Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I've got a plan

The man who fails to plan, plans to fail. Plans are good. After all, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. The role of planning is so important, that there is good money to be made in planning (financial planning, wedding planning, travel planning, planning planning, etc.)

In education, there are many, many plans. There are plans on what to teach, plans on who to teach, plans on how to teach, plans on when to teach. Plans, plans, plans. Ideologically, platitudinous, diplomatic plans are grand in scope, and morally sensible but many a plan exists for the sole purpose of having a plan, giving the newspapers fodder for the masses when the plan is revealed to the public at a fancy press conference. What is noticeably dearth are plans on how to effectively execute a plan. A plan, to be a plan at all, must extend past the press conference where the politician announces a righteous, bold, admirable plan, then walks away feeling good about himself for caring so much.

Why do I bring this up?

I was excited this morning by the beginnings of an article in our local newspaper whose headline read, "Kevin Korpi is the most awesome dad, husband, son, teacher, and pet owner in the world." Then I awoke from my pleasant dream and read the real paper. In it, there was an article titled, "Plan aims to reduce college remedial classes." "A good plan," I thought to myself. Being a teacher of college level classes in a high school, I became immediately interested and actually began reading it, instead of heading straight to crossword puzzle.

It turns out that more than 50% of students entering college or universities must take remediation classes their freshman year. Colleges are becoming increasingly frustrated with students' inability to think critically and their lack of requisite knowledge. Welcome to MY world, Doctor math!

Seriously, though, it is becoming a major problem, as universities, the last bastion of rigor and high expectations, is having to cater to the inept multitudes. The increased revenue generated from the "extra" classes is no longer enough to offset the anguish and overcrowding these schools must endure. In the interest of thwarting what is becoming a "watering down" of college curriculum, thereby devaluing the coveted degree, universities are heralding a plan that will put more pressure on high school to remediate college-bound students prior to granting a diploma.

What has been happening, though, is the the high school diploma has steadily devalued through the years. The plan on one hand is to make ALL high school students college eligible, but the plan on the other hand is to make them ALL college ready. Therein lies the problem.

It is politically proper to speak of "free ponies and riding lessons for all," but is that really what everyone needs? Certainly, those who want a college education and are willing to work hard to get there deserve that chance, but by pushing the multitudes toward college, we're sending students who might not be ready, have the motivation, the ambition, or the skills required. This is what has lead to the dilution of the majority of the high school curriculum. We lowering the bar and redefining success, we are sending students to universities who don't appreciate what real academic rigor is.

"We've lost sight of what is acceptable," said Raymund Paredes, the state's [of Texas] higher education commissioner. "Readiness is about rigor. You can require schools to teach Faulkner and Hemingway, but the question is: What do you expect students to say about those works?"
The plan, is not to curtail the push for college enrollment, but just the opposite. They still want to get more student's to the bachelor degree status, the plan is just to do it without all the remediation . . . . . . in college. I guess that means that the 66% of middle school students who fail their TAKS test, but still "graduate" to high school at the "mutual" agreement of the principal, teacher, and noisy parent are going to have to actually stay behind and actually learn the material (that was in the paper just two weeks ago.)

How do they plan to do this? The plan is overly simple: redefine the academic standards. Once the National Standards have been redefined, the States themselves will be in charge of announcing the plan and changing their own standards to reflect the National standards. This new definition will eventually trickle down to the classroom teacher who will be responsible for devising a plan to bring the new standards to fruition. So the teacher, who is already struggling to get students to pass the TAKS test, must now get them to pass a college entrance exam, while the bureaucrat gets reelected, lauded for his vision.


New Plan:
Remediation is not an option. (Repeat)
Students will learn what they are supposed to learn
Students will mind their teachers
Students will not fail
Teachers will not fail
Free Ph.D.s for everyone
This plan will work (Repeat)

With that plan now in print, I have successfully made remedial college classes and the titles of "Mr./Mrs." obsolete.

Vote Korpi in 2008


Anonymous said...

Just wait till we declare college a part of our free education system for all. Your local school board will be in charge of k-16 and we will simply continue what we do now in elementary, middle and high school: pass them on to ever higher levels of educational bliss. Pretty soon thereafter a PhD will be the entrance requirement to flip burgers at the local hamburger stand.

kwkorpi said...

Knowledge, knowledge everywhere, and not a thought to think . . .