Only 1/3 of Illinois elementary students scored well enough to meet expectations on math tests. That means that the remaining 2/3 of elementary students are not "on track" for the next grade level. Students scored just slightly higher on the language arts tests. In Wisconsin, the results were considerably higher, with close to 1/2 of the students scoring well in the math exams and a little over half scoring well in the language arts tests. But that still leaves about 50% of the students not on course for higher education.
In Illinois high schools, the picture is much worse, with 31% of students scoring well enough in English and only 17% scoring well enough in math. That means nearly 80% of Illinois students are not on path to go to college. Wisconsin high-schoolers scored higher, but the results were not great. Some areas in Wisconsin and Illinois scored higher than other areas. Milwaukee test results were considerably lower than other parts of the state and likewise with Chicago and Illinois. In fact, some parts of Chicago were, at best, dismal!
So what's the problem? Do school districts need more of our money? No! A lack of money is not the problem! Is it the textbooks that are used? No! Then it must be the teachers, right? People could make a case about certain teachers who are only in it for the paycheck or who are not trying hard enough. But those people would be wrong. Teachers are not the problem! Teachers need to be thanked for putting up with so much nonsense and aggravation! Too many times, teachers are found trying to keep peace in the classroom instead of teaching... out of necessity!
If not teachers, then who is to blame? Sometimes the whole system is messed up, making it nearly impossible for teachers to teach. I recall doing research a year ago and being dumbfounded by what I uncovered. It was really disheartening. In Atlanta, the superintendent and principals in the City of Atlanta school system established an environment of minimal learning. There was a widespread test cheating scandal with the school authorities (superintendent, principals and many teachers) doing the cheating! They would systematically erase wrong answers and replace them with right answers. The students didn't have to do anything except show up and keep silent. Many of the teachers and higher-ups were either fired or jailed.
In Detroit, it was worse! The superintendent, board, principals, and teachers worked together to create a system of non-learning. They didn't change test scores; they just didn't care. I couldn't believe it at first, but after further re-search, I saw it was completely true. Wow! An education system not based on teaching or learning. Any teacher that would try to actually teach and not comply with the "system" was removed. I'm not kidding. The whole Detroit school system was just a holding place for students. It was just one huge "babysitting" service. And all the teachers and everyone involved got paid well - and some, really well! The money for textbooks, learning materials, desks, and other supplies found its way into other "pockets". Anybody who tried to correct the situation was railroaded out. Any students who really wanted to learn were not heard. It didn't matter how many millions of dollars were dumped in... the Detroit school system was completely broken, beyond repair.
This was the worst case I saw, but other major U.S. cities, including Chicago, struggle all the time. City school systems are a combination of teaching/learning and "babysitting" services. Many cities put forth an effort to really teach the kids, but it's tough. The main purpose in these big city schools is to create a safe environment for students and to keep them "off the streets". In smaller cities, more emphasis can be put on teaching and learning. Shouldn't we expect better test scores in these bigger cities? How can we? Many of these kids do not have a dad present in their lives. Too many do not have any parent present in their lives. If there are any parents present, little to no attention is placed on education. For many of these kids, their whole family structure is broken beyond repair.
Far too many students do not respect authority - and disrupt the learning of other students. Christopher Dunn, a high-schooler in Little Rock, Arkansas, wouldn't obey his teacher, Robert Holley, earlier this year when asked to do something. When Holley reached for the intercom button to get help, Dunn said, "Hit that button! I dare you!" When the teacher proceeded to "write him up", Dunn lit up a cigar and started smoking in class. When Holley called on him, Dunn walked towards him and blew smoke in his face. As the other students joined in with laughing and "whooping", Dunn repeatedly blew smoke in Holley's face. The police were called and arrested Dunn. As he was escorted out, Dunn said to the teacher, "I'll be back!" How can we expect teachers to teach in such conditions?!
In Utah, Kathy Sherrer, 36, and mother of 4, drove her 8-year-old son to a hospital on February 21 and dropped him off with a note stating, "This kid is rude and ungovernable! I do not want him in my house at all!" If she can't handle him, can we expect a teacher to do so? A 16-year-old student from Nashville, Tennessee, didn't want to get out of bed and go to school on March 1. His grandmother told him several times that he needed to get up and go to school. He finally got up, reached for his hidden handgun, and started shooting, hitting his grandmother twice. This is how some students are treating their own family. Many students are verbally abusive and disruptive in their own homes. How can we expect teachers to teach in an atmosphere of disrespect and hostility? We can't. If certain teachers can withstand such obstacles and actually teach, they need to be applauded!
Teachers in many schools need to wear several "hats"... part-time security guard, counselor, peacemaker, mediator, friend, parent, and oh, yes, teacher. This is especially so in big cities where single-parent homes are prevalent and kids are far too often let go. Many kids raise themselves or are raised by other kids in the neighborhood. They learn to "guide" themselves and to be "tough-skinned". It is no wonder that these kids, who have had little guidance and love from adults in their lives, have a hard time with authority. Often, teachers and principals are the main adult authority in their lives. Being a teacher, in many cases, is a thankless job, and I want to take time to say thank you to all teachers out there who at least try to make a difference. Some teachers don't care, but most do! It is not the teachers' responsibility to raise your children... just to teach them. Anything more than this is going above and beyond. Parents, for the most part, need to have a more active role in their children's education and should be the primary "guidance counselor" in their kids' lives. Repeat: It is not the responsibility of teachers to raise or guide the children... it is the parents' responsibility!