We'll keep it going...
"...for those 95% or so of kids who are educable the schools, our agency for teaching, are responsible for students' learning." (KDeRosa comment)
I think we can all agree the vast majority, 95% according to KDeRosa, are educable. Which would mean that, should those students choose to learn, to involve themselves with the instruction they are receiving, whether that instruction is perfect or not, they can learn. And that, if teacher instruction is not effective, certainly the teacher is to blame.
"The six hours, 180 days a year are sufficient to teach what you need to teach them assuming they have the necessary pre-skills coming in and attend class regularly." (KDeRosa comment)
Well, the elementary school teacher has the student for that amount of time, minus other important instructional time in the fine arts, technology, and physical fitness. We cannot forget the importance of well-rounded individuals. BUT, for the average high school teacher, we see a student for 50 minutes a day, for 180 days, minus absences, assemblies, two week testing periods, and the far too many days the Central Office pulls the teacher out for meetings. He qualifies his statement with the assumption of previous skill comprehension, but every high school teacher knows that Middle Schools do not hold students accountable because they are too worried about social promotion.
"You probably have a heterogeneous classroom with a wide range of student ability. You target instruction toward to[sic] the average student. You moveon [sic]to the next topic when the average students learn the material. Now you're surprised when the low performers who have been taught above their ability level at a pace that is too fast for them with the cumulative effect being that they fall further and further behind as the year progresses. And, you're actually surprised because they are unmotivated and disengaged. And, the parents of these kids, probably the least capable parents, are supposed to be picking up the slack at home." (KDeRosa comment)
Here is where I have some questions that perhaps will offend some in the education world. Recent trends in education have gone away from the tracking system, placing students with like skills together, in favor of the more politically correct feel good system. This system assumes that all students have equal levels of intellectual capabilities. Is this what we really believe? I for one, know that there are people who are much more intelligent than me, and that if I were placed in a class with them, I would be the lowest denominator. Is that good for me? Is that good for them?
Issue Four: In response to a question on motivating students:
"That's an easy one. Teach them better. And to find out if you actually taught, you need to check to see what the student has actually learned. Students who are learning tend to be motivated to learn. Of course, there are no guarantees if the student came to you unmotivated and with a history of non-learning." (KDeRosa comment)
This response is judgemental at best. The automatic assumption on the part of a blogger, researcher, parent, newspaper, or federal worker (Spellings?) that a teacher has not taught them well is an assumption that is demeaning to the our profession. The reality is that the answer is far too simplistic. Teach them better? That reminds me of the time I worked construction while in college. A co-worker dropped a 12ft section of guardrail on his foot, broke three toes. The foreman came over, looked, and said, "Walk it off." A little too simplistic.
Sure, every student can learn something with good instruction. But, not every student can reach the standards we want to hold them to. It goes to that whole Multiple Intelligences things. There are some people who will never care to read a novel, infer the deeper meaning, explain the metaphor, or write a five paragraph essay persuading the reader that the narrator was an unreliable one; but that same person will be able to pull apart the engine of my Jeep Wrangler and put it back together so that it works. I can't do that. Good teaching won't be able to get me to do that. Yeah, I could pick up a few things, but I won't ever get a job as a mechanic because I don't want to. The mechanic could provide all types of great lessons and activities to excite me about learning the inside of an engine, but I still won't want to.
So, if the student doesn't want to learn the material, KDeRosa, no amount of better teaching will convince them otherwise.