The Associated Press article, “Tougher Standards Mean More Schools ‘Failing’ indicates that many schools are not making “AYP” (Annual Yearly Progress) as measured by No Child Left Behind. Subsequently, many students find themselves attending schools that are considered “academically unacceptable” by the U.S. Department of Education. The article reports that the number of academically unacceptable schools is increasing substantially in many states:
- 135 schools in Louisiana
- 720 schools in New Mexico
- 7 out of 10 schools in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District
- 6 out of 7 schools in North Carolina’s Wake County School District
- 4 out of 10 schools in Georgia
As opposed to increasing student achievement to the levels set by the No Child Left Behind legislation, states like Montana and South Dakota have decided to simply ignore the standards, viewing them as unrealistic.
While state departments of education and local school districts debate what are realistic and unrealistic levels of student achievement for their schools to pursue, many students and parents are fully aware that their schools are not good schools and that students are not being adequately prepared for college and careers. In fact, while schools are concerned with achieving “AYP” (Adequate Yearly Progress), parents and students should be more concerned with whether their schools are achieving “ACP” (Adequate College Preparation). Parents and students must pursue all available opportunities to ensure that students are learning what they need to know to be prepared for college and careers. Five easy steps to take are:
- If you attend a low-performing school, then ensure that you are in the most rigorous classes available in your school.
- Identify tutorial support at your church, the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, local fraternities and sororities, students in higher grades, and after school programs.
- Get as many test preparation books as you can, particularly for SAT/ACT subject-areas, i.e., math, science, reading, English, and writing, and for any high school graduation tests required in your state.
- Identify summer or after school enrichment programs in reading, math, and science. One such program would be the CDF Freedom Schools.
- Develop a study group and surround yourself with other high-performing students, particularly students who are fortunate to attend high-performing schools.
Former Washington Prep High School student, Candice Johnson, shares her experiences attending a high school with large numbers of intern teachers.
“I am a graduate of Washington Prep High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. My school is the kind of school the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to ‘fix.’ It’s one of California’s lowest-performing schools. Forty percent of my freshman-year classmates didn’t graduate. The student body is also mostly low-income, and a majority of the students are African-American, like me, or Latino. There were only a handful of white students in the entire school of 2,000 when I graduated a year ago.”
Her article sheds light on the importance of parents and students of ensuring that students are learning what they need to know. There are clearly huge inequities between high- and low-performing, and oftentimes urban and suburban schools. Candice is one of millions of students attending schools where they are taught by new, inexperienced, and intern teachers. Worst, is when such teachers are teaching math and science, the two subjects that are the clearest predictor of college success. While the issue is being debated, parents and students need to ensure that students identify tutors, create study groups, and formulate their own plans to learn what they need in order to prepare for college.