I receive a lot of e-mails that make me cringe but this e-mail sent to me earlier this summer is one of those that I think about all the time as it raises an unsettling issue.
Why are there so-called honor graduates in the very top rungs of their high school classes who seem woefully unprepared, not only for college, but for high school?
In my few years teaching news writing at college, I used to despair when I read some student work. The disparity in the quality of student performance by the high school they had attended shocked me. I could almost predict student grades by their former high school.
Students were surprised when I talked to them about their lack of writing fundamentals, telling me they earned top grades in high school. Yet, they didn’t even understand subject-verb agreement.
Here is a distressing e-mail from someone who volunteers with an APS student. I figured that we might as well get into these tough issues since we are talking about APS and especially in light to today’s story by Alan Judd.
Judd examine some of the findings of the Blue Ribbon Commission report on how cheating occurred in the 12 worse schools.
I wonder if this student is the outcome of teachers and administrators “helping” her along by improving her test scores? I imagine the problem goes beyond test scores; This was probably a good kid who came to school, did her homework and wanted to do well. And her grades reflected that effort, but not true mastery of the material.
I have taken out some identifying information from this e-mail:
I am writing you because I am thoroughly disgusted at Atlanta’s inability to fix it’s school system. I am even more perplexed that APS, with executive offices held by African Americans, continues to allow for inequality in education based on race and financial status. I mentor an African American student. She has done well in school and just graduated from an Atlanta high school with honors and in the very top of her class. She, along with dozens of others, proudly stood at graduation when they asked who was off to college in the fall.
But we don’t know that she will be. While her grades were great, her SAT scores won’t get her into any four year Georgia institutions. How many other proud honor students stood up that day to show the entire audience at the Atlanta Civic Center that they were off to college in the fall and won’t be?
In the top 10% of her class, this girl received, if lucky, a 5th grade education equivalent by 12th grade. This isn’t her fault — she is smart, the bar is clearly set so low, the standards for acceptable knowledge is so low that these new “Dr. Hall Schools” are graduating the equivalent of 10-year-olds that will not get in or likely flunk out of college.
My challenge for you is to find a graduating class that is mostly African Americans, focus on their top 10 percent of graduates and investigate how many are really qualified to attend a four year accredited college. and then, how many were given the tools and guidance needed to actually apply and get accepted. My guess is on all counts, the story will be dismal. Our schools are failing our students. I think that in order to graduate more students, they are simply lowering the bar and only focusing on getting kids prepped to pass the state tests for APS’ “numbers.”
I am not a “complainer” by nature. This is just really hitting a chord with me.