Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Diagnose Inner City Schools’ Problems

By Sean Scarpiello

It is 2:30 on a Saturday morning when my roommate and I fall onto the couch in our dorm room after a night of how all pre-med and pre-law students spend their Friday nights...studying. My roommate clicks on the TV and after ten seconds of surfing the channels, finds a show called “Teach: Tony Danza.” We are both intrigued. The basic premise of the show has Tony Danza, the actor/boxer, teaching a 10th grade English Class at an inner city school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From my research for writing previous blog articles, I have discovered data that reflects that it is the inner city schools’ students who are pulling down the rest of the country’s test scores, which are ranked internationally. I figured that this was an opportunity to see just what was going wrong with the inner city schools system, and maybe see a TV actor/boxer flip out at some kids.

I was wrong. On Tony’s first week teaching the 10th grade English Class, he was brought to tears by the class. He had all different types of antagonists working against him the entire time. One student, who probably reads the Oxford English Dictionary for kicks, was constantly complaining how the class isn’t challenging enough. Another student who is considered gifted, behaves like others in the class; which either don’t do assignments or claim they have a learning disorder.

First off, I don’t want to criticize or come across as saying that students with learning disorders are lazy, but I feel as if students who don’t want to do the work use the excuse as a crutch. Overall, I was shocked to see how most of these students had a cavalier attitude towards schooling and would simply not do the work or the assigned reading. Half of the class failed Tony’s first test, which I later found posted online. The test didn’t seem too difficult as I went through answering questions from the book “Of Mice and Men” from my rusty memory of the piece.

Ultimately, I found myself thinking up ways to fix this problem. Students could be clinically tested for learning disorders every few years. That will help the teachers to be aware of the students who have a legitimate reason for not understanding the text, and to be wary of those who were just playing the new Halo videogame all night, instead of reading.

The school’s resource center was made specifically for the learning disabled students. The busy resource center was often full of lazy students, along with some students with learning disabilities. At one point in the show, Tony Danza was disciplined by the school’s principal because he denied students who requested access to the resource center. It seemed like the entire school’s administration was oblivious to the fact that some students will lie so they can get away with not doing homework. If schools could implement this idea of having recorded clinical diagnosis, then a lot more students would have to do the work until they’re able to drop out or worse…a call to mommy and daddy, as well as attend summer school.

This also brings up the question of allowing students to drop out of school. In South Korea, it is extremely rare for any students to drop out and they rank high in the international test scores. Perhaps it should be illegal to drop out of school. Or maybe we should raise the age of eligibility to drop out of high school. In my opinion, either method would work.

I feel that “Teach: Tony Danza” is a good representation of the typical inner city school and is raising the awareness of inner city school life. The show may help America diagnose the problems of its inner city students and help us see what needs to be improved. If America can fix their inner city schools, there will be a drastic improvement in this country’s test scores and ranking amongst the rest of the world. It would also keep the US among the world’s superpowers. At the moment, India has more honor roll students than America has students. This means that the US needs to maximize their human resources and make every student count in this ever-changing world. This especially includes inner city students, because according to US census, 80% of the US population lives in urban areas (cited below).



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Alisandra Wederich said...

Diagnosing learning disabilities is a very touchy subject - particularly in inner city schools. My mom is a guidance counselor in an elementary school and often her job involves assessing students that have been pointed out by their teachers as possibly having such learning disorders, and she must assess whether or not this is the case. Yet, even if she does come up with a positive assessment, it is entirely up the that students' PARENTS what to do from there. It would seem logical that parents SHOULD want their children to recieve help in these situations, but this is often NOT the case. Many parents don't want their students feeling "the disorder stigma" that such help would create. Some parents are just in denial that their children would have any kind of problem. Other parents believe that not offering their child help their child adapt to "the real world," where help is not always readily available.

It is a complicated issue, and one which does not seem to be easily solved.