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Students Weigh In On Improving Education

Ideas Include More Culturally Sensitive Curriculum, More Accessible Teachers, Parental Involvement, Less Focus On Standardized Tests, More Use Of Technology


April 10, 2012

Across the state people are weighing in with opinions on how to reform education in Connecticut, but what do students think?

High school students had a lot of suggestions Tuesday, from teaching a more culturally sensitive curriculum to getting parents more involved, increasing teachers' availability outside of class and getting rid of standardized tests or at least reducing the focus on them.

Tiffany Walton, a senior in Law & Government Academy at Hartford Public High School, said it sometimes seems that the educational system is set up without a concern for whether students achieve.

Students need to see that "non-achieving is a problem," said Walton, who believes that incorporating students' racial and ethnic backgrounds in the curriculum would help them succeed in school.

"At this point, we have so many different ethnicities and cultures. They need to learn about their history, their people, so that they have a higher sense of self-worth."

Several students said, parents must be encouraged to be more involved in their children's education.

Vidalys Traverzo, also a senior at the Law & Government Academy, said that if parents are not helping their students, "pushing them to do good, then that is kind of a 'fail' on both the school and the parents because the school should make sure that parents are knowledgeable about what's going on."

Walton said that sometimes "an inferiority complex" or a language gap or economic gap can hamper a parent from becoming involved with his or her child's education.

"The schools need to understand that a parent is an asset," Walton said. "They need to respect the student and the parent and their culture and their language."

Students repeatedly took aim at standardized testing.

Roger Jeannotte, who participated Tuesday in a Connecticut Youth Forum at Lyman Memorial High School in Lebanon where he is a student, said there should be a "lesser weight on the value of standardized tests."

Jeannotte said the Connecticut Academic Performance Test is "awful. It doesn't show your intelligence. It's not very difficult. It's not very rigorous. I don't see how a test like that could really identify how well students are learning [or] how well teachers are teaching."

Jeannotte, whose mother is a teacher, said he objects to tying a teacher's evaluation to students' test scores.

"I don't think it's my teacher's fault if I want to blow off my CAPT," he said.

Jessica Ruby, a student at the Hartford Public High School Nursing Academy said that too much time is spent on test preparation to help boost the low scoring students. She said it leaves the better students bored and with less time to spend on a challenging curriculum.

Ruby said she also gets tired of hearing education reform advocates focus on poverty as a reason for students' under-achievement. "People sort of stereotype urban education achievement failure," Ruby said. "They say: 'Oh, they are just poor or they can't afford food.'"

She thinks that most poorer students get the social services they need and that the focus in education reform instead should be on improving the curriculum.

Daneisha Thompson, a senior at the Law & Government Academy, said standardized tests should be eliminated and replaced with regular midterms and finals. She said she thinks more homework should be given and the focus on college preparation should begin earlier.

In promoting his education reform package, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy talks often about effective teachers and the need to make it easier to get rid of teachers who are ineffective. Most students interviewed Tuesday said they thought most of their teachers are effective and are providing them with a good education.

But there were also complaints.

Kate Rogers, a Simsbury High School student participating in the youth forum, said she has had a teacher who seemed poorly prepared and didn't seem to have a lesson plan. She said she thinks teachers should be evaluated in class and not just for 15 minutes.

Mikayla Anderson, a senior at Law & Government Academy who is headed to UConn, said she thinks some teachers should make themselves more available for extra help.

"Some teachers just run after school, and students don't have the opportunity to talk to their teachers," Anderson said. "It's the teachers that the majority of the kids in their class are having trouble they want to run. It's like 3:07 and they're already at their car."

But other teachers are very available, Anderson said. "There's a math teacher who is so dedicated. She will stay as late as you need to help you pass this test."

Other students noted that sometimes teachers are only available before school, which is difficult for students who walk or take city buses to school.

Sarah Pavlich, a Lebanon High School student said, "I think we probably all have that one teacher who really does not care. I really want a teacher who cares what I learn and cares what I understand."

Paul Pino, a senior at the Law & Government Academy, said teachers should be "more nurturing." Larry Mateo, also a senior at the academy, said he learns better if the teacher cares about him and he cares about the teacher.

The Hartford academy students said their curriculum should offer them more choices the opportunity to study music, sculpture and languages other than Spanish. They said students in the suburbs seem to have a much broader array of classes and more flexibility to take what they choose.

Another point students raised was their wish that teachers used more technology.

"When I look at something written on a regular [white] board like that, I pay it no attention," Anderson said. "If you project it for me, I'll pay attention."

Naequon Ugbomoiko, a student at New Britain High, said students would learn better if there were "more fun interactive classes equipped with a 'Smart Board.'" He agreed that it is harder to pay attention if a white board is used.

Elsa Baez, another senior, said: "I'm more prone to look at a computer screen than I am an actual book. ... I like reading books on my phone more than I like holding a book."

Several students also said they thought kids would do better on tests if they did them on computers.

Peython Echelson-Russell, a student at Hall High School in West Hartford, said schools should tailor education to each student's needs

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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