Friday, July 13, 2012

Is School Too Easy?

School is too easy.  That's the word on the street these days from students themselves, as the results of a  study from the Center for American Progress were released to a great deal of discussion - and criticism of public schools.  According to the results of student surveys, many students nationwide "are not being challenged" in schools.  This would seem to contradict the data about student test scores dropping, or students falling behind, or the dropout rate holding steady.  If it's too easy, shouldn't everyone be doing well?  Or are the classes too easy, and that's why the students don't do well when tested by outside forces.  Certainly, the ACT/SAT are of concern.  However, I would take exception to relying on tests such as the NAEP or even state tests.  Any test that doesn't have student accountability is not a reliable measure of student learning.

The more interesting question for me this week was well articulated by Anthony Cody at EdWeek who wonders if "School can be too easy AND too hard." From a teacher's view, Cody aptly describes the conundrum of our varied school system with inconsistent standards across states and grade levels and even within single schools and departments.  There is, of course, no way that any of my AP Language students would claim that school is "too easy."  Not a chance.  But, they are being held accountable in serious ways, and they have very high post-graduate aspirations.  Even my CP level kids work diligently in my class, and complain that they should get honors credit - until they learn what my AP kids are doing.

School can be too easy in some ways - such as levels of homework or the number of essays written - and too hard in others such as the teaching of algebra in middle school or college classes in high school or textbooks written in manners which defy the knowledge and abilities of the average teenager.  I know that the ability of some high school sophomores to pass AP World History or any high school student to handle AP Calculus or AP Bio defies any criticism that "school is too easy."  But when statistics about the number of rigorous courses in high school indicate that the average high school senior takes as few as two core academic classes all year, it's not hard to accept that some schools in some places at some time for some kids is way too easy.

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