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Chapter 6

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Diane Glebe

READING NOTES Chapter 6: SCHOOLS The Broader Context of U.S. Secondary Education • Not only is school longer today than it was in the past but adolescents remain in school for more years now than they did in previous eras The Origins of Compulsory Education • As productivity became more dependent on skilled workers, employers recognized that they needed employees more skilled than youngsters ordinarily were • Social reformers expressed concerns about the dangers of children working in factories and labour unions ◦ In response, child labour laws narrowed opportunities for employment for minors • With immigration came crowded neighbourhoods, poor housing and crime ◦ Social reformers proposed that education would improve living conditions for the poor and middle class • Aform of social control – take youngsters out of the street and put them in institutions where they can be supervised and kept out of trouble The Ride of the Comprehensive High School • Schooling used to be just for the elite ◦ Now that it is directed at the masses, they saw a need for schooling to be more practical and include preparation for the roles of work and citizenship • Comprehensive education is an educational institution that evolved during the first half th of the 20 century, offering a varied curriculum and designed to meet the needs of a diverse population of adolescents • By the middle of the 20 century, high school shifted its exclusive focus on intellectual development of the socioeconomic elite to the social and intellectual development of all young people School Reform: Past and Present • The study of schools is important to social scientists and policy makers who are interested in influencing adolescent development • When politicians felt that they lost their scientific edge to the former Soviet Union, schools were called to offer more courses in math and science • When social scientists felt that adolescents were growing up unfamiliar with the world of work, schools were asked to provide opportunities for work-study programs and career education classes • No Child Left BehindAct ◦ Apiece of legislation that states ensure that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances, achieve academic proficiency ◦ NCLB required that schools create and enforce academic standards by annually testing all students and by reporting the results of students' performance to the public ◦ Many commentators have criticized that social promotion cheated poor and ethnic minority students out of a good education and graduated without the necessary skills to succeed in college or in the labour force ▪ Social promotion is the practice of promoting students from one grade to the next automatically, regardless of their school performance ◦ The movement towards performance-based accountability-holding teachers, schools, states – accountable for the achievement of their students – has been the most important change in the world ofAmerican education ▪ One problem with the NCLB program was that it left standard setting up to individual states What Should Schools Teach? • Back to Basics ◦ The history of curricular reform inAmerica has been one of frequent shifting between an emphasis on “rigor” and and an emphasis on “relevance” ▪ For the past three decades, rigor has ruled ◦ Critics ofAmerican education has been calling for a return to a curriculum that stresses the basics and that attempts to ensure that all students master them • Standards-Based Reform ◦ The return to basics has been accompanied by standards-based reform ▪ Policies designed to improve achievement by holding schools and students to a predetermined set of standards measured by achievement tests • Although examinations were in place to ensure that high school graduates actually knew what they were supposed to know, problems still arose ◦ First, teachers could not agree on the body of knowledge to be taught ◦ Second, large numbers of students did not acquire the knowledge needed for the standard examinations ◦ Many have argued that schools for adolescents have grown too large and impersonal ◦ Diane Ravitch notes three beliefs that have interfered with the success of educational reform: ▪ Schools can solve any social or political problem ▪ Only a portion of youngsters are capable of benefiting from a high-quality education ▪ Imparting knowledge is relatively unimportant and that schools should focus on engaging students in activities and experiences ◦ Increasing parents have begun to look at other options: ▪ Charter schools are public schools that are given more freedom to set their own curricula and teaching practices ▪ Schools run by private corporations versus local school boards ▪ Government-subsidized school vouchers (which can be used for private school tuition) Education in the Inner Cities • Commentators have argued that low student achievement was concentrated mainly among poor and minority youngsters living in inner cities • Indeed, the achievement gap between White and non-White youngsters had been closing for some time, it grew wider during the 1990s, especially among large urban school districts • Why has school reform failed in so many urban schools? ◦ First, concentration of poverty in many inner-city communities has produced a population of students with an array of personal and situational problems – problems that few schools are able to address ◦ Second, many urban school districts are burdened by huge administrative bureaucracies that often impede reform and hinder educational innovation ◦ Third, students in urban schools report less of a sense of “belonging” to their school, which leads to disengagement and poor achievement ◦ Finally, the erosion of job opportunities in inner-city communities has left many students with little incentive to remain in school or to devote a great deal of effort to academic pursuits ▪ Many reformers believe that to fix the problems of urban education, we must change the entire context in which inner city children live, not merely what goes on in their schools Recap • Schools play an extremely important role in structuring the nature of adolescence in modern society ◦ In most of the industrialized world, virtually all 14 – 17 year olds are enrolled in school, a pattern that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the developing world ▪ In addition, school occupies an enormous amount of adolescent's time • Anumber of social forces combined to lead to the development of compulsory education for adolescents inAmerica, including industrialization, immigration, and urbanization • During the 1920s, the high school as we know it in the United States today – the comprehensive school – was born • Educators have long debated whether and how high schools should be reformed ◦ The pendulum has swung back and forth between eras in which teaching basic academic skills was emphasized and those during which the emphasis was on making the school's curriculum relevant • At the turn of the 21 century, calls for the implementation and enforcement of rigorous academic standards became widespread as the public grew increasingly worried about the competitiveness ofAmerican students in an international economy that is increasingly reliant on high-tech, high-skill jobs • There is a broad consensus that inner-city public schools, which mainly serve disadvantaged ethnic minority adolescents, are in especially dire straits ◦ Experts agree that to change this state of affairs, we need to transform the entire context in which poor urban youth live The Social Organization of Schools • Five key aspects of school organization: ◦ School and classroom size ◦ Different approaches to age-grouping, in particular, how young adolescents should be grouped ◦ Tracking, or the grouping of students in classes according to their academic abilities ◦ The ethnic composition of schools ◦ Public versus private schools School and Class Size • Is Bigger Better? ◦ Research suggests that there are no educational or psychological advantages of attending larger schools ◦ Student performance and interest in school improve when their schools are made less bureaucratic and more intimate ◦ Studies indicate that students achieve more when they attend smaller schools that create a cohesive sense of community ◦ Many educators recommend that large schools be broken down into schools within schools (subdivisions of the student body within large schools create to foster feelings of belongingness) ◦ Large schools can support more athletic teams, after-school clubs, and student organizations but actual rates of participation are only half as high in large schools as in smaller ones ▪ As a result, in larger schools, students tend more often to be observers than participants • The Strengths of Small Schools ◦ Students in small schools more likely to be placed in positions of leadership and responsibility ◦ Although large schools may be able to offer more diverse curricula and provide greater material resources for their students, the toll that school size may take on student learning and engagement appears to exceed the benefits of size ◦ Evidence suggests that there is more inequality in students' educational experiences in larger schools, where students may be sorted into tracks of differing quality ▪ In contrast, it is more likely in small schools that students are exposed to the same curriculum ◦ The ideal size of a high school is between 600 and 900 students • The Problem of Overcrowding ◦ Achievement i slower in overcrowded schools because of stress both on students and teachers, the use of facilities for instruction were not designed to serve as classrooms, and inadequate resources Age Grouping and School Transitions • Junior high school is an educational institution designed during the early era of public secondary education, in which young adolescents are schooled separately from older adolescents (grades 7, 8 and sometimes 9) • Middle school houses 7 , 8 with one or more younger grades – replacing junior high school • The Transition Into Secondary School ◦ Students' academic motivation and school grades drop as they move from elementary into middle or junior high school ◦ Schools transitions can disrupt academic performance, behaviour, and self-image of adolescents ▪ This effect may be stronger on White students than their ethnic minority peers How Secondary Schools Differ from Elementary Schools • Not only are junior high schools larger and less personal, but middle and junior high school teachers also hold different beliefs about students than do elementary school teachers • Teachers in junior high tend to be more likely to believe that students' abilities are fixed and not easily modified through instruction • Teachers who teach in junior and middle high schools are less likely to feel confident about their teaching ability • Eccles argues that it is the nature of the transition they must make ◦ The organization and anonymity of junior high schools have a negative effect on the teachers who work in them, which affects the way they interact with students • Individual Differences in the Extent of Transitional Problems ◦ Students who have more academic and psychosocial problems before making school transitions are less successful with dealing with stress ◦ One study of Texas adolescents found that Black and MexicanAmerican youngsters were more likely than their White peers to experience a variety of difficulties during the transition out of elementary school ▪ Including poorer grades, getting into trouble with teachers, being hassled by other students ▪ Among Black and Latino students transitioning to a school where the proportion of students from the same ethnic background is lower than it had been at their previous school is associated with greater disengagement from school, lower grades and more frequent absences Tracking • The process of separating students into different levels of classes within the same school is called ability grouping or, tracking • Pros and Cons of Tracking ◦ Allows teachers to design class lessons that are more finely tuned to students' abilities ◦ Those who aren't in the highly specialized programs receive a poor quality of education ◦ Tracking can contribute to the polarization of the student body into different subcultures that are often hostile toward each other ◦ Tracking may discriminate against poor and ethnic minority stereotypes ◦ Boys are more likely than girls to be placed in advanced classes ▪ Girls are less likely than boys to be moved from a lower math track into a higher one, even though girls generally outscore boys on tests of math achievement in elementary school • Tracking, Sexism, and Single-Sex Schools ◦ In girls schools, teachers were observed as, “talking down to girls, making academic activities more platable by wrapping up calculus in a nontechnical package” setting up expectations that students would have difficulty with assignments by offering help before it was required or requested or promulgating an attitude that 'trying hard is as important as succeeding' ◦ In boys' schools, teachers were more likely to use an aggressive style of teaching that encouraged students to state their views assertively and to expect the intense scrutiny of their teachers and peers ◦ Sexism was just as pronounced in coeducational schools, especially in science classes • On the Wrong Track ◦ Students in different tracks have markedly different opportunities to learn ◦ Being placed on a more advanced track has a positive influence on school achievement, on subsequent course selection, and on ultimate educational attainment ◦ In schools that use tracking, t
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