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TIME Article: What's Wrong with Our High Schools?

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
edited April 2006 in Parents Forum
"In today's data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly one out of three public high school students won't graduate...

For Latinos and African-Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50 percent. Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem."

Post edited by Roger_Dooley on

Replies to: TIME Article: What's Wrong with Our High Schools?

  • jaybeejaybee Registered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    I think that the number of dropouts is going to increase with what I think are insane expectations in Math for our high schoolers. In my son's school, consumer math no longer exists. EVERYONE must pass Algebra 1,2, and Geometry, and will soon have to pass standardized tests in all of them.

    Incoming freshmen that are weak in math are being forced to take two mods of math per day so that they can hopefully someday pass these tests. I can think of no better way to turn off a poor math student than have him sit for 90 minutes a day in Algebra.

    When I was in high school, there were many alternatives for a child to get through math and become a functional member of society, even if he was not college-bound. I can see no reason for non college-bound kids to need some of the skills that are being required.
  • jlauer95jlauer95 . Posts: 2,537 Senior Member
    This does NOT surprise me at all. Schools expect kids to show up with their homework done, study for tests, behave in class, etc and if kids aren't expected by their parents to do this, then grades fall and the kids want out.

    There is not a government program that can really change this (throwing more money at it is not the answer -- states that spend over 10K per kid still have this problem).

    Moreover, Parents need to keep "distractions" to a minimum with their kids -- video games, TV, internet, etc. Again, there is no gov't program that can fix that.
  • jlauer95jlauer95 . Posts: 2,537 Senior Member

    What state requires Alg II to grad high school??

    Most publics only require Alg II and higher if a kid is in a "college prep" track.

    Is this a private school? My kids' Catholic school requires Alg II.
  • jaybeejaybee Registered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    Baltimore County Public Schools--ours is not a magnet school or vocational--just a districted school. I got into it with a middle school principal about why all these kids need this math--I was told that even an auto mechanic may someday need Algebra II. I begged to disagree.

    From the Baltimore County course guide:
    "Required courses:
    Students are required to earn 3 credits in mathematics, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry." (and they must soon pass standardized tests in Algebra I and Geometry to graduate)

    My son took these at a standard level. He got B's and C's with a lot of help from me, and at a score of 500 on the SAT, he is neither good nor impaired at math. I can't imagine what the school is going through with less competent and supported students.
  • momof2incamomof2inca Registered User Posts: 3,484 Senior Member
    Algebra II to graduate??? That's insane, jaybee! I've never heard of that from a public school district before.
  • jaybeejaybee Registered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    The funny thing is that the course registrations say that three math credits are required, two of which must be algebra I and geometry, but no lower level classes are offered. No pre-algebra, consumer math, etc, to get that 3rd credit. The next easiest class is Algebra II.
    I remember the principal of the HS saying at the beginning of last year that no courses lower than Algebra I will be offered at the high school any more.

    I'll do some further research on this to make sure that there's no other way out. Maybe all of these kids taking double mods of Algebra I are getting 2 credits?
  • jlauer95jlauer95 . Posts: 2,537 Senior Member
    Many kids "hit a brick wall" when they get to Alg II (even kids who are "good at math"). These kids seem to have trouble with functions, slope, and factoring. Even "good teachers" sometimes have trouble teaching these concepts in the short time that they have. "Fair teachers" have an even bigger problem...

    Because of this, I think schools that require (or strongly suggest) Alg II should offer some kind of short term summer class that concentrates on just those few things that can keep a kid from getting off to a good start in Alg II. The summer class could be "extra credit" and or simply no credit/no grade -- just an opportunity to learn some of the things that trip kids up early on.

    Right now, I see kids immediately get bad grades in their first quarter, get frustrated and "feel stupid". And once they get an F or two on a test, they can hardly bring their grade back up by the marking period.

    It doesn't have to be this way. At my kids' Catholic school, I have made such a recommendation because we have "lost" too many students over the Alg II issue. It's a shame to see kids have to leave their school after sophomore or junior year just because they couldn't pass Alg II. One of my son's best friends won't be back for his senior year because of this. How sad!!!

    It would be a win/win for our school -- kids would pass and school would continue to get tuition. And, it would be a win/win for publics too. Kids won't drop out of school if they can pass Alg II.

    For example: I was worried about my kids trying to learn a foreign language (Spanish) because my French classes were the hardest for me So.... the year before they started the class, I had them watch the Spanish Standard Deviants DVDs. It worked!!! Both boys are the top Spanish students in their classes and have won the Spanish awards each year. I am sure that if they hadn't had that "no pressure" head start, they would have not done as well.
  • jlauer95jlauer95 . Posts: 2,537 Senior Member
    <<< double mods of Algebra I are getting 2 credits? >>>

    I doubt that. then kids would take Spanish I twice and count it as two years of a language.
  • simbasimba Registered User Posts: 6,092 Senior Member
    "I still blame the parents"

    Ditto.....and it starts at the elementary school level. Kids are getting de-tuned after the first and second grade.
  • jaybeejaybee Registered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    Between Algebra I and II, my son found the first the hardest. Had to take it one year in MS and repeat it again in HS. The multi-step procedures really threw him (find the slope using 2 sets of points, plug the slope back into the y=mx +b, convert to standard formula, etc, etc.) Algebra II was easier for him since factoring, etc. was single-step.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,472
    Algebra II is required to get INTO high school (from junior high) in the country my wife is from. Yeah, if everyone thinks the way to deal with a challenge is to make it less challenging, then our country's education system is in trouble.

    And, yes, most industrial jobs for blue-collar workers in high-efficiency companies require knowledge of algebra II, at least, to keep up with current technology. Jobs that take less knowledge are done in places with lower wages, by far, than in the United States.
  • jaybeejaybee Registered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    tokenadult, while I think it is laudable that as many students take as high a level of math as they are capable of, I am also uncomfortable with kids dropping out of high school because of requirements that some children of normal to slightly below average intelligence cannot achieve.
    Some kids are intellectually limited not to a special-ed standard, but to a level where their future jobs may require a high school diploma, but not abstract math skills.
  • jlauer95jlauer95 . Posts: 2,537 Senior Member
    It's not that I have a problem with schools requiring Alg II, nor do I think that they should make the class easier. I think that if it is required to graduate then schools need to be sure that kids LEARN it and that may mean offering some kind of "pre-Alg II" during the summer to learn the concepts that trip up even "good students" when fall classes start.

    Or, if a school only requires 3 years of math, offer it as a one year and a two year course. That way, those who struggle, can have 2 years to learn the concepts. Those who have no problem can finish in one year and move on to higher math. (our school requires 4 years of math so this wouldn't be an option for us, which is why I suggested the summer "pre alg II" class.)
  • jlauer95jlauer95 . Posts: 2,537 Senior Member

    My thoughts exactly. There are MANY kids who WILL drop out if they are required to pass Alg II with the system as it currently is (no summer "pre alg II" or other similar help).

    As far as higher math and sciences goe, many kids in this country do NOT have a parent who is strong in these subjects who can provide "instant" help.

    (I recently pointed this out to our principal -- the kids who were easily passing Alg II ALL had at least one parent who was strong in math who was "co-teaching" the kid at home. The kids didn't have such parents were FAILING. )

    Don't get me wrong.... we need to prepare our kids for the high-tech world of tomorrow. But we can't just make the demand and not have a well-thought out plan as to how to reach that goal.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,472
    Yes, the basic problem is crummy math instruction in elementary schools leaving kids unable to move on to what is the minimal international standard in math by the time they get to junior high. The thing to fix here is elementary school math instruction--there are already plenty of places where parents who didn't learn that level of math in childhood have the happy experience of seeing their children go beyond the level they reached. The United States just has to learn from the countries where early math education is more successful.


This discussion has been closed.