In Atlanta, students who are "on track to attend college" but have "poor reading skills" are reading Shakespeare without Shakespearean language. Study guides translate Shakespeare into pedestrian modern English, so students don't have to struggle. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Leon Allen, a student in (Connie) Kollias' class, didn't understand the original line. But he read the translated sentence aloud with ease.
"It's nice because all those ancient words aren't there," he said. "It is a cool story — what with people making plans to kill one another. It can be difficult because everyone has strange names, but at least it isn't using any of those old words anymore."
In one version, "Beware the ides of March" in Julius Caesar becomes "Beware of March 15."
I keep wondering about students who are incapable of reading Shakespearean language yet are considered "on track to attend college." How can they do college-level work if they can't figure out "lend me your ears" isn't about organ transplants? Maybe they'll just "attend" college but not actually pass any courses.
I remember the joy I experienced when I realized that Shakespeare's "hautboys" were oboes and that the word comes from haut bois or high wood. That was so cool.
What the Real World Demands
The American Diploma Project "set out to identify the core competencies in mathematics and English language arts that high school graduates must have in order to enter and succeed in credit-bearing college courses and in decent jobs in high-wage, high-growth occupations."
Employers and college faculty want new employees and students to have high-level math and English skills.
In math, (the ADP standards) contain content typically taught in Algebra 1, Algebra 2, geometry, and data analysis and statistics. In English, they demand strong oral and written communications skills that are staples in college classrooms and high-performance workplaces. They also describe analytic and research skills that today are commonly found only in high school honors courses.
State graduation exams typically require ninth and 10th grade skills, far below what's necessary to succeed in the 21st century.
Bring back vocational schools, writes the Happy Carpenter.
I don't think there are many students who lack the aptitude for academic courses. But many lack basic skills and motivation. They don't want to spend more years in a classroom. They do want to qualify for a decent job, and they'll work a lot harder if they believe school will get them somewhere they want to go.
A Princess in a Cadillac Truck
Who needs hard work? For a California girl, a B average got her a Cadillac truck. She tells her tale to the New York Times.
The Escalade EXT is a luxury version of another GM pickup, the Chevy Avalanche. It has satellite radio, leather seats and a navigation system. I haven't used the G.P.S. yet, but I will — I get lost easily. I'm going to get custom chrome wheels and rims for it. My favorite brand is Lexani. They're so nice looking.
...When I was 13, I started to think about what kind of car I wanted when I started to drive. I saw an EXT in a music video and thought, "Hey, having a pickup truck is way cuter than having a car." I started babysitting every week to save money for one. Then I went on the Cadillac Web site and saw how much it cost, and I thought that's a lot of babysitting. Finally, my parents told me if I got a 3.0 G.P.A. or higher on my report card, they'd buy me any car I wanted, within reason.
...I looked out the window and saw a brand new EXT parked in front of the restaurant. It was the color I wanted: "Out of the Blue." I couldn't believe it. I was like, "Oh my God, are you serious?" I ran outside in the falling snow, climbed into the truck and sat there for a bit. Then I called my friends back in California on my cell. The whole thing was like a car commercial.
...The first time I drove up to the school, about 25 girls came running out to look at it. "That is so cool," they cried. "We hate you!" It was like a dream come true. I felt like, "Wow, I'm a princess."
Secret of the Eternal Nancy
Nancy Drew, who started sleuthing in 1930, is still searching for clues in the 21st century. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
This month, Simon & Schuster is giving the classic series a makeover. The titian-haired sleuth is now a strawberry blonde and she volunteers at an animal shelter. She's traded in her blue Mustang convertible for a hybrid car. She's Internet savvy and carries a cellphone. The new books are now narrated in first person.
Maybe Bess and George finally will get married.
Elizabeth Ketrick, art teacher, writes:
Thank you for that statement that school is not about fun. I have enlarged it and will laminate it and post it in my classroom. Because I teach an elective, many students think that we are in class to have fun. They complain when we do a little art history from our book. Many of my assignments are based in a historical context. Now when they complain and whine, I can just send them to your statement and have them read it.
Chris Rioux of Lisbon, Maine, writes:
North Atlantic Regional Schools provides a diploma only when the student can provide a portfolio of high school work and proof of credit hours that are equivalent to the State of Maine requirements for graduation.
Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at JoanneJacobs.com. She’s writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.