Below are some of the arguments and findings that help to fuel each side of the debate: American 12th graders scored near the bottom on % of US 16 to 24yr olds who were high school the recent 3rd International Math & Science Study. drop outs decreased from 1972 to 1999 for white US students placed 19th out of 21 developed and black young adults.2 nations in math and 16th out 21 in science.1 U.S. students' expectations for obtaining post- Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans have secondary credentials have increased substantially reached the 12th grade without having learned to since 1983. 2 read at a basic level. 1 College enrollment rates for high school More than 20 million have reached their senior completers have risen for white and black year unable to do basic math. 1 students. 2 Almost 25 million have reached 12th grade not Between 1971 and 1999, 9- and 13-year olds knowing the essentials of U.S. history. 1 improved their performance in reading. 2 More than 6 million Americans dropped out of The score gap between black and white students high school. 1 narrowed between the early 1970s and the late 1980s. 2 In 1996 135 of all blacks aged 16 to 24 were not in school and did not hold a diploma. 17% of Between 1973 and 1999, 9-, 13- and 17-year olds first generation Hispanics had dropped out of high all improved their performance in mathematics. 2 school, including 44% of Hispanic immigrants in this age group. 1 The trends in science performance, though declining in the 1970s, increase during the 1980s Despite continued increase in the attainment rates and early 1990s. Performance has been mostly of U.S. 25-29 year olds across all race/ethnic stable since then. 2 groups and all educational levels, gaps between the whites versus blacks and Hispanics persisted % of high school graduates who completed between 1971 and 2000.2 advanced academic levels of English and foreign language study doubled between 1982 and 1998 to With more students taking more courses and about 30% in each subject. 2 staying in school longer, it is puzzling that student achievement has remained largely flat. 1 % of high school graduates who completed advanced levels of mathematics increased from 26 Quality of the mathematical content of 8th grade to 41 percent between 1982 and 1999. 2 mathematics lessons was rated lower than that in Germany and Japan. 2 % of high school graduates who completed advanced levels of physical science rose from 31 U.S. 8th grade students are less likely to be taught to 60 percent. 2 by a teacher whose field of study was mathematics or physics than their international There are more than 6 million children in special peers. 1 education -- most will never read well but they're getting their chance based on whatever gifts they Internationally, U.S. youngsters hold their own at bring to school.3 the elementary level but falter in the middle years and drop far behind in high school. America Nearly half the three million teachers in public seems to be the only country in the world whose schools have master's degrees. The political children fall farther behind the longer they stay in climate is so hateful toward public schools, a third school. 1 quit within 10 years. 3 Some 30 percent of entering freshmen in need of Americas 4th grade readers just out performed some remedial courses in reading, writing, every country in the world except Finland, mathematics after arriving on campus. 1 according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 3 Employers report difficulty finding people to hire who have the skills, knowledge habits and America is second only to Japan in the college attitudes they require for technologically graduation rate. America exceeds every country in sophisticated positions. 1 the world in graduate level completion. 3 Few people have enough power to shape the The SAT score on reasoning just hit a 25 year decisions that affect their lives and the lives of high. Three out of four test takers this year scored their children. 1 higher than the national average. The ACT is at a five year high. 3 Power over the education system has been increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few A new Public Agenda poll reveals a 71 percent who don't really want things to change, not approval rating of public schools. 3 substantially, not in ways that would really matter.1 According to the U.S. Department of Education, 46 million students attend 87,125 schools in 14,471 districts. Of that total, nearly 6 million have disabilities… …two million are abused and neglected… …more than half a million are homeless… …one in five children under 18 comes from abject poverty. 3 PART THREE: Clarify your position. [10 minutes] How much has your position changed as a result of considering the above information? (circle your answer on the scale below) 2------------- 1---------------- 0 -------------- 1 ---------------2 disagree more no change agree more in my opinion Identify one or two of the statements above that help to support your conviction. Explain why they are convincing. Identify one or two of the statements above that challenge your conviction. Explain why they are/are not convincing. References National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) A Nation at Risk. Retrieved October 11, 2002, from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/ 1 Bennett, W.J. et al. (July/August 1998). "A nation still at risk." Policy Review. 90, 2-9. 2 National Center for Education Statistics (2001). The Condition of Education 2001. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 3 Troy, F.J. (1998). "The myth of our failed education system." The School Administrator. 55 (8), pp. 6-10.
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