Saturday, April 7, 2007

Grading Kansas

The US Chamber of Commerce released their state-by-state report card on education and it looks like Kansas might need some tutoring.

The state received high marks in overall academic achievement and for students of low-income and minority students.

The organization also gave Kansas a high score in the return on investment category because "student achievement in Kansas is high relative to state spending on education."

But then the report card gets grim.

Kansas receives a D for rigor of standards mainly because of math and science curriculum standards and high school graduation requirements not aligned with college and workforce needs. Also adding to the low grade was the state's lack of high school exit exams.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My friends who are Kansas teachers aren't teaching science, so what I hear is second-hand teachers' lounge scuttlebutt. Still, there seems to be a high degree of paranoia and a certain amount of stealth tactics involved to teach kids how to think, rather than how to recite dogma.

Administrators seem obsessed that the School Board might come down on them, they tend to quash teachers who really connect with kids. "Hickory Stick" education gets high marks from administrative reviews. "It's more important that the desks are in straight rows than if the kids are learning," said one teacher.

"The best learning happens after school," said another. Kids who are motivated to meet outside of class and ask questions and seek information beyond the basics are taking the effort to learn, and the best teachers rise to the opportunity.

There are biology teachers who have stopped teaching about Mendel's experiments with tall flowers and short flowers for fear that it will come back to the Board of Education as "teaching evolution."

One teacher in Southeast Kansas got a reprimand from the School Board for making a joke about saber-tooth poodles dodging dinosaur feet.

Religion is religon. Science is science. The twain might meet someday, but only in philosophy class and probably not in the 8th Grade.

If a class such as Comparative Religion were taught in Middle and High Schools in Kansas, a sound foundation for adult reasoning might be established. But a few children of evangelicals might compare and contrast and become, say, Druids. And guess what would hit the fan.

On the other hand, science is science. Science is not anti-religious, it's simply an area of basketball and algebra... that's independent of any religion's dogma.

From my perspective, Kansas teachers are generally very, very good. They tend to spur the best and brightest students to excel and hope to connect with lesser students in hopes they connect in some way with a desire to know more. Kansas teachers are the single most important component of our state's infrastructure.

Yes, there are plenty of teachers who fit right into the cliche, "Those who can do; those who can't do teach."

But a lot of those who can't do have turned out to be excellent teachers. Whitey Herzog and Jack McKeon never played in the big leagues; they simply managed World Series champions.

Quick: tell me who taught Meryl Streep's Acting 101 class at Yale?

And there's a certain appeal for some people to have a 9-month work year and civil service retirement. But it turns out, those teachers are most likely to toe the line and not do anything that might inspire young thinkers to think outside the box.

The C of C survey does a good job of judging in-the-box education and Kansas scores pretty good. But the political climate in Kansas tends to supress exploration of thought that slips outside the limits of fundamentalist thought.

That's sad.

There's a thing about being a Kansan that's always inspired me. The people who settled this state were rebels. They were people who didn't fit in "back East."

Think about it: If they'd succeeded in Massachusetts or Ohio or Indiana, why would they come *here?!* The only-est reason they came here was for the freedom to live their lives to the fullest of their potential.

Supressing the truth of science is just as bad as supressing the aspirations of religion; any religion.

And it's not the way Kansas should be.