Middle school fix essential in education

Tuesday, Dec. 6
December 6, 2011
Jake P. Lipari
December 8, 2011

Another education advocacy group has stated the obvious; public schools are in trouble and need to undergo changes. The Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board said last week that the way to improve graduation rates is to change the way middle school is managed.

Grades six, seven and eight are typically when students decide for themselves how seriously they will take the remainder of their formal education.

A 16-state review by the 35-member SREB said waiting until high school to stress the importance of learning is too late to insure graduation and more importantly actual learning.

The good news is that in Louisiana, education administrators already know that. Superintendents from Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes have all said that much of their new approach to learning and standardized testing has focused on lower grade levels with the intention of instilling skills that will lead to graduation.

Louisiana’s current graduation rate is at an embarrassing 67.4 percent. State law passed in 2009 mandates that level be improved to 80 percent by 2014. That is an improvement, but still not something to brag about.

The SREB report noted that in southern states only 28 percent of students tested scored at a level of proficiency in reading. Only 29 percent did so in math.

The SREB answers such conditions by advising that:

• Teachers and administrators undergo training to focus on middle school

• Middle schools focus on engineering, literacy, math, science and technology

• States aim at having 90 percent of eighth graders graduate high school

• Eighty percent of graduates secure post secondary training

• And 66 percent of them complete college or career training

We believe more measures should be added:

• Allow administrators and teachers, not legislators and bureaucrats, to teach in the classroom

• Eliminate teaching simply to pass standardized tests and focus on practical subjects

• Stop selling the idea that moving from an F to an F+ is a major accomplishment

• Instill rewards for those making the grade, among teachers and pupils, and consequences for those that do not

Until public education becomes results oriented and eliminates the practice of modifying facts to make everyone feel better about whom they are, no genuine educating will take place at any level.

There still is much for legislators and advocates who impact educators to learn.