This is the final installment of a series of essays I've written on the top ten things I learned while teaching high school biology and integrated science. It's taken a good amount of research and reflection to get all of these ideas out there into a coherent format, but I'm pretty happy with the way they've turned out. It is also good timing, as I need to catch up on studying for my next adventure into science and higher education.
I've recapped the first 9 items of my top ten list below. Click on their links to bring you to that specific essay for more detail, and if you liked any of these essays please click the Digg badge to the right:
#10) “Weekends were made for teachers”
#9)“If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail”
#8) "What it means when someone doesn't follow directions"
#7) “A student's unique needs can be defined by his English fluency, reasoning ability, and intrinsic motivation”
#6)“The history and importance of state standards and standardized testing”
#5)“Science is a method of begetting knowledge / What is Scientific Literacy”
#4)“Teach For America is making progress toward ending educational inequity”
#3)“The history and causes of the achievement gap”
#2)“There are 3 main obstacles to closing the achievement gap”
...and the #1 thing I learned while teaching secondary science:
#1)“The achievement gap can be closed”
There is evidence of instructional strategies in place that are producing real results in real schools. For example, research study upon study detail the successes of many charter schools with a reliance on heightened student/teacher/parent expectations and accountability in bolstering student achievement levels. Improved school choice with the addition of effectively run charter schools may also have a positive effect on eliminating segregation in schools, a long-lived artifact from a recent era of race relations.
The recent NAEP report referenced in an earlier post gave some examples of national successes in closing the Black-White achievement gap.
Other research highlights the power of effective instruction in making gains in closing achievement gaps (Cite and Cite). Good teachers matter and do have a measurable impact on increasing student achievement.
The real question, then, is not if these disparities can be fixed, but when we will see ultimate success toward this aim. Pinpointing a date is difficult, but it seems we are continually moving in the right direction, with increasing national focus and federal funding being channeled toward the bottom percentile of schools and a spreading movement of standards and accountability.
Finally, I learned from my classroom experience that all students do enjoy and can attain academic success, but it is a matter of presentation and advocacy for getting those select kids, who have grown comfortable to detention and see failure as inevitable, invested in their education. This is decidedly a difficult endeavor (and I saw my own share of successes and failures in investing kids) but rests entirely in the hands of the teacher, with unyielding patience and unending love, in making this success a realized possibility for all students.