Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Core Knowledge Blog
Rigor? Who Has Time for Rigor?

by Robert Pondiscio
August 25th, 2010

Tags: college readiness, The Concord Review, Will Fitzhugh
Posted in Education Practice |

Most people would agree that it would be beneficial for high school students to write the kind of research paper that Will Fitzhugh publishes in The Concord Review, the only publication in the country [world] that features scholarly papers penned by high school students. The ability to research and write a thoughtful, cogent research paper fairly screams “College Ready” no?

Just back from a three-day workshop with a group of “diligent, pleasant and interesting teachers” in Florida, Fitzhugh describes at the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog teachers who “were genuinely interested in having their students do serious papers and be better prepared for college (and career).” The problem is that the teachers each have at six [one has seven] classes of 30 or more students—180 to 210 students each.

Fitzhugh is a man of letters, but he does the math:

“After absorbing the fact of this shameful and irresponsible number of assigned students, I realized that if these teachers were to ask for the 20-page history research paper which is typical of the ones I publish in The Concord Review, they would have 3,600 pages to read, correct, and comment on when they were turned in, not to mention the extra hours guiding students through their research and writing efforts. The one teacher with 210 students would have 4,200 pages of papers presented to him at the end of term.

“It made me both sad and angry that these willing teachers, who want their students to be prepared for higher education, have been given impossible working conditions which will most certainly prevent them from helping their students get ready for the academic reading and writing tasks which await them in college,” Fitzhugh concludes.

The man’s got a point. Always does. It’s easy to make grand pronouncements about college readiness, rigor, and high expectations. It swells the chest with pride to be on the side of the angels. Fitzhugh’s example shows the long distance between what it takes and mere homilies.

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