Are Our Schools Broken For Some Students?
We received a comment from a citizen about PC CAPS. She said, “My son is a ‘square peg in a round hole’ when it comes to school. All of his teachers lament how incredibly bright he is, yet the standard classes with busy work bore him senseless and he struggles with grades. PC CAPS doesn’t have a GPA requirement, so it is open to ALL students, which is great for those who are struggling and might want to explore the professional world to see if somewhere that they could flourish…I think we need more programs like CAPS for students who don’t learn by sitting in a classroom.”
I have heard similar comments from many parents about their kids in Park City. What I think this commenter is saying is that school is broken for her child. This somewhat ties into what another citizen said when she recommended watching Sir Ken Robinson’s video on why our entire educational system is broken. Our commenter seems to be looking at PC CAPS as THE alternative, because it is one of the only alternatives to traditional school in our school system.
What I have wondered for a while, though, is whether our schools our taking the wrong approach when looking at standardized tests and that focus impacts the very students they are trying to help. For instance, the SAGE standardized test results came out and Park City’s results were bad (as were most schools). Our High School math results hovered at somewhere between abysmal (39% proficient in secondary math II) to failing (50% proficient in Secondary Math III). Out of this came a decision by our school system to double down, and come hell or high water, improve the scores. I get it. When you want to not only be the best school district in the state, but the best school district in the country you want metrics to prove it. Yet that strategy seems to be failing a number of kids.
We already know that we have one of the better school districts in the state. Our teachers (on average) are the highest paid in the state. It stands to reason that we therefore get the best and brightest educators available. Do I, as a parent, want them to teach to some standardized test? No, I want teachers to use their creativity to engage students. When I took calculus I learned to calculate the area underneath a curve. When I complained, “when will I ever use this?” the answer was always, “probably never” but it will teach you to think. And it did teach me to think — and no I haven’t used it.
In the case of Park City schools, instead of trying to get our standardized test scores up, should we say “who cares”? Should we focus on creatively educating our students? Should we not depend on an hour of PC CAPS twice a week for the last few years of school as the alternative for kids who need a different experience?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a PHD in education. I don’t teach in schools and am not an educator. So, am I even qualified to ask these questions? I’m sure
some many would say no.
However, I am the guy who wants to hire your kid as a software engineer when they graduate, or get their GRE, or they decide to be the next Sean Parker when they are 16. So, I have a huge vested interest in your kid’s outcome but perhaps a less vested interest in how they get there. What I hate to see is wasted talent or worse yet talent that has been squelched. It sounds like, in some cases, the latter is happening.
Would a start be offering a different kind of Dual Immersion? Today’s Dual Immersion is based around becoming fluent in a foreign language during your child’s formative years. I think I heard that at the end of the dual immersion program at Park City schools, kids would only be 30 hours away from a college minor in their language. Uhhh…really is that a benefit? Again, I think the point of the program is likely to make our kids think and expand their brains. If that’s the case, why not offer a different type of dual immersion? One that’s focused on learning and creativity. One that provides the experience necessary to succeed in the real world and not just compete on Jeopardy.
Park City has always been known as a leader in education in Utah. Perhaps it should use a little of that influence to provide alternatives to some of our brightest, but most bored, students.
I’m not in education either, but I think funding for public schools is somehow tied to all of these tests. Having said that, I totally agree with you. I would love to see lots of different programs for kids that aren’t just classroom based. With college becoming more expensive, it would be beneficial to also have trade programs and apprenticeships in high school. Though knowledge is never wasted, it might not be the best financial decision to spend four years in college for someone who ends up making a living in as an electrician or plumber, so why not offer a taste of those types of things as well?
I would love to see all kids graduate from high school with life skills as well. Knowing and understanding how credit works and can hurt/help you in the real world, what kind of conduct and dress code is appropriate for a job interview, how to build a resume and how to make a budget (just to name a few).
It’s interesting. I was talking with some friends about this and one had a very different view point. He said, “I get someone would want to provide a more exciting experience to engage more students in high school but does reflect reality?” He continued on to talk about college and the fact that the state school he went to started out with “300 person” weed out classes in every major discipline (math, english, biology). He said that a lot of people find their job boring and that learning to deal with and excel in that environment is some of what a boring high school experience teaches you.
I don’t know that i completely agree with that but I think there is something to his thought process.
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