Teachers are not Substitutes for Families—or Accountable for Low Achievement

Jun 23, 2018 by

This book is about this country’s efforts to educate and raise the achievement level of large numbers of low-achieving students—students who perform academically below average for their age or grade level. It suggests alternatives to what educators over the past century and a half have done (especially in reading or English classes) to keep large groups of low-achieving students in school until high school graduation. This book is not just about the education of students with low-income parents. All low-achieving students do not have low-income or poorly-educated parents. (Nor do all low-income parents have low-achieving children.) This book is about students who are not eligible to become members of their high school’s Honor Society when in high school and who usually need developmental coursework (below-college-level coursework) in mathematics and reading if they are admitted to college. But they or their parents are not necessarily poor. 
This country has always had low-achieving students (relatively-speaking) and always will. Every country has and will continue to have low-achieving students. Because low achievement anywhere is relative to high achievement, there will always be low-achieving students. However, efforts to educate low-achievers in this country today are more difficult than they should be because low achievers are not considered responsible for their low achievement. Their schools, teachers, even parents are. And because low achievers are not held accountable in any way for their academic efforts, they have no reason to change their academic behavior or academic status. They get the rewards higher-achievers once did without having to exert the academic effort higher-achievers once did. 
There are several reasons why low-achieving students are at the center of educational attention today. 
Many of them in this country are African Americans or have dark complexions and poor parents. Americans in general have been taught that they are responsible for these low-achieving students chiefly because of the attitudes and behaviors of their ancestors towards people or immigrants who didn’t look, talk, or act like them.
Whatever their background, there’s little evidence that low achievers on average read or write better than they did decades ago despite all the money and programs devoted to their education in the past fifty years. 
Large differences in academic achievement across politically defined groups are considered unacceptable by education policy makers and many others today. These differences are considered today a reflection of an unequal allocation of resources such as school facilities, teachers, and curriculum materials across public schools. 
The basic purpose of this book is to raise several questions in readers’ minds: 
First, what can help education policy makers to understand that widespread adolescent under-achievement is a social problem and not susceptible to solution by educational interventions no matter how much money is allocated to public schools and colleges? 
 Second, what kinds of evidence do education policy makers need to understand that it damages all students’ education to expect the wrong institutions (public schools and colleges) to keep on trying to solve a growing social problem? 
Finally, what are the varied civic costs of this country’s institutionally misplaced focus on low achievement? These questions become urgent when a U.S. Department of Education-funded study of a community college issued in April 2017 finds that most full-time first-time freshmen seeking an associate degree were initially placed in developmental [below college-level] courses in English and in math. In other words, most students were unprepared for college coursework, raising questions about the best uses of post-secondary resources and the effectiveness of K-12 education resources.
Sandra Stotsky, Changing the Course of Failure: How Schools and Parents Can Help Low-Achieving Students
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. [2018] Kindle Edition. 
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