Your article, “Seen and Heard,” by Antonia Lewandowski [Comment, March/April] is very encouraging. I applaud her premise that if students do not take responsibility for their own learning, the effect of education and instruction of teachers is limited. I became a high school math teacher after an 18-year career in industry, and I see students’ attitudes toward learning as the primary obstacle preventing success in our schools. It’s good to see that an education researcher realizes that teachers need the cooperation of their students in order to have success. It’s time to get the word out that teachers can only do so much as long as students don’t do their share.
East Mecklenburg High School
Charlotte, North Carolina
Thanks for “Seen and Heard” by Antonia Lewandowski. The NCLB Act clearly holds teachers accountable for student performance, but allows no room for consideration of thorny issues such as student motivation. A decade of experience has dramatically improved my ability to teach, yet 30 to 50 percent of my students continue to be unreceptive regardless of how meaningful and relevant my lessons may be.
I believe the true reason students can continue to function at a minimal compliance level is due to a systemic failure to hold students accountable for their academic success. California now has a high school exit exam. Too many students, especially in low socioeconomic school districts, have failed, and typically the debate centers on whether to offer alternative methods for earning a diploma and how to improve the quality of teachers.
Several years ago, the English department head of our feeder high school acknowledged that they had “given up” assigning homework because too many simply did not do it. Our district does not retain students and only considers their GPAs at the end of middle school. Students who have spent three years doing nothing attend one month of summer school and earn the right to pass on to high school.
We do not follow the diagnostics for placement of students in our programs, so students who have failed a primary level are simply moved on to the next level. The time allotted to teach our ELD programs has been cut by a third. They arrive in the mainstream program unable to function beyond the 5th grade.
Until we factor in the many ways in which our efforts to teach are stymied by students and those above us who make unacceptable decisions, NCLB is guaranteed to fail.