04 March 2005

The New Breed

Tuesday night was our school's annual "Information Night" for parents of next year's students. The principals do a little dog and pony show in the gym. Then the parents wander down to the cafeteria where the various academic and vo-tech departments have displays and staff on hand to answer questions. And last of all, there are various breakout sessions for those parents interested in particular programs. It makes for a long evening, but usually, it's a piece of cake.

This year didn't quite go as planned. There was a whole new kind of parent that showed up for the evening's festivities. I really don't know how to describe them. What I will say is the parents of incoming sophomores have the first crop of kids who will multiple accountability measures factored into their graduation: Did they pass the state tests? All of them? Did they take the required credits? Did they complete their senior project? How about their "year plus" plan? Even parents who had children that had already passed through our hallowed halls were acting a bit odd on Wednesday night. They have this "deer in the headlights" look. And, boy, were they concerned about getting their kids into college.

I was tasked with leading the breakout sessions on our Sophomore Honors Program. I'm rather proud of this program and have been actively involved with developing it over the last 8 years. It's easy for me to gush about what all we offer. But when I opened up the floor for questions, all the parents were concerned with was the AP program. Should my 15-year old take a college level class next year? What if s/he doesn't---does it mean s/he can't get into college? What if (gasp!) they get a "B" in the course?

I wouldn't want you to believe that we never had high-maintenance parents at school before. We've just never had them in such abundance. I wanted to tell these people to back off a bit. Yes, college entrance is becoming more competitive. Yes, it's wonderful to encourage kids to challenge themselves and make the most of their opportunities. But you know what---they're still 15 years old. I personally don't believe that most 15 year-olds are ready for a college level class. That's why there's this thing called "high school" sandwiched between junior high and university. There's nothing wrong with a kid who needs to take 1 honors class (instead of 3...or 2 + 1 AP) in order to build their "readiness" for the next step.

Anyway, I was caught off guard. And all of this happened after a dad came up and questioned me about evolution in the biology curriculum. "Do you teach it?" Yes, we do. It is mandated by the state. "Do you teach creationism and/or intelligent design?" No, we don't. We can be sued for doing that. "Do you teach evolution as fact?" No, it's a theory based on facts---just like atomic bonding and gravity. "Yeah, but do you teach it as fact?" I repeated my previous answer. "What if a kid wanted to bring in a paper with an opposing viewpoint?" There would be no opportunity for this type of assignment. "But what if they wanted to bring one in?" Oh, I went round and round with this guy.

When the last parent filed out at 8:30, I was grateful. Next year is already shaping up to be very interesting.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Heh. They don't know it, but their problem is only begining. If I read this page correctly, It appears that only about 60% of students who go to division I schools graduate. In other words, their kid has a better than 1 in 3 change of flunking out of college. And again, if I'm reading it right, it appears that the graduation rate for Black students is only 36%. Also interesting is that 63% of women graduate, but only 57% of men.

This article: College Graduation Rates Steady Despite Increase In Enrollment sounds good, but the actual data (which is right there on the page) shows a long, slow, steady decline. Not a few ups and the odd down, but a steady decline of four percentage points over the last 15 years or so.

Education, both higher and lower, seem to really be in trouble.