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Saturday, September 6, 2014

To Dream the Impossible Dream--And Then Hold Teachers Accountable

Educational reformers seem to share two basic conflicting goals.  They wish to hold all students accountable to a set of high standards at the same time as they seek to raise graduation rates.

When I first began teaching, it seemed the social-studies standards were sensible.  Although many students could not meet them, they were offered an alternate path to graduation.  In the event that they failed the Regents, they could take the less challenging RCTs (or Regents Competency Tests) and hope for vindication in another form.  For a time, a local diploma was offered for students who approached the grade of 65, but fell short.

During the Bloomberg era, schools felt particular pressure to find alternate paths to graduation for students who failed their classwork.  "Credit recovery" became increasingly popular.  Stats improved, but unfortunately at the expense of solid academic performance.  Student skills, for one reason and/or another, seemed to take a dive.  

Within each classroom, teachers face the same conflicting goals. As standards are raised, failure rates also increase.   The State must somehow balance its desire for high standards with its desire for increased graduation rates.  We cannot have the best of both worlds, although in a vacuum detached from realities of the classroom and society, reformers may wish it so and hold others accountable for the failure of their idealism.   In my opinion, it's nice To Dream the Impossible Dream--but don't blame teachers when you wake up to reality.

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