Friday, September 30, 2016

Schools don't actually teach everyone.

We talk about numbers. Statistics. Policies. And too often, these numbers get ignored, it being forgotten or ignored that these are people lives.

Still, here are some more numbers.

I worked in a school which split students into different types of classes. There were the honors classes, the "normal" classes, and the "you need some extra help" classes. Along side these there were segregated autism only classes, and "it's not worth teaching you academics, lets only work on life skills" classes. But back to the standard three.

Teachers would tell everyone how unless you're in the honors classes, there's no way you could possibly go to college. They'd tell the students in the honors classes how maybe half them would graduate college. It wasn't worth trying to go to a good school, because they'd just get a lot of debt and probably fail out anyways.

You were not allowed to have an aide helping you as indicated on your IEP in an honors class. You could choose to have the class rather than the accommodation, but it was a choice. You could not do both.

And notably in a school with over 60% of the students in poverty - they were distinctly lacking in these classes. In a school where over 65% of the students are PoC, in the honors classes I worked in about over 80% of the students were white. Honors classes were for the middle-class white kids who would then go to college and then continue the standard expected life in our society.

Next, the standard, "normal", classes. These classes were about 50/50 white/PoC. Teachers would regularly tell students how much they were annoyed at them or they would never amount to anything. They were taught only via memorization, and only what was on standardized tests. The goal was graduation.

In the classes they set up for those who 'need extra help', they simply didn't teach. How to find the area of a square. Well you write down this formula, and then you copy this number written at this place in the picture into this spot, and then you type that into your calculator, now lets practice doing that and only that for the next 3 weeks, because none of you are good at math so you don't know how to do anything, I'll tell you many times how much you aren't good at math of course. That was an actual lesson. One of them which wasn't simply incorrect. Many of the lessons I saw were factually wrong.

These were the students who'd gotten into high school without anyone having bothered to try to teach them to add. It was always "of course you can't do that". In a large enough to pay attention to number of their cases, they hadn't been shown a calculator.

These were also students where, out of 30, one was white.

And students where, the discussions they had during class were topics like "how do you find a job so you can support your family". Or they were working two jobs and that's why they were missing school.

But they weren't deemed worth teaching.

Some of them I know I helped and that's not nearly enough. The system is broken. Not one class. Not one school. The system is broken.

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