While recent statistics from the United States Department of Education indicate that 80% of our high school students are graduating, an all-time record high, there is a downside to these figures in that a good majority of these students are not proficient in reading and writing and …
… an equal number are unable to complete rather basic problems in mathematics.
What is this saying about our system of education and, perhaps the more important question is, what can we do about it?
No Child Left Behind Assessment 2006
If you look at the statistics from the Commission on No Child Left Behind dated in 2006, there was widespread concern that the number of our youth graduating from high school was at record lows. In order to understand the gravity of the situation, let’s compare those figures to those taken in 2016 to see that we may be in an even more precarious situation now than we were then.
In 2006 there were only 51.6% of African American high school students graduating with an almost equally alarmingly low 55.6% of Hispanic students graduating. In 2016 that number rose to 80%, as mentioned above, but are they faring any better? The answer is a simple, “Probably not.” Here’s why.
Our Students Are Still Unprepared for Life in a Global Economy
In 2006, that was the major concern of No Child Left Behind and it is still as valid a concern today as it was over a decade ago. The only difference is that we are now graduating students at the rate of 80% who cannot read, write and calculate proficiently whereas a decade ago there were just more than 50% of students having those same difficulties. The implications are clear here and our teachers shouldn’t be promoting those young people to face a world they are clearly unprepared to face!
The Implications Are Clear!
As for the implications, consider for a moment you are an employer and you are about to interview a job candidate who has a high school diploma in hand. As a graduate of high school, you would expect that this particular applicant could read and write proficiently enough to understand the application process and answer random test questions that your firm employs during that same application process.
Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly, the high school graduate scored no better than the applicants who had withdrawn from high school prior to graduation. This happens over and over and over again, which leads you to wonder, what is wrong with our schools?
What One University Is Doing to Rectify the Situation
Recognizing the need to prepare leaders within school administration, George Washington University has developed a terminal degree, EdSELA, which was designed for students with a Master’s Degree in Education but who aren’t seeking their doctorate. It is a terminal degree, a 30 hour specialized degree in education that prepares administrators to be leaders who are equipped to prepare secondary students to enter the world beyond high school.
Has the system been broken all along unbeknownst to anyone but a select few who had the wherewithal to develop a program like EdSELA? Perhaps, or perhaps it takes innovators to change a system that hasn’t been working for years. Perhaps it takes innovators who are ready to swim against the tides and recognize that some students simply need to be left behind.
What Leadership Means in the Real World
So then, you now have a graduate level leadership degree in education but what does that mean? What exactly is leadership in the context of education and why would a leader want to leave anyone behind? Consider for a moment the duties of a leader. A real leader recognizes talent and rewards talent accordingly. A real leader doesn’t pull slackers through by the hand just to get them across the finish line. That is dragging, not leading! In a world where there are too few real leaders, it’s time someone recognized that we have been doing our children a huge disservice.
Government’s Efforts Have Sorely Failed
It is far better to work from another angle to incentivize our youth to excel in academics and cognitive processes. As a leader, that is what you are going to be tasked with doing. Rather than subscribe to the No Child Left Behind mindset that is not preparing students for college or the workforce, it is far better to learn to lead them to new heights. Inspire and encourage but pander to those who aren’t ready to accept responsibility?
Government passed legislation in hopes of improving the quality and thrust of No Child Left Behind, but to date, little to no improvement has been evidenced in the Every Student Succeeds Act – which for all intents and purposes was the same but with different verbiage. To sum it up, again, some children simply need to be left to face the consequences. As a leader, it is your job to teach them the difference between success and failure. Some children simply need to be left behind. Some children don’t succeed!