Feeling The Crisis

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Mar
  • 28
  • 2009

I don’t know about you, but I have a truckload of students who are suffering from the current financial crisis. Mom and dad are struggling to pay the mortgage, the bank is foreclosing, boxes are jam packed as they get ready to move tomorrow, students suddenly know far too much about what a short sale is, and school suddenly seems terribly distant. Writing that essay about a theme seen in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest doesn’t matter a whole lot when the family is running the very real possibility of having to move into a motel room for the week. And when the likelihood of moving to another state ranks very high, nothing you’re doing in school right now can seem as real as you losing all of your creature comforts and your family being torn apart.

Think this will have an affect on graduation rates? Will this curtail admission to universities? How do you think this is going to impact any standardized tests your state gives? My state gives the STAR and HSEE. My district gives the DRP and its own semester benchmark exam. Of course, there’s always AP and/or IB tests. I think those are going to matter a whole lot less than they already did. Are we still serious about using those test scores as a measure of how well teachers, schools, districts, and states are doing? There are a lot of reasons for low performance. Lack of skill due to poor instruction is only one possibility. What about the multitude of others?

We need to consider the bigger picture of who students are and what instruction is. It is not a single set of grades, test scores, or standards. It’s not a single day’s worth of instruction and it isn’t only what happens from 8 to 3 Monday through Friday. The system is a human one, so are we honest when we try to distill success or failure to a single mark on the page — an API score, an AYP measure, or the ranking in a Newsweek article?

This has been bugging me for a long time. Reading another paragraph from a 15 year old discussing the stress of losing a home, listening to an 18 year old talk about how her job is the only job held in her household, and finding yet another student gone from my class because the family is moving to Texas threw me over the edge this week. When you don’t know if there’ll be a roof over your head when you get home, how can anything done in school be important? This is not a matter of teacher quality. This goes far beyond that.


1. Dan Callahan says:

[3/28/2009 - 3:34 pm]

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pretty much agrees with you. All those kids are down near the bottom of that pyramid, so the school stuff doesn’t really matter much at all.

2. Student says:

[3/28/2009 - 11:52 pm]

In times of economic stagnation, students do need to accompany a job while maintaining their grades in school. I know a handful of friends who are juggling a job and AP classes. Now with even more cuts on education, universities are forced to set the bar a little higher, making financial aid a crap shot for us all. After three years of honors/AP course work, the overworked overachievers with incredible academic records have yanked the hand break and made a screeching U-turn back to the idea of staying near home for college.

What ever happened to leaving the nest? Just a thought.

3. Jackie Ballarini says:

[4/4/2009 - 2:02 pm]

I’ve been noticing the same thing. Also parents have been letting me know that financial matters are making things stressful at home.

Quite a few students have mentioned that they aren’t taking AP tests due to the cost. More of my seniors (I teach three sections) are having to change their college plans due to financial concerns.

Finishing math homework? Not so high on their priority list. I understand that.