Posted by: malibulearning | September 7, 2011

Are MORE Students Struggling with School? YES! Part 1 of 3

An article by Jill Greenberg

Do you notice how many students seem to be struggling with school over the last couple of years?  I don’t mean that there are some kids who struggle.

I’m talking about  the large number of families that are feeling the stress of just getting homework done.

After 15 years serving struggling students, I see a large increase in the sheer number of students who seem to be struggling just to “keep up.”

The news stories  seem to focus on “measurable outcomes”.  What we are sure of is that we see a large rise in the number of students who struggle just getting homework done.  Fourth graders are getting 2 – 3 hours of homework on a regular basis and it is putting stress on the entire family.

So what is really happening?                                                                                                                                                                                                          

I see 3 major factors that are making all of this struggling more acute than ever before.

The first reason that so many students are struggling is a change made by our federal and state governments.

There  has been a focused effort in political circles to improve our education test scores.  The No Child Left Behind act was the beginning.  It has set standards that schools must meet so that, in theory, no student “falls through the cracks.”

But the net result has been that teachers have come under tremendous pressure to increase test scores.  In doing so, teachers have increased the workload on students as they are held responsible for meeting the test scores.  So teachers pile on more work to try and make sure students really “get it.”

On top of that, the state decided to “push down” when curriculum is taught.  There is a reason that we waited until high school to teach Algebra.  But it is now being introduced in fifth grade.

But Algebra is the least of the problems.  Now Kindergarteners are being asked to read, write, and spell at age 5.  These are activities that many, if not most, are simply not developmentally ready for.  Can some kids do this? Sure! But they are the exception.

This is a little like trying to teach 4 foot tall kids to dunk a basketball in a 10 foot basket.  It is just lots easier and makes more sense if you wait until the kids are 6 feet tall.

What used to be high school curriculum is now being taught in junior high.  What used to be junior high school work is now being taught in the elementary grades.

In order to make this happen, the workload must increase. And students and their families are the ones  who are working like mad to keep up.

 I have some friends who have a tutoring service in Santa Monica who once said that they would always have business because there are so many students in private schools that are just too hard for them.  Well now it’s the public schools that are too hard for students.

The result? Average students ( with 100 IQs or higher) are now struggling to do work that is too hard for them.

So the answer to the question, “ Are more students struggling?” is Yes.  And, both kids and their families will continue to struggle as long as we demand more from them thenthey are ready to produce.

In part 2  I’ll look at how curriculum demands have affected students with learning problems.

Jill Greenberg, M.Ed. is the owner of the Malibu Learning Center where struggling students learn to become comfortable, independent learners.

www.malibulearning.com      (310) 457-3707

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