Friday, October 28, 2005

A Problem in Need of a Solution

I've been meaning to write this post for several months now, but something else has always gotten in the way. However, I've written many times before about about short-sided, self-serving, unrealistic, even idiotic decisions made by school administrators: Zero-tolerance policies that also involve zero-thought; kids suspended for being in possession of "deadly" rubber bands; a senior honor student expelled because he borrowed his dad's truck to drive to school without noticing the shotgun in the back seat. But it was this story that encouraged me to finally write this post:
Before Hurricane Katrina, honor student Kevin Henry, 17, passed Louisiana's high school exit exams and planned to spend his senior year completing class assignments, selecting a college, volunteering and enjoying senior activities.

Now a student at Lawrence E. Elkins High School in Fort Bend Independent School District, Henry can consider his Louisiana exit-exam scores water under the bridge. If he wants to graduate and receive a Texas diploma, he has to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

"I think it's unfair that any student from Katrina has to take the test," Henry said. Two weeks before TAKS, Henry said he hadn't seen a copy of the practice test. He thought he would do well, but still felt stressed about it.
(Hat tip: Mom and Dad, who brought the article to me in their Houston paper)
Does anyone else think this is just ridiculous? To me, this is one of the big problems with "admini-think": the one-size-fits-all mentality that rarely, if ever works. If a large number of students are displaced because of a national disaster like this, the state (and the individual school districts) should work with them to make sure they get to graduate, and they should do more than usual to honor the affected students' test scores from their home states. So much for that "warm Texas welcome" that many evacuees have been experiencing...

There's also the matter of the state test itself; should a single test really outweigh a student's entire academic career's worth of grades? If so, why do we have grades to begin with, if this standardized test is supposed to be the be-all and end-all of education?

And what of this whole zero-tolerance mess? The problem is, one-size-fits-all thinking just doesn' all. Never has, never will. It's just easier (lazier?) to hide behind a set of rules and not take the time to consider each case on its own merits. It's also a quick and easy way to avoid having to make difficult decisions, or (heaven forbid!) stirring up controversy. Why do any work when you can sit back and let the rules do the work for you?

I place the blame for this type of thinking squarely on the shoulders of school administrators--not just the administrators themselves, but the way the whole system is set up. I think there's a quick and easy fix to the whole thing (which might even save school districts money to boot). I'll outline that solution in tomorrow's post.

RELATED POST: A Simple Solution for Education.

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