How EOC Exams Prevent Flexibility in Scheduling

In my mind, students with disabilities and struggling students have always been one in the same.  They are all students; they are all capable of some sort of learning; they all deserve our attention; they all deserve the best educational experience we can provide.  The only real difference (to me) between a student with disabilities and a struggling student is paperwork and legality, but they aren’t two different groups of students.  When I refer to struggling students, I mean just that–struggling students, which could be students with disability labels or students without, who are struggling in any given course.

Traditionally, our schools (and here I’m specifically talking about high schools) have had a structure in place to support struggling students.  Call it “tracking” or whatever, but we’ve traditionally had an “honors” sequence, a “regular” sequence, and a “lower” level sequence.  We recognize that not everyone is college bound, and those who are not tend to be in the regular and/or lower level classes.   We have accepted that certain classes are more remedial or not as challenging as others, and we are okay with that being the case because we don’t expect all students to go to college.  I often wonder if our students realize we are dictating their lives to them through course placement, but that’s another topic for another day.

I was always a struggling student in science class–a fact both my ACT scores and high school and college transcripts demonstrate.  Because I was unable to function in a science class, I took the lowest level courses I could while still in the “college bound” track and taking honors English and honors math.  I took an entire year of General Science in high school, and it was the best class ever.  I remember being excited about tectonic plates (still get excited about them), building topographic maps of places in the U.S., and creating tissue paper hot air balloons.  I wasn’t a dumb kid, but science was my weak spot, and I was more than thankful to take the “easy” class that I actually enjoyed rather than jumping straight into biology, which I hated.  (Side note–for someone who HATES science, there was nothing worse than having to find, trap, kill, and pin 25 different kinds of bugs to a piece of foam–AWFUL!)

That being said, when I look at the course sequences currently in place in my district and others and compare these course sequences to what is happening with end of course exams, I get a little concerned.  Remember, each end of course exam is assessing for students to have mastered the standards of that level, which I hypothesize will eventually mean students must pass the exam in order to advance to the next level–after all, if a student has not met the standards of one course, how would s/he be prepared to advance?  The following courses will have end of course exams in 2014-2015 (organized by typical grade level in course sequences).

 

9th Grade

10th Grade

11th Grade

# Required to Graduate

English

English 1

English 2

English 3

4

Math

Alg 1/Math 1

Geo/Math 2

Alg 2/Math 3

4

Science

Physical Science

Biology

3 (incl. 1 advanced science)

History

U.S. History

Government

3

 

I included in this chart the number of courses required to graduate in Ohio because when you look at where the end of course exams fall in comparison to how many credits are required to graduate, you see that students don’t have much wiggle room in terms of what courses to take.  Look at English and Math, for instance; a student cannot take a remedial or lower level course in 9th grade because his/her schedule is booked for four years.  In science, you could push back the physical science and biology class and input a general or life science course for kids (like myself) who struggle with science, but that forces those students to take and pass an “advanced science” (like chemistry–*shudder*) during their senior year.  You can quote me on what I’m about to say–I predict a chemistry or advanced science end of course exam in the next few years.  Finally, in history, most districts use a world history class to fulfill the third year requirement for graduation.  World history could go in 11th grade, but when you look at the actual content standards of history courses, world really only fits in 9th grade between 8th grade’s American history studies and the U.S. History/Government sequence.

There is no real room in this end of course exam schedule for any remedial or lower level courses for struggling students, and we are really locking all kids into the same tracks for course sequence.

I see a need to incorporate more support classes into our building schedules, and by support I do not mean test prep or drill and kill as many schools have diverted to in order to raise standardized achievement.  I do, though, envision content-specific support labs that help students build skills specific to the content.  Not tutoring that amounts to a student simply getting his/her homework done in the presence of a teacher, but actual targeted lessons to support what students are learning in their classrooms.  To teach them the skills they are lacking and give them more individualized opportunities to learn.

All that being said, I think the days of remedial/low level courses have gone by the wayside, and I don’t know if that is good or bad.  It’s great to say we want ALL kids to master course standards each year, but reality tells us this doesn’t happen.  The high school teachers say, “Those middle school teachers need to do a better job preparing them for high school!”  The middle school teachers say, “The elementary teachers need to better prepare them for middle school!”  The elementary school teachers say, “The parents need to better prepare them for school!”  But the truth is our system pushes kids through grade after grade despite ability or inability.  Because there is no room for supportive classes, we really need to find a support structure for those struggling students that goes beyond differentiating and scaffolding in the classroom (after all, one teacher in one room can only do so much).  I know I would’ve needed a science lab, science coach, science tutor, science something to have made it through a regular science class when I was in 9th grade.

 

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3 thoughts on “How EOC Exams Prevent Flexibility in Scheduling

  1. Pingback: How EOC Exams Prevent Flexibility in Scheduling | Common Core Online | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: How EOC Exams Prevent Flexibility in Scheduling | college and career ready | Scoop.it

  3. No remedial classes IS bad. We don’t even have to feel bad that we are telling some kids that they are not college bound the fall after they graduate from High School. There is a kind of snobbery in that which is also being demonstrated by all the muckety mucks running the Educational Industry at the moment. There are some people who are simply slower and may have perfectly happy and productive lives without college. There are some who are not academically inclined. Especially not in today’s sit and take some more tests classrooms. There are an amazing number of skilled labor jobs which pay well and go wanting for applicants each year. (See http://www.mikeroweworks.com). Those first two groups should probably make up fully 75%-80% of our population. Some of those folks may go to college later. Some may find that they want some business acumen, or find their love of literature late, or … a thousand reasons why. And some may even get degrees. Now WHY are we pushing this “college bound” stuff on 100% of the student population? Even college is becoming less about liberal arts than cranking out certificates (accountants and teachers and accredited computer folks). But that is another rant.

    What was the PURPOSE of a free public education??? Was it for little Johnny and Jane to have a career (no)? It was to have a literate population who could fully participate in our democratic republic.

    IMHO- if we began treating Public Education like the gift (not a right) that it truly is and really considered what kids need to know as functional adults we would go a long way toward making school more interesting for the kids and more successful on the whole.

    Like

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