I read with interest your front-page article “States Take Steps to Put More Rigor Into High Schools” (March 2, 2005). My current job involves tutoring college applicants who have failed a placement test, and this gives me a vantage point that many in public education may not have.
Here are some of the comments I’ve heard from recent high school graduates. After a demonstration of problems that involve adding and subtracting negative numbers and using a number line, two students told me, “We never learned anything like this.” Another recent graduate I showed how to multiply and divide with positive and negative numbers said, “I don’t know any of this. Not one thing.”
While I was teaching a free SAT-preparation class for high school juniors, one young man approached me almost in tears. “I know I am in real trouble here,” he said. “I want to go to college, but my teachers have not shown me one thing on this test.”
On my sample test, he had answered few questions—nowhere near the level required by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for the sports scholarship he hoped to receive.
The problem is not students who don’t want to learn. Perhaps there are some like that, but I rarely see them. I see students who need more teaching, not more wasted class time. I see students who need hope and support, not more high-stakes tests.
Single-Subject Credential Student (Math)
Santa Clara, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as Is More Rigor the Answer For U.S. High Schools?