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JEFF MEADORS: Lack of student engagement hurts performance

The Fairbanks Daily News — Miner reported on Jan. 30 that 73 percent of fourth-graders cannot read proficiently.

The Fairbanks data is based on 2013 National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) data.

NAEP, the nation’s education report card, found national improvement in fourth and eighth grade math and reading in 2013 but of little statistically significant value.

Yet NAEP reading scores were significantly higher in both grades in Iowa, Tennessee, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools as well as math scores in both grades in Hawaii, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools.

Do these states know something we don’t?

Georgia students showed no statistically significant gains in grade four or eight reading or math based on new 2013 data.

According to the most recently available data from the National Center for Education Statistics there are 1,677,067 public school students in Georgia, 60.8 percent attending Title I schools — 10.6 percent of these students have individualized education programs (IEP); 4.9 percent have limited English proficiency; and 57.4 percent of Georgia’s public school students are eligible for free/reduced lunch.

There are 180 school districts with 2,541 schools and 69 charter schools. Fiscal year 2011 total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States amounted to $607 billion or a median of $10,039 per student. Georgia’s per pupil median exceeded most Southern states at $9,124.00.

In the same year Georgia students fell below U.S. averages on NAEP assessment scale scores in every category: fourth and eighth grade reading, fourth and eighth grade writing, fourth and eighth grade science, and fourth and eighth grade math.

Data show also that every year since 1987 national percentages of teachers indicating serious problems in public schools have increased.

Based on fiscal year 2012 US DOE data 16.4 percent of our nation’s public school teachers identify student tardiness as a serious problem; 21.9 percent list absenteeism as serious; 10.4 percent cite students cutting class. Secondary school teachers, where graduation rates are measured, complained most.

Among elementary and secondary public school teachers, 29.4 percent labeled a lack of parent involvement as a serious problem. Could this help to explain the high student achievement at the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett — a model built on the premise that contractual parent involvement pays off?

More than 27 percent of our nation’s teachers cited student apathy and 34.9 percent complained that students come to school unprepared to learn as barriers to progress.

While NCES data indicate overall satisfaction with the job of teaching classroom teachers report the following problems as serious ones: routine duties and paperwork interference with teaching, low salary, low administrative support, and inconsistent enforcement of school rules.

Only one-third of public school teachers believe that district or state content standards have positively impacted their teaching.

Most national education experts often point to two initiatives as prerequisites to boosting student performance: increasing support of classroom teachers and implementing STEM programs.

To increase support of our teachers is to listen to them and to take appropriate action based on both the quantity and quality of their input.

But is anyone listening to them?

Columnist Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com