No need to move to Brentwood for the schools

 I started tutoring a student at Brentwood High School in math.  This student is a bright person who is active at school, extra-curriculars, and takes honors classes when possible.  Not someone I would describe as lazy.

Since this was my first time tutoring this student, we went over their current assignments, that night’s homework, and then looked through quizzes and tests taken over the last couple of months.  I was stunned by the results on the quizzes.  They ranged from 30% to about 75%.  The quizzes were marked with points off but showed little or no indication where the student went wrong.  Based on our conversation, it is apparent that basic concepts were skipped or spoon-fed as assumptions. 

I asked if the teacher had gone over any of the quizzes individually or had approached the student about the low grades to help improve performance.  The response was an emphatic ‘no’.  The story continued mentioning that the guidance counselor expressed relief that the student wouldn’t pursue anything related to math in college.  This isn’t a senior about to leave school in a few weeks, they still have some years to influence this student.

For some reason, it is acceptable to the teacher and counselor that this student not understand the concepts taught in the math courses offered.  This is a student that is/was on track to complete Calculus before graduation.  As I said, not a numb-brained bottom feeder.  It appears to me that this teacher is more interested in class and curriculum management than their student(s) learning.

The #1 goal of teachers should be for their student to LEARN what they are teaching.  A test indicates how effectively the student has learned.  If a student has a 30% on a test, THEY DID NOT LEARN THE CONCEPT, DON’T JUST MOVE ON WITHOUT DEALING WITH THAT STUDENT.  TO DO OTHERWISE SAYS TO ME THAT YOU DON’T CARE IF THE STUDENT LEARNS OR NOT.  This situation is wrong, wrong wrong.




Filed under by DB, Rant

7 responses to “No need to move to Brentwood for the schools

  1. Ah, but isn’t NCLB a wonderful thing? Teachers everywhere–including Brentwood–are forced to amp up their performance rate. That means teaching rote and teaching the test by rote.

    It doesn’t mean imparting the knowledge about the philosophy behind the topic, creating an encompassing knowledge about the subject or actually developing critical thinking skills.

    It’s reduced every subject to the scholastic equivalent of shoe-tying.

  2. I agree with you in principle, but it’s a big jump to assume it’s the teacher’s apathy that is the problem. Like Ms. Coble said, teachers have everyone from their administration to Dubya himself breathing down their necks to make sure students can memorize and regurgitate–and not much more. It sucks. I hate it.

    I would hardly call myself apathetic, but when a student spends class time repeatedly having to be awakened from a nap, then sleeps through the test, it’s kind of difficult to stall my teaching the other students so that that one can “learn a concept.”

    I don’t know many teachers whose goal it is that students NOT learn, by the way.

  3. This is an honors student, not a napper. I specifically set up this post to mention that so there could be no lazy student excuse.

    Are teachers forbidden from offering before/after school assistance? I am not asking the teacher to take individual time during class, but there has to be some acknowledgement by the teacher of an honors student getting a 30%!! other than a shrug and a nod at NCLB.

    Any excuse is as good as another in explaining failure in achieving a goal. Once one accepts those excuses, the goal can never be achieved.

  4. With all due respect, again, I don’t know many teachers who AREN’T willing to stay before/after school. In fact, I’ve done it every day this week and am doing it right now.

    And I guess it does seem like many educators blame NCLB for many of the problems in education, but I assure you it’s not with a “shrug and nod.” It’s with a genuine anger at our hands being tied as we want to teach concepts and give each student individual attention, but we simply cannot with all the constraints of, yes, NCLB.

    I, too, once thought (at least some) teachers were failing. Then I became one. Now it’s not so easy to point fingers and make blanket statements, especially when I know I have bent over backwards for individual students–“numb-brained bottom-feeder” or not–gypped myself on sleep and personal time, come in early and stayed late, and they still have not been willing to meet me one-tenth of the way in their own learning process. At some point, individual responsibility and ability has to be taken into account.

    Or we can just continue to shrug and nod at lazy, malicious teachers.

  5. I would say that schools are offering more tutoring and intervention than ever before.

    If anything, NCLB is shining an unreasonably bright spotlight on math teachers and their performance.

    Most of the focus goes to the lowest performing, ethnic minority students, though–who are most likely to pull an entire schools’ achievement down. NCLB grades performance in minority cells.

    Under NCLB, the high-ability, affluent Brentwood student would be more likely to fall through the cracks than 10 years ago, simply because his parents can afford private tutoring elsewhere.

    In leaving no child behind, we have to focus on the kids who cannot get up and walk.

  6. The system is indeed broken DB. I think you would find the teacher is reacting rationally to the system. However, in order to make a difference as a teacher you sometimes have to act irrational to the system. I agree with your umbrage that a bright student is so easily blown off by the people he or she depends on.

    As an adjunct professor in Engineering I feel somewhat qualified to comment. My only reason for teaching is the joy of helping young people learn. That is my only focus.

  7. I to am a teacher and I can fully understand your frustration, DB and also that of the teacher side. Although I teach Special Education, I see how hard the teachers in my school work. Now we are no where near as affluent as Brentwood, but there are teachers that are there till 5 pm helping kids. I help no special ed students while doing lunch duty or on my planning. NCLB has quite a bit to do with it. My students who have Mental Retardation are required to take the gateway tests- and we are supposed to teach them algebra and biology when we are still working on telling time and simple addition with most? Now I am not saying the teacher was in the right, the Lord knows there have been times I have skipped over something I should have taken more time with, but most teachers I know try to make sure that their students don’t fall behind with out getting everyone behind. I am sorry that this young man is struggling and not receiving much help from the schools!

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