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Tell Us What You Really Think


The mantra at most schools these days—and rightly so—is something along the lines of, “All of our students will succeed.” But is that what every teacher really thinks? When it comes to city schools, at least, the answer is no. A new survey, sponsored by the National School Boards Association, finds that of the 4,700 K-12 educators polled anonymously in a dozen urban districts, 25 percent said most kids wouldn’t succeed in a community college or university. And another 18 percent weren’t certain. Administrators, perhaps predictably, weren’t as pessimistic: While roughly 16 percent admitted their students “are not motivated to learn,” only 7 percent ruled out higher-ed success altogether. The survey’s author, a professor of education law and policy, says he’s suprised by the relatively high percentage of negative teacher comments. But John Mitchell, of the American Federation of Teachers, suggests that exactly when each educator filled out the survey may have something to do with the results. “You go through a lot in a day, and you have days when you feel optimistic and days when you don’t.”


C'mon, Mr. Mitchell. We are looking at 4,700 responses. And the percentage of teachers who doubt that their students will do well in college is consistent from elementary through high school. Were they all having a bad day?

Thank goodness for the other 3 out of 4 who didn't agree that most of their kids wouldn't make it. The pessimists kind of fall in line with the teachers and administrators who assessed that sometimes teachers aren't fair to all of their students.

Really, what teacher out there actually thinks “All of our students will succeed” in a community college or university? It's great to have a positive outlook, but we also need to be realistic!

Anyone who thinks that "all kids can succeed" in academics is either terribly misinformed, hopelessly optimisti, or just plain bonkers. That's akin to saying that all kids can run a 4.0 forty in football practice. Not gonna happen.

Looking out upon my classes, (148 students per day), I can honestly say that, based upon their performance to date, approximately 20 - 25 of these people will actually go on to earn a bachelors degree. I am not being a pessimist, but a realist. I have the low perfoming students, and most of them do not give a rip about school or learning in general - for now. When they are about 30 years old and stuck in that minimum wage mcjob, they might wake up and think, "Gee, I need some learnin'!"

But by then it is mostly too late - they do not have the study skills, the background knowledge, reading ability, or math skills, plus most will be burdened with bills and likely, family responsibilities. That is simply the reality of the situation.

If folks spent as much time analyzing the true impact of today's outside influences on the children we are given to teach as they do blaming our teaching performance for all of society's ills, they might begin to understand all the things that are working against those of us who would like very much to impart to our students the motivation and skills necessary for school success. Don't just drop by for a visit. Come join us in the DAILY struggle and then you can comment on our "attitudes."

I also think we need to keep in mind that not all students should be expected to go to a four year university. There are plenty of labor, service, and trade positions that keep our world going. Students who choose not to enter a college setting and instead pursue any of the above careers are just as valuable, as are their accomplishments.

I would implore that the defenders read the burb above (and the study) carefully. There was no stipulation of ALL. The question had to do with MOST.

It also did not ask about whether students would CHOOSE college or community college, but whether or not they would be able to succeed there. This is important, because the skills needed for success there are generally the same minimal skills needed for other types of post secondary options--vocational, military, jobs with advancement possibilities.

It is disconcerting that as early as elementary school such a high percentage of teachers believes that (MOST OF THEIR) kids won't be able to make it. Certainly there are other forces at work, but it is high time we stop separating them into those inside the school and those outside (that are somebody else's problem). Schools are and ought to be a part of their community and our (democratic) society. To the extent that teachers believe that they are being handed substandard "materials" (ie. students) by some "other" invisible entity, we will remain stuck where we are.

In reply to Margaret and others,

I wish schools were again the community centers they once were - but in some areas that is a difficult task. Unfortunetly most of my students would not handle college well - they are having a hard time at high school. I teach at an inner city school but the problem is not unique to this setting.

The problem is not so much the math and reading - although those are important- it's the self discipline. Students today - in all schools - are losing the ability to self monitor and motivate themselves to do work that is not necessarily "entertaining" to them. Whether you want to blame the cartoons, music videos, parents, teachers, society in general, it's a problem that needs attention. I have plenty of high acheiving students who will have a hard time in a college lecture hall. It takes all the bells & whistles to get them engaged in my class. Most college classes - especially core classes like freshman comp, or intro to calculus skip the bells and whistles.

In my opinion instilling self discipline needs to start young - I'm starting with my toddler. If it's reinforced in life and school, and taught & backed up at home hopefully it will become part of her personality / character. In my opinion this isn't just a school & teacher problem.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Laurie: In reply to Margaret and others, I wish schools were read more
  • Margaret Sorensen: I would implore that the defenders read the burb above read more
  • Debra: I also think we need to keep in mind that read more
  • Susie Wells: If folks spent as much time analyzing the true impact read more
  • Warren Phillips: Anyone who thinks that "all kids can succeed" in academics read more




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