Thursday, September 22, 2011

Teacher, want to know why kids cut your class? Look in the mirror

It’s an amazing collection of information, all within a week. And, it provides some astonishing insight into why kids in inner city Louisville are not showing up for school.

This blog was triggered by a Courier-Journal piece, “Jefferson County teachers union questions high student absences at failing schools.”

Per the Courier:

“The teacher’s union has asked Mayor Greg Fischer to form a joint task force with the district to examine why those schools’ absence rates are so high.”

Well, the union may not like the answer, IF the mayor does this right.

You see, someone already asked the question.

Last weekend John Stossel aired another of his “Stupid in America” investigative reports on our public schools. In one segment of the show, he talked to former Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee about kids who were cutting school there. Rhee said something amazing.

Rhee found out kids were showing up for one class – even early in the morning – when the teacher was doing a good job, but they then skipped out of school before attending any more classes.


The students are happy to come to school when classes are taught by teachers who know their subjects, are excited about teaching it, make it relevant to the students and basically care about the kids. But, these kids won’t stay around for teachers who are not effectively teaching them.


The Stossel/Rhee story took on another dimension for me yesterday at a meeting of the Northern Kentucky Forum. The subject was education, and the Forum brought in four high school students as part of the discussion team.

Along the way, the kids dropped a bombshell: why should they be interested in learning various subjects when the teachers themselves seemed so unmotivated about the material being taught?

Now, these kids weren’t from the inner city. They were from one of the more concentrated areas of better schools in the state. These students understand that education is important to their futures. But, just like kids from inner-city DC (and probably in Louisville), they don’t enjoy having to endure unexcited, unmotivated teachers, either.

So, bring it on, Louisville. Why don’t you sit down with a group of frequently absent students from those Persistently Low-Achieving Schools and find out why they are cutting class. I’ll bet your teachers union won’t be able to stand some of the answers.

Make no mistake – we need Kentucky’s kids in school. Their futures and the future of our economy demand it.

But, before we force those kids back into failing schools, we all need to look ourselves in the mirror and resolve to make sure once those kids are back in school, that they will have teachers who make the experience worth it.

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