This is a tale of two school systems.
In the shiny world of the wealthy, students have hundreds of educational advantages including college-level classes, great facilities and teachers who are exceedingly knowledgeable. In the other world, students are so far behind that schools are cutting back on courses to focus only on math and English for hours each day.
In a small percentage of schools, parents don’t worry if their kids are doing well. They only worry if they’re doing well enough. Or parents worry their kids must overwork to get into an Ivy League school, writes a Los Angeles Times writer.
In this world, competition is so fierce to get into top-notch colleges that some, such as Berkeley, accept “fewer than half the applicants with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average or higher.” The rewards are a better career and on average, greater wealth.
In the other school system, students are struggling to become proficient in English and math. No Child Left Behind is forcing many schools across the nation to require students to take several sessions of English and math every day, reports The New York Times.
To accomplish this, schools are cutting back on classes such as social studies, physical education and art. The fact they’re cutting on back on science seems a little dumb, since standardized testing of those skills begins soon.
In this bleaker world, young students drill over and over on the same two topics until they’re bored senseless. The method works, somewhat, because scores have risen at schools trying this approach. But scores also have risen in some schools that stick to a varied curriculum.
It’s too bad teaching math and English could not be worked into a diversified set of courses. Take a child who is struggling in math but loves woodworking. Why not teach math via the topic he loves? A 45 degree angle in a textbook may seem like Sanskrit, but give a child two pieces of wood to cut and it makes total sense.
But such is the state of our two school worlds. The system that is working is an optimistic, exciting – if not a bit overworked – place. The other is a source of boredom and probable despair that results in dropouts. I know what you’re thinking: what about a middle ground? I’m sure it’s out there, but it seems to be disappearing.
Note: I recognize that in the elite world, we’re looking at a high school, while the other world is at the elementary school level.