January 3, 2007

High five! And... nice shirt.

Look at this picture, illustrating this story about the struggle to make middle school something better than a complete disaster.


NSC said...

He just told her that should he not get a good grade she would be saying hello to his little friend.

Dave said...

Two words: The Wire.

The past season of The Wire, of course, demonstrated the depredations of inner city public middle schools better than could any story from the New York Times.

As to the nutcracker joke: it is as predictable as it is lame. What the hell was the teacher thinking??

David said...

He undoubtedly received the "High-5" because he showed up for school in time to take the test. Whether he passed or not is not the issue.

Forgive my cynicism but I see far too many bumper stickers proclaiming "My idiot slacker son/daughter is an honor student at Che Guevarra Middle School In Perpetual Need of More Money and Less Accountability!"

It was a long bumper!?

R2K said...

what a gross scarface shirt.

peter hoh said...

Having spent a year teaching middle school does not make me an expert, but I came away from that experience thinking that middle school would be better replaced by a couple of years of hard labor.

The culture of a middle school matters a great deal, but I'm not sure anyone knows how to change it. It's not enough to have good teachers, though that helps. There is a special breed of teacher who thrives with the middle school population. They should be paid well.

Jeff said...

Times Square is full of unlicensed portait artists who will do a charcoal or pastel drawing of you or your sweetie while you wait. Many of the artists are quite talented and display samples of their copy portraits of celebrities. Always, and I mean ALWAYS on display: Travis Bickle, Tupac Shakur, John Lennon and Scarface.

You'll also find Scarface-related imagery on t-shirts, framed prints, mugs, wall clocks, you name it. He's really popular with the hip-hop set, as is the Godfather and Taxi Driver. hirts like the one this kid wears are as common as Yankee hats here in the cultural capitol of the world. Don't believe me? Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side. Inside, you'll find tourists from all over the world looking at masterpieces of art and culture. Outside on the sidewalk, you can take your pick of Scarface commemorative art and souvenirs!

Truly said...

Wait, Scarface? That looks like Jackie Chan to me.

Mark the Pundit said...

I see a lot of the Scarface shirts in Northern Virginia as well.

Let's just say most of the guys wearing them are guys who you would not want to run into while walking down the street alone in the dark.

nina said...

We might take a look at what other countries are doing with this age group. Having watched two daughters navigate middle school and having served as PTO pres in both elementary and middle schools does give me some insights. I cannot believe how bad middle schools are, even in places like Madison. Having never experienced an American middle school (or high school -- I did those age levels in Poland) I was indeed stunned at how unstructured, unacademic and chaotic the three years were. Oh, and did I mention resilient to change and closed off to comments from the outside? That too.

SteveR said...

I taught middle school for three years and it was money that drove me away, not the kids. I think it helped that I have a 13 year old sense of humor, at times, and did not let silly stuff annoy me.

Kids that age are a mess, but compared to school administrators and parents, they are a pleasure to be around.

PatCA said...

So I guess we should just leave the NY schools as they are, feel sorry for the kids, and give the teachers and administrators more money.

Mike said...

And I thought the grade was the reward. How silly of me.

Anonymous said...

Middle schools, sometimes called intermediate schools, were created starting in the 1960s, after educators determined that seventh-through-ninth-grade junior high schools were excessively rigid and unattuned to adolescents’ personal development

Who cares about their tender little "personal development" sensibilities? What's wrong with rigidity if you get results? The children are supposed to be in school to learn things that will make them productive citizens. You know foolish things like Math, Geography, History, Social Studies, Science and last but not least the ability to write and read!!

When did the schools become such a joke? Seriously... I learned all of these things when in school. I also remember that there was such a thing a discipline and students who were disruptive were either booted out of school or segregated.

It is literally impossible to find a college graduate, much less a high school graduate to hire for my business that is remotely qualified to do even simple tasks or who has even a glimmer of work ethics.

Well, I hope this isn't another double post. Sorry guys.

Dawn Braun said...

This story has more to do with the struggle of engaging emerging teens enough so they can improve their scores in the state education tests.

In Wisconsin, Oshkosh specifically, kids are offered multiple study periods, after school tutoring, and in school babysitting by a teacher who is making sure they are up to date on their math,english assignments. Additionally, students are given a planner from grade 1 so they have a way to organize their homework and so the teacher can communicate with the parents.

Even then, kids fail the classes.

So my arguement is that the teachers can provide the students with a ton of information, support, communication, and it STILL lands right square where it needs to be: between the parent and the kid.

Jeff said...

"unstructured, unacademic and chaotic"

Dust Bunny Queen: You can thank John Dewey et al and century of "Progressive Education" for the fact that each generation of Americans is less educated than the previous.

Anonymous said...

Dust Bunny Queen:

The fact is that kids performance drops through the floor at the middle school level and also did so during Junior High (when it was called that).

Research just out this week suggests that part of it is due to teen neuron 'pruning' in which unused neuronal connections are eliminated in order to make way for more efficient adult neuronal connections, but also part of it is the rapid change in environment.

And that can be quantified. Sixth graders in schools where sixth grade is part of elementary school do significantly better on standardized tests than sixth graders where sixth grade is in middle school.

Anonymous said...

I am one a faculty member in a school of education (and I believe Dewey, while not universally correct, made many, many valuable contributions), both of which are positions that rub an awful lot of blog commenters the wrong way, so FWIW: when I present research on the abysmal record of middle schools, the recent promising efforts to switch (back) to a K-8 model in a few places, as well as the impact of school size and the negative repercussions from the 1950s consolidation movement, you would not believe how negative the reaction is from both the majority of my students, and from educational professionals. The comments are along the lines of "I graduated with 800 students and went to a 5-8 middle school and I'm a good student so I don't see why change is needed." The inability to think outside the box is quite shocking.

Anonymous said...

Oh piffle on the teen neuron pruning. That didn't stop people in my generation from being able to learn in school and behave in class. Its just another excuse for the fact that our schools have not been teaching for at least 30 years.

I don't know what they HAVE been doing, but it isn't teaching academic topics. Instead it seems our schools have become a petri dish for idealogues to indoctrinate the latest pet political persuasion.

Now they (the teachers) are complaining about teaching to the test. So? If you pass the test it means you have actually learned something. I can remember my teachers telling us to "pay attention this will be on the test". How is this different?
If they had taught the basic rudiments of math, reading, history and social studies and stressed the discipline of learning in elementary school there wouldn't be such a learning gap in the middle schools. We wouldn't then be graduating functionally illiterate high school students and college freshmen who need refresher courses on 8th grade subjects before they can participate in basic college classes.

This may have been posted before, but I love this clip on Attention Deficit Disorder from South Park


Anonymous said...

"Wait, Scarface? That looks like Jackie Chan to me."

My original guess was a radioactive, constipated and/or zombified Bruce Lee. But now I can make out the gun barrel.

Is it zombified or zombiefied?

Robert said...

Discussions like these make me realize how atypical my public school education was.
Our elementary school was K-6, the junior high school was 7-8, and the high school was 9-12. This made sense to me, as most things presented to one as a done deal are wont to do.

This was during the period '66 - '79, in a poorly funded suburban district in California. Much of the quality of my education was due to home environment and personal initiative.

I now have one son in third grade, and another in kindergarten. Both classes put a great deal of effort into imparting the kinds of subjects which are allegedly no longer taught in public schools; e.g., my nine-year-old is being introduced to algebra and is doing a great deal of reading.

Granted, our district's 'middle schools' don't seem to be up to the level of the older boy's elementary school - but there are about a half dozen charter middle schools currently operating, and the competition appears to be heating things up.

Cat said...

It was in the 7th grade in my first year in Jr. high that I suddenly began to struggle with math (I was a math champion before that year) and other subjects and I barely passed the 8th grade. Could have been the Jr. High system or it could have been the explosive alcoholic situation at home where I became responsible for my parents those two years. My parents will tell you it was the school and peer pressure. What do you think?

So the problem is that in middle schools you switch classes for different subjects? If that makes a difference, it should be changed. If the middle school years of 11-14 are compounded by this simple function, than it should be changed. I look forward to seeing the results of the chancellor's reconfiguring of some middle schools to K-8.

All the money in the world will not solve the problems of a public school system where teachers are dealing - they didn't speak to ANY parents in this article - with issues parents should be dealing with. The school administrator is spending his time riding with the cops to collect a troubled kid? Where are the parents? Sheesh.

CharlesWT said...

We can count ourselves lucky that we don't have government ran public food systems. :o

Oligonicella said...

Funny how the methods used to teach kids when I went (grade, middle, high) are now condemned.

Those doing the comdemning are the ones promoting and using the new methods, which are spectactular failures.

Anonymous said...

Charles WT wrote: "We can count ourselves lucky that we don't have government ran public food systems." Hmmm, wanna buy some trans fat, cheap. I get this from the source and it is primo.

Sorry, too late, the govment is getting into the food business. I need to loose some weight anyway.

I think what needs to be done is to have a three tiered educational system. One tier for children and teens that are interested in learning. One tier for people who are not interested in (or capable of) learning but do not cause many problems. And the last tier an alternative school for juvenile delinquents.

The divisions could be fluid, they would need to be. But it would protect the children and teens who are interested in learning or forced by their families to at least do their homework. They would improve.

I also think that the children who are not so interested in learning would benefit. They would not have the really disruptive kids moving the whole damn class off task.

And the kids in alternative school would have a strict level system with fast, significant consequences for breaking rules.

So I guess I do not believe that the problem is neurological (although the pruning is a fact) but it is sociological and cultural. But our public education system NEEDS to provide for the needs of learners. I think they need preferential treatment. Well, it is not preferential. They need FAIR treatment and that would be to give them an environment that is condusive to learning.

Here in Tennessee, we have magnet school that serve as first tier. But we do not have enough magnet school. This makes the public school system in general the middle tier. Sadly, lots of learners are stuck their with non-learners and delinquents. They suffer and the loss hurts our whole society. Finally, we have only a couple of alternative schools. I think that the 3 tier system would require that about 25% of the schools be devoted to the lowest tier.

What do you think?