I'm all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults.
- Gore Vidal
A new poll finds stark differences in the way parents and teachers view the situation in American schools. Some points to consider:
"...less than half of parents say student discipline is a serious concern at school ... Two in three [teachers] call children's misbehavior a major problem."
I might just be getting old, but from personal experience both as a pupil and a teacher, I find that values like respect, discipline and just plain old common decency have taken a distinct turn for the worse. We teachers regularly hear language between pupils and are ourselves subjected to personal abuse that would have been unthinkable when I was in high school (back in the stone age).
"On testing, the poll found teachers are much more likely than parents to say standardized exams get too much emphasis. Yet most parents and teachers agree testing has weakened the ability of educators to give individual attention to students."
I'm in two minds about this. I am all in favor of standardized tests, because I think this is the only way we can reasonably measure a school's performance. It would be absurd and ignorant to claim that all schools, be they in Norway or in the U.S., perform equally. So long as education remains a public concern we therefore need tools to measure performance and find out where we need to make improvements. However, in my experience the tests we currently use are not always very well made, and not necessarily relevant to the curricula we teach from. More than cutting down on standardized testing, we probably need to cut down on some of the more obscure requirements for what to teach. So much of what we're supposed to be teaching is of little relevance and use to the pupils.
"...43% of parents say low expectations of students is a serious problem; 54% of teachers say the same, including almost two in three teachers in high school."
Major problem over here too. Many pupils - in some classes a majority - are quite content with not flunking. And we keep lowering the bar for that, too. International studies show that Norwegian pupils today are 6-12 months behind the level we were only ten years ago. That's downright scary, especially considering that we've added an extra school year at the beginning (school start was lowered from 7 to 6 years of age).
Time for an old man's rant: Kids today seem to expect to get everything handed to them on a silver platter. I can give the same message half a dozen times, in writing or spoken - yet when time comes for a test or a hand-in, half the class haven't even prepared, or started writing the assignment. With only a handful of exceptions, no one ever opens a book before they get to school, so they're never prepared for what's going to happen in class. Yet, I'm the meanie for not giving them better grades! (I'll freely admit to being a meanie, but I want to be credited for actual meanness, not for simply doing my job!)
Also, it is downright horrifying to discover what high-schoolers simply do not know. If you don't know which way is north and south on a map, if you don't know the difference between a noun and a verb, if you don't who's prime minister of your own country... you're simply too ignorant to be let out of elementary school. There are several components to this, we can blame both the media and the parents. But I fear that the main reason is the lax atmosphere in elementary school, where you often find teachers with relatively little education in the subjects they're teaching (it should be noted that the grade average for many of the people who enter teaching colleges is atrocious!), and who treat the classrooms more as an extension of Kindergarten than a place for actual learning.