Saturday, August 16, 2008

The good, and the bad and ugly

Texas education has had two happenings reported on this week that have made an impression on me--one good, one very much not. To give full credit, I saw both of these stories on Joanne Jacobs' education blog site (I've linked to it as one of my favorites over on the right), and followed her links to the full story on both of these.

The Good

One small town district has okayed their faculty and staff to carry on school grounds to protect the students. Some are probably rather freaked out by the idea, sure that the guns will escape and start killing students. One of the individuals commenting on Jacobs' site mentioned a fear of seeing a headline about a teacher shooting a student. I think that maybe, just maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Imagine if a teacher had been carrying in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999. Klebold and Harris's massacre might have ended with just them.

(I also support the right to carry on college campuses. Virginia Tech is the reason, there. One of the casualties of that attack was a Holocaust survivor who tried to shield his students with his own body. I don't know that he would have stopped Cho permanently, but someone would have.)

More than that, the school district is close to the interstate, and a little too far from the sheriff's department for any calls to get someone there in time to prevent tragedy, whether that's another school shooting by a student, an intruder, or some smart jihadist that figures out that hitting a school would hurt us worse than hitting the World Trade Center.

The Bad and Ugly

The other story has to do with the Dallas area school district. That is a bloody disaster waiting to happen. According to the school district's superintendent, teachers are "accept late work, give retests to students who fail and force teachers to drop homework grades that would drag down a student's class average." Some think it's a good idea, that it provides "'a safety net' that some teachers are unwilling to provide."

I think that this is going to add much more to the load of work that teachers already carry, when they receive assignments weeks, or months, late--or even all of it at once at the end of the year. It's going to make classroom management harder, when the students learn that they don't have to do the work that the teachers assign, or study for the tests, or anything, really, that the teachers tell them to do. It's going to teach students that they don't have to be accountable for their actions.

And later, when they fail the state assessment tests to graduate, they'll have no understanding that failure was an option. This new policy is simply not going to prepare students for "do you want fries with that?" much less college.

This is an example of what I tell my students when they're embarrassed by their lack of writing abilities starting out in Freshman Composition I: it's not their fault that they've been ill-served by their public school districts.

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