Saturday, April 2, 2011

Race to Remediation, II

I often hear people ask, "which is it -- are kids overworked or underprepared?" I think it's a false dichotomy. It is absolutely possible for kids to be both overworked and underprepared, and I think it's extremely common.  -FedUpMom
Beyond the ever more competitive college admissions process, there's a second reason for the unprecedented levels of stress experienced by today's high school students. This, too, is hinted at by Race to Nowhere, specifically when it addresses the pressures of preparing for the Advance Placement tests. But Race to Nowhere attributes this stress to the AP itself and leaves it at that, failing to address why AP tests might be so much more stress-provoking than they were a generation ago.

To answer this question, one shouldn't look forward towards the college admissions process, but backwards towards K8 education. Here, all those watered-down math and science classes and content-impoverished social studies classes disadvantage even our top students, such that by the time they reach high school it's hard--and extremely stressful--for them to make up for lost time, whether in math, biology, chemistry, or history.

Ironically, by blaming high schools and colleges rather than elementary schools and middle schools we may end up deciding to dumb down the high school curriculum and the AP tests, rather than redesigning our K8 classes so that they actually prepare students for high school level work, and those who are potentially capable of them for AP-level classes.

But in a society that touts slowing down, de-stressing, avoiding frustration, and boosting self-esteem, and that finds it so loathsome to target instruction towards those who are most academically capable, this is not likely to happen any time soon.


Postijen said...

Amen. Skills needed to study at the AP level need to have been built all along. That doesn't mean K-5 classes on AP subjects, but some emphasis on memorization, an emphasis on working through frustration, and always the expectation that you need to stretch and work harder to achieve, not wait until the work is brought to your comfort level.

FedUpMom said...

I dunno, Katharine, I'm one of those people who touts slowing down, de-stressing, and avoiding frustration.

But then I also think that a well-structured, rich curriculum would actually be LESS stressful than what kids are getting now.

In my wealthy suburban district, parents brag about how their high school kids do homework (or team sports) in every moment of their "free" time and are lucky to get 6 hours of sleep on a school night.