Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Good Education in Federal Way

Here is the latest from
Charles R. Hoff

Actions speak louder than words, the good news about education in Federal Way.

Is there any good news about education in Federal Way? Yes there is!
During the seven years that I was on the School Board we worked hard to provide some excellent options for parents to obtain some of the finest education that is available in the Western United States. A new facility for the Public Academy, the NATEF auto program, Cambridge programs for grades 6-12, new rules for International Baccalaureate attendance, participation in the Aviation Academy, Carpenter Apprentice Program and the Technology Access Foundation are all examples of choices that parents and students have to obtain an education that will well equip them for the next steps in their lives. I have often said, “You can get an excellent education in Federal Way!” I did not say, “You will get and excellent education in Federal Way!”

Unfortunately in spite of all of these choices that offer some great outcomes from high school the majority of the children in Federal Way’s schools still remain in “basic” education! Why is this so? There appear to be three reasons for this.

1. The Guidance Departments in all of our schools are reluctant to have a discussion about future steps with the parents of the students that attend their schools and the traditional feeder schools. It would be hard for me to visualize a Guidance Counselor in one of our high schools sitting down with a highly capable student and their parents to suggest that they attend another school in the district even though the program in the other school is clearly a better option for the student. Contrary to the motto that “we are here for the student” there seem to be other priorities. A few years ago there was a proposal for a specialized high school that was approved by the community and vetoed by the faculty. What is the reason? My conjecture was that the faculty of the existing schools saw that this school would draw the best students from their schools! Would this school have been good for the children? I think so. Instead we built a high school without any vocational programs for a student population that has scored very poorly on the SAT test!

2. Students. Just ask any student why they are at any of our secondary schools and you will get responses such as; “My friends are going there, they have a great ____ team, or I want to be an Eagle/Titan/Gator/Raider!” What does this have to do with leaving high school with the tools for that all important “next step?” I have found few students who “get it” about the real mission of high school. Adults, and taxpayers, should be looking at this. All of the students’ preferences seem to have much more to do with the social aspects of secondary schools, instead of the value of traditional education. In my travels to other countries that are overtaking us in education, I have not found any such thought processes like this being used to select a secondary education, and it shows. A few years ago there was a documentary on English television about “American High Schools.” There was no discussion about any academics, as this is not what makes our schools “different” than secondary schools in the UK. What was it about? The preparations for a Prom! Dress selection, date confirmation, etc. took up the entire series! Why? Perhaps it is because such social functions do not exist in UK secondary schools. We had a major uproar during my time on the school board about not having a homecoming queen at a school that had no graduates! Couple this with another group of excited parents about the decals on the football helmets, and I think you can see why an offering of a series of courses that have some rigorous academic requirements, perhaps in a different school than your friends are planning on attending, has little attraction to many of the students that would gain the most from one the more rigorous programs.

3. Parents. On the issue of academic selection parents seem to fall into three categories:

A. There is a group of parents who seem to have decided that their young children are capable of making these decisions that will, in most cases, have lifelong implications. Whatever their child wants academically is what they will support, even if they haven’t a clue as to what, or how, this decision will affect their child. These same parents will probably “want the best education for their child,” or believe that their child is bound for an Ivy League college. They are clearly in for some disappointments in many cases. This group of parents seems to be unwilling to “go uphill” with their children as this might lead to some negative conversations. Parental responsibility just isn’t there. Good intentions? Sure! Good results?

B. Parents who have already “signed out” on raising their children. The mere idea of looking into the course offerings with rigor is far more effort than they are prepared to exert. I don’t know how many parents I have talked to who have stated, “if the kid doesn’t want to do the work, I am not going to force he/she to do it!” Allowing a 14 year old to adopt this attitude may be a perfect way to insure that they will be in your house after the normal age of “graduation!” Parents’ responsibility used to include the supervision of children for as long as they remained in the household. This concept seems to be missing in these homes.

C. Knowledgeable Parents. Which kids are enrolled in programs such as FWPA, IB, Cambridge, and why are they? I think it is a fair assumption that many of the kids in programs such as this have been placed there by their parents. Sometimes these come with strong objections from their children, at least a first. These parents are putting actions with words, and taking the responsibility for making decisions for their youngsters. These are also the kids who are succeeding in our schools. These parents are monitoring homework, aware of the other activities that their children are involved with, and keeping themselves informed about the options that are available for their children. Are these kids smarter than other kids? In most cases no. Are they more focused on what is likely to advance their lives? I think so. Do they understand that “adults have the cookies?” Most do!

If you are a parent in Federal Way where do you fit? Can you tell me why your child isn’t in one of these focused programs?


Anonymous said...

To Jarring brazen-faced Popinjays:

Virginity breeds mites, much like cheese. Title should read - A Good Education the Federal Way.

Clearly what works for a small number of FW students is not working any better than for the vast majority of the nameless other students.

Rant wins on creativity. Hoff blames -

1. Guidance counselors and teachers?

2 Lumps parents into three groups: Parents unwilling to go uphill with their students? Apathetic parents? and finally the parents who force their kids to enroll in programs like IB? It is generally, not the real story. Wordiness? Yes Logic embedded in reality? No.

Sounds like one of the bum-baileys responsible for recommending all students take AP classes.

Hoff is not helping.

Anonymous said...

Hoff is backward with respect to curriculum. It matters who you teach; not what you teach. Rather than serve dull, dry content out of a ridiculous textbook, teachers should serve their community. Pedantic is a precise descriptor of Aristotle and standardized education. So much for reform.