Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


A Range of Views about Students Who Aren't Flourishing in School

Posted: 2005-06-30

An article in The New York Times about students pushed out of high school because they were not progressing at standard rate provoked a range of letters.

Ohanian Comment: Here we have the whole spectrum for solving school problms--from change the curriculum to get rid of students. Originally I noted that it is sad that the one writer who wants to give up on students who present difficulties is a teacher. Susan Van Drusen expressed dismay that I did not recognize she is a teacher. She is right that I did make an error in logic, assuming that teachers will defend students.

I wouldn't bother writing to you except your logo is "honesty and clarity in public language." It is sad--and outrageous--that you would assume that a writer is NOT a teacher simply because she doesn't list her occupation in her letter. I am a teacher, and I was a teacher when I wrote that letter to the editor. I hope you do the right thing and correct your error in logic.
The error is now corrected. I am sad that two people who want to give up on students are teachers. As I have noted elsewhere on this site, it took my dad 7 years to complete high school.

Two immediate actions are necessary--not just in New York but around the country:

  • Scrap the standard one-size-fits-all curriculum. Any savvy teachers knows that when a student isn't cooperating and flourishing, then you change the curriculum, not the child.

  • Get some child advocates into the schools and into the communities.

  • Failed Students, Plenty of Blame

    To the Editor:
    Re "To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students" ("Pushed Out" series, front page, July 31):
    As a New York City high school teacher, I have seen firsthand how failing students affect the overall tone of a school; it is not pretty.

    Students who have given up on school not only disrupt classes and make teaching and learning difficult, but they also send a message to my on-track students that says, What is the point of studying when you can hang out in the hallway (cutting classes) until age 21?

    Chancellor Joel I. Klein says, "The problem of what's happening to the students is a tragedy." I agree. But keeping these failing students languishing in high schools at the expense of our striving young New Yorkers is no solution.

    Brooklyn, Aug. 1, 2003

    To the Editor:
    There is one simple solution to retaining high school students that has worked in college for a century: allow students to choose a major ("Pushed Out" series, front page, July 31).
    Let's stop the foolishness of requiring every student to take and do well in every specialized subject.

    It is good democratic practice and wise pedagogy, and gets us beyond the 19th-century fiction that everyone needs the same education.

    Hopewell, N.J., July 31, 2003
    The writer is an education consultant.

    To the Editor:
    Re "To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students" ("Pushed Out" series, front page, July 31):
    Students who skip school and then need more than four years to graduate are wasting taxpayer money. Let's stop blaming schools for not educating kids who aren't there.
    Duluth, Minn., Aug. 1, 2003
    To the Editor:
    Re your "Pushed Out" series (front page, July 31 and Aug. 1):
    Increasingly, we have concrete proof of the heartless, destructive consequences of the corporate approach to education.

    When schools "are facing real temptations to make their results look good by getting rid of low performers," and dedicated professionals report that they must "focus on the numbers," rather than on the kids, education is not fulfilling its function of helping children achieve their potential and become productive members of society.

    If "accountability" had any real meaning, government would require schools to be something more than a test-taking crucible.
    New York, Aug. 1, 2003
    To the Editor:
    "To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students" (front page, July 31) is just another example of the sad state of affairs that our city schools are in. Have our educational institutions become only anxiety-ridden places that try to crank out high test scores and leave out the other important elements that nurture the young spirit?
    Research shows that our children do much better in school and want to stay there when they have art and music as well. And now the city's schools are cutting back on those subjects.

    Isn't there anyone working in the city system who is a child advocate? Our children need you!

    New York, July 31, 2003
    The writer is an art teacher.
    To the Editor:
    In 1951, as a young "permanent substitute" teacher in a New York City public school, I asked some veteran teachers how their classes always had high test averages; my class averages, with similar students, were always in the failing range.

    It was simple. They destroyed the lowest test scores and marked those students as "absent."
    Today, you published "To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students" on your front page. Perhaps it was better to tear up the low scores.

    Merrick, N.Y., July 31, 2003

    More Commentaries

    This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.