July 12, 2012
Students Say School Is Too Easy And Boring
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A Washington-based policy institute has found that millions of kids across the country just don´t find school that challenging; in fact, it´s just too easy, according to analysis of federal data conducted by the think tank.
In a press release, the Center for American Progress said its analysis found that the popular images of students overstrained with work and keeping “the hours of a corporate lawyer in order to finish their school projects and homework assignments” are off base. “Many students are not being challenged in school,” it added.
Report coauthor Ulrich Boser told MSNBC.com that it´s really more than just about pupils complaining that classrooms are too boring.
The report analyzed three years of questionnaires from the Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test given each year. What it found was that more than 1 in 3 fourth-graders say their math work is too easy; 3 in 5 eighth-graders say their history work is too easy; and 39 percent of twelfth-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.
Boser said the data challenge the “school-as-pressure-cooker” image found in recent movies such as ℠Race to Nowhere´. Although those kids certainly exist at one end of the academic spectrum, “the broad swath of American students are not as engaged as much in their schoolwork,” he noted.
Robert Pondiscio of the Virginia non-profit group Core Knowledge Foundation, said the pressure-cooker environment applies only to a “small, rarefied set” of high school students. The notion that “every American kid is going home with a backpack loaded with 70 pounds of books – that's not happening.”
The report also found that 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they aren´t being taught engineering and technology; and a third of eighth-grade students in general report reading fewer than five pages a day either in school or for homework.
“Students are not being prepared, by and large, for the global economy,” Boser told Jim Gold at MSNBC.com.
While the solution could possibly be found in the tougher standards set in the Common Core, a program adopted by 45 states providing more understanding of what students should be expected to learn, the move has been criticized by some as federal overreach, Boser added.
The Common Core initiative will be implemented nationwide by the 2014-15 school year, under the full support of American Progress.
The center dove headfirst into the data after the Gates Foundation released its findings in its Measures of Effective Teaching Project in 2011. That report showed that student feedback was a far better predictor of a teacher´s performance than more traditional indicators of success, such as whether a teacher had a master´s degree or not.
Tiffany Francis, a second-grade teacher at Pittsburgh King, The Teaching Institute, said she planned to “give students a voice within my classroom.”
Francis shared with MSNBC.com the results from her own student-perception survey that showed kids want to be heard more.
“That will help me in my planning and teaching strategies,” she said.
She said her district pushes students to dig deeper into their explanations of math problems. “Not just 5+5=10, but show me what that means,” Francis added. “In reading, we´re not getting opinion and feedback and thoughts; we´re not asking them to dig as deep as they do for math.”
She links lessons with the backgrounds of her students, she said. “I make my lessons relevant, differentiating my instruction. Learning is embedded within them, they become better learners, excited to learn.”
Florida State University English professor Shelbie Witte told USA Today that students are likely bored by an education system that reads too much into standardized testing. “When they're bored, they think the classes are easy,” she said.
Gladis Kersaint, a math education professor at the University of South Florida, said she isn´t surprised by the American Progress findings. “I think we underestimate students,” she said.
The push for higher standards – and students' willingness to meet those standards – “suggests that they're ready to be more challenged in math classes,” she said. “Hopefully this can be a motivator for teachers to say, 'Yes, we're moving in the right direction."