Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Year in Review: What's Wrong with Public Education

We did it. Another year of school and we survived. Three months of freedom. With each year of school, the less I believe in the educational system. Here are my top three peeves. Feel free to chime in with your own.
Attendance School

This is my school's euphemism for detention. If you're late to class, detention. If you sluff, detention. I have a 94% in English.  That should be an A, but I was two minutes late to class one day. It's first period. Sometimes my carpool's late. Thirty seconds late to class = two hours in attendance school. Now I have to do detention just as if I sluffed or I won't get a grade in that class. If I were a senior, I wouldn't be able to graduate.

The machine you are currently staring at is called a computer. News flash, it's a machine. It has no opinions and no knowledge of the outside world.
So logically, we should use it to grade persuasive essays.
MyAccess reads through essays and gives you points for long words and long sentences. You get docked if you put "who" for "whom" or piss off spell check. I went to Oquirrh Hills Middle School. Typing that will take you down a few notches. And if your name is Allisynne, Lakyn, or Ensley, you can't even put your name on it.
One boy fed it a perfectly good Finding Nemo essay full of whoms and long sentences. He got a 6 (100%). That didn't have anything to do with the essay topic, but the computer didn't care.
It doesn't stop there. For awhile, there was a glitch that gave you a 6 for putting Jesus in your essay. My friend typed "In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen" for her concluding sentence. Six. Can't argue with Jesus.
Common Core
It's supposed to revolutionize the math and language arts programs. As far as I can tell, it's only managed to demolish math. So far.
Here's the old system, tried, tested, and true: Math 7. Pre-Algebra. Algebra 1. Geometry. Algebra 2. You go through most of those in middle school. In high school you'll take calculus and pre-calculus.
Then somebody got the bright idea to shove it all into one. The theory is we'll learn geometry and algebra in the same year. The new classes have vague names like "Secondary Mathematics 2H."
Brilliant idea, right? So brilliant that they jumped into this curriculum right away in 2011. No need to worry about textbooks or tests. Nope, the brilliance will take care of itself.
I didn't have a textbook for my entire freshman year. It hasn't been written yet. A few months ago, they came up with this:

For those of you who can't remember school, math books are supposed to look like this:

This is what I had in eighth grade, before common core. Heavy but useful. Definitely not spiral bound. Produced by an actual company and not the district.  Halfway through this school year, my seventh grade brother finally got a textbook. It looks like this:

But enough with the textbook rants. They haven't even bothered to create an end of year test for us. So, we get off free? Focus on our other tests?
They do what they did with my brother's math book. Recycle the old stuff. We took the same test two years in a row. This year, someone in the educational system grew a brain cell and we got off without a test.
If you're not going to be an architect or engineer, you only need to know math to pass the tests. What was I supposed to learn this year?

The public education system is failing. I'm all to aware with that. Most of the arguments you read focus on funding and administration. Money and legislation are like oxygen. We don't make it ourselves and we have no idea where it comes from, but it's vital as it's invisible.
We may not understand the technicalities. We certainly don't know the statistics. What we know is school. Unlike the school superintendent who hides in a comfy office behind a laptop, this is our life. We see education with a clipboard to block our view.
We're affected by education reform the same way a thirteen year old leukemia patient is affected by the health care bill. Just like her, we have no control over what happens in our lives. Because we're too stupid to understand the technical side of things. We know nothing.
They give us our little student organizations, peppy kids who wear cardigans and paint posters for assemblies. But no power. Speaking up only earns you a detention. What we need is actual influence or education will march on the same way it always has. 

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