June 18, 2009

This Is Our Future

I cannot help but feel that we are doing a huge disservice to our youth when we pass them from grade to grade without first mastering the concepts that are taught.

As I write this, I am sitting in the computer lab while my students write their narrative essays. It's shocking, even to me, some of the things I have to explain. For example, how is it that high school students don't know how to write sentences. Even simple sentences. And I'm not even talking about the lazy kids yet; I'm only talking about those that legitimately cannot write a complete sentence to save their lives.
When I ask them to include dialogue in their papers, several students seriously asked me, "What's dialogue?" We spent an entire hour yesterday reviewing the procedures for punctuating dialogue. Not even writing it well... just punctuating it properly.

As I circulated the room a while ago, I noticed that nearly every student was writing their essay as one giant paragraph. One student tried to tell me he was done with this paper, and when I asked him, "Where are your paragraphs?" his response was, "You didn't say we needed them." Really? Do I need to tell them that capitalization and punctuation are required as well?

It's extremely disheartening to me that these students are lower than my seventh graders. Yes, I know that I am teaching to a different population and with different resources, but I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have to modify a 7th grade curriculum to make it easy enough for high school students.

My district has made it perfectly clear that they will not retain students (no matter how much they lack in academic ability) because of the emotional and social implications of holding them back. My response, though, is that we need to consider what happens to the these students when they are unable to achieve academic success because they haven't learned the basics?

Furthermore, how much of a disservice are we doing to society as a whole when we fail to provide these students with the education necessary for success outside of the classroom. I shutter to think about some of these students applying for jobs (although I teach freshmen, I have juniors in my class) because they cannot write, read or speak appropriately.

And what is the solution? How do we solve this problem? I don't have all the answers, but I think it has to start at the elementary level - and it just might include retention.

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