I am a retired public school teacher. My general observation in the system in which I taught is that it is damaged beyond repair. I would not send my kids to the school in which I taught. Several of the teachers who taught there either home schooled, or sent their kids to a private school or parochial school to keep them from having to try to get an education in an environment that was not conducive to learning.
The Public School had become a place where the lowest common denominator of social behavior had become the standard. Even though I grew up in poverty, my parents insisted on a high standard of behavior from me and my brothers. In this district it was common for the tattooed and body pierce moms to say: "My kid does not lie...he says that you....". etc., etc.
Some incidents that occurred in this rural, small town, very small class B school: Two attempts at stuffing paper towels into a teacher's new van gas tank and lighting it in an attempt to get it to burn or blow up. Students defecating multiple times in the same toilet in an attempt to get it to plug-up. When auto-flushing toilets were installed, they would defecate next to the toilets on the floor, smear feces on the walls and mirrors. The same middle schooler removed from art class in handcuffs, the second time for stabbing another student in the chest with a pencil. A girl held a pencil on the seat of a boy who sat on it puncturing his anus...the girl was given one day in "time out" for the offense. The principal of the High School had to be escorted from a wrestling match for shouting rude comments at the referee(was caught on video tape, the principal was not disciplined). Rampant drug use. Rampant rude and crude remarks aimed at the teachers. When I would ask the question: "...what is 6 times 9?", at least one fourth of the High School students could not answer. I personally know of students who were graduated who could not read.
I would advise parents who asked me what they should do, I told them that I suggest that they form a cooperative of several parents, and home-school their kids. If that were not possible, private school or a parochial school.
A lot of good points there. I went to a public school that was considered to be pretty good (depending on who you were listening to it was "one of the best in the country") and we had more than our fair share of issues.
- Rampant illiteracy. At least twenty graduates in my class couldn't read and about half read on the level of, say, a third-grade student.
- Drug use. Marijauna was more common than nicotine cigarettes. Cocaine wasn't as common, but it was there. And apparently so was heroin, although those could have just been rumors.
- Alcohol. My school's biggest problem. The year before I entered the school there was an incident at the Homecoming Dance in which four students got so drunk they passed out and had to have their stomachs pumped, right there in the gym. The school instituted breathalyzer tests; students stopped coming to the dances. There were around twenty arrests for alcohol-related crimes amongst each class every year, and to listen to the stories there ought to have been three times that number but the police just didn't bother pursuing the matter.
- Favoritism. My high school favored its athletes rather heavily. This ranged from the petty things, like the principal not knowing the names of who was starring in the new school show but being well-acquainted with the football team's star running back, to the not-so-petty, like the administration spending more time in meetings discussing how they were going to keep the football team eligible to play than how to improve conditions in the poorly-constructed, leaky, and altogether dangerous Theater/Music wing.
- Teachers. Admittedly I had a lot of really good teachers in high school. History especially - the man who taught our history class was himself a conservative and a member of the Republican Party, but he always encouraged us to think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions. He also encouraged us not to pull any punches in discussions. However, there was a distinct divide between the newer teachers and the older teachers. The older teachers, who had been doing it for five years and up, were mostly pretty good (with a few exceptions). The newer teachers, the "rookies" as we referred to them, weren't so great (once again, with a few exceptions). I had the audacity to suggest to my American Literature teacher that Edna shouldn't have killed herself at the end of The Awakening, and I wound up failing the assignment because the teacher didn't agree. I'm sorry, but that's just wrong.
- Money. It's funny, it always seemed as though there was enough money in the budget, it was just that no one seemed to know where it was all going. I was heavily involved in the music and drama programs, and being friends with several of the history teachers I got to hear about their budget woes too. I'm about 90 percent sure that misuse of money was the problem with everyone's budget issues, but to prove it the people misusing the money would have to have been organized enough to show how they were using it.
- Interest. How interested in getting an education are students today? Not very. There were three general classifications of students at my high school: the people who wanted to be there and worked hard, taking Honors and AP courses and participating in extracurricular activities (I was in this category); the people who were there grudgingy, accpeting that if they wanted to go anywhere in life they would absolutely need a high school diploma; and the people who just didn't give a damn and either dropped out or failed to graduate. The biggest problem was that the school started finding exceptions to get that last group through graduation, so that even the people who hadn't done the work, hadn't shown up to class, and had in fact not cared in the slightest about their educations were graduating, too. Perhaps if they were really being helped and were finally putting in some effort, this would have been okay, but as it was, it just turned our diplomas into farces.
Of the people in my class...
- Around 20 to 30 did not graduate/dropped out.
- Of those who did graduate, 88% went on to college.
- None were accepted to an Ivy League school, a first for my high school in about ten years.
- Around 40% were going to college for liberal arts degrees.
- Around 35% were going to college for mathematics/hard sciences degrees, including one student who was accepted to MIT.
- Around 20% were going to college for the social sciences.
- And the rest, about 5% or so, were going for vocational training.
- A shocking 92% of college-bound seniors, when asked what the purpose of college was, responded with some combination of, "Getting drunk," "getting laid," or "getting high."
- Of those, when told that the survey was entirely serious, only 24% amended their answer to include education.
Makes you think, doesn't it? I personally applied to six colleges and was accepted at three. The three that rejected me were the more top-tier schools of the bunch (Bates College and Colby College in Maine and Kenyon College in Ohio, which was my first choice).
Between my strong test scores and relatively high GPA, why wasn't I accepted? Today, colleges are looking for students with strong numbers across the board, but who are definitely interested in one focus area (although they are, preferably, good in all areas). For instance, a student who states that she always wanted to be a microbiologist and has already pursued that in high school will stand a better chance of going to Harvard than a student who has been in the science club as well as the field hockey team, the drama club, and the student government, but has no idea what she wants to do with the rest of her life.
The old stand-by, that colleges are looking for students who are "well-rounded," isn't as true as it was five years ago. Our guidance office wasn't exactly up on this fact. They had me touting my wide range activities, which, to be honest, wasn't all that wide, when I could have been talking about lifelong dream of becoming a writer and all the various things I did that were leading me towards that goal. As a result, I got those three "no's," and my life is very, very different from how it would have been had they been the opposite.
Is this the fault of my guidance counselor? Certainly not entirely. I'm still the one who submitted the applications and resumes, etc. I just followed her advice. Still, finding out several months later that this advice was highly flawed made me question whether I should have trusted the school to help me better my life at all, when all they seem concerned with is maintaining their own status quo.