Friday, April 14, 2017

Cart, Horse...

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn't think his city's schools are doing their job of educating the students in them. A number of things, like test scores, graduation statistics and the naked eye back him up on this.

So he's proposed a solution. In order to receive their diplomas, Chicago seniors will have to show "an acceptance letter to a four-year university, a community college, a trade school or apprenticeship, an internship, or a branch of the armed services." In other words, the only people who can have a Chicago public school diploma are the ones who've managed to transcend the dismal system in which they have been laboring for the last 12 years.

The statistics in the Huffington Post story say that nine out of every 10 Chicago public school students has to take remedial courses at whatever college they attend because they can't do the very things that a high school diploma is supposed to indicate they can. That 91 percent figure is from 2014 but I can't imagine it's dropped much since then, if indeed it's dropped at all. It's almost as though the Mayor doesn't want to give kids a diploma until he can be assured that the city's school system hasn't completely wrecked their chances at a future.

And it's kind of a weak goad in any event, because he's only talking about the actual piece of paper itself. Many of those post-high school options in his list kind of require a student to graduate in order to enter them, which means the student has to be listed as having fulfilled all the requirements to do so. Universities don't accept incomplete high school transcripts. If I'm accepted to a four-year university, what the heck do I need the piece of paper for? My mom can probably tell you where my high school diploma is but I have exactly zero idea. Even for people who like to cover an office wall with diplomas and certificates the value of a high school diploma is marginal -- if there's limited room and one has to go, then adios alma mater.

Having worked at a college before, I can point to a lot of anecdotal evidence that few high schools really get students "ready for college." Time management skills, study habits, reading for information, ability to write clearly -- and that's before we get anywhere near actual knowledge content. Smart kids who went to good high schools were not really prepared for the changed environment of campus life and the university classroom. So while they may be worse than a lot of others (and better than a few), this is not a problem limited to Chicago schools.

Mayor Emanuel's proposed solution, on the other hand, has less of an excuse for its seeming cluelessness. The Mayor attended suburban Winnetka's New Trier High School (he was at the west campus when it was still open), identified as one of the nation's top schools in national magazines as far back as the 1950s. From there he went to private Sarah Lawrence College and picked up a master's from the private Northwestern University.

So he oughtta be smarter than this.


fillyjonk said...

And unfortunately for a lot of kids, they're not "prepared for life" because they had parents who weren't "prepared for life" and who didn't know how to prepare their kids (I was one of the lucky ones; whatever common sense I have I learned from my parents).

This is just such a bad idea on the part of Mayor Emmanuel. It's not going to help the people who need help most. I don't see things in Chicago schools getting any better because of this.

Friar said...

I leave open the possibility that there's more to this than meets the eye, since it comes from a TV news report. But as presented, it's a head scratcher.