Trouble in the Middle – Yahoo! News

High school students

High school students (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trouble in the Middle – Yahoo! News.

According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, many middle- and high-school students “in the middle” don’t think school is very challenging. In fact, some of them claim it’s simply “too easy”.

Time to pull out the old soapbox for a moment.

Currently, I work in a small, private college that emphasizes the liberal arts. And every year, I meet students from all over the country and from all sorts of different backgrounds. Some of them are incredibly sharp “go-getters” with clearly defined academic and professional goals.

Unfortunately, many others seem to be lacking even the most basic academic and critical thinking skills. In fact, I have met students who couldn’t even write a basic sentence. Never mind the fact that half of what they write seems like it should be in the form of a text message. U know?

Of course, much stems from the testing schools must do to secure greater funding from the federal government. Rather than teaching students what they need to know to be successful in college or even life, the focus seems to be on teaching only what is necessary to produce the highest test scores.

And things like writing, study skills and critical thinking seem to fall by the wayside.

Whether students enter the work force after high school, attend colleges and universities or select online degree programs, they still need the skills necessary to be successful. High-achieving students seem to receive the most attention, with the low achievers at a close second. But what happens to the students in the middle, who make up the majority?

Basically, the same thing that seems to be happening to the middle class. They are largely ignored.

I am thankful that some attention is being paid to this issue. And I am optimistic that someday soon, all of the students I meet in college will have what they need to succeed here and later in life. Call me idealistic, but this is the only way America and its students can hope for a brighter future.

Posted on July 18, 2012, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the post. Yes, part of the problem lies with NCLB-mandated testing. But the larger problem is cultural and it exists both in most schools and in most homes in America. Students in the academic middle who perceive that they are not being sufficiently challenged need to be coached to challenge (push) themselves. Unfortunately, many parents, many teachers, most administrators and virtually all guidance counselors fail to adequately talk with students about goal setting. There are at least four things students could be coached to take advantage of: 1) sign up for more challenging classes; 2) give more than is required to meet the basic requirement of assignments; 3) seek out additional, enriching, assignments, and 4) move away from the mentality of settling for C’s and B’s and strive for A’s – because, indeed, at many of this nation’s middle schools and high schools, a C merely means you showed up and turned in some work and a B merely means you complied with the minimal requirements. The caveat is this: requiring schools to “change curricula” (enrich, raise the standard of, make tougher) generally doesn’t work. Because of the pervading culture – embodied in students, parents, teachers, administrators and guidance counselors -, standards inevitably back-slide. Again, it’s this culture that needs to change.

    • Great comments! And I completely agree that students could be doing more to challenge themselves. Everyday, I encounter students who are happy to settle for Cs when they clearly could be making higher grades. Part of this might be the culture where Cs are considered better than they really are, but many times the students themselves don’t aim higher. Thanks so much for sharing your insights. And I hope I see you here again sometime!

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