So many of my friends seem to think that education would be better served by private and charter schools, a market based solution. In my opinion, there is a segment of our population that would not fare any better, regardless of the methods used for instruction. Let me illustrate:
For the past two weeks, my biology students have been learning about the human reproductive system. This is so that they are in compliance with the following Florida educational benchmark:
L.16.13 Describe the basic anatomy and physiology of the human reproductive system. Describe the process of human development from fertilization to birth and major changes that occur in each trimester of pregnancy.
There are 85 of these benchmarks that students need to master during the 36 weeks we spend in biology, so time is short. This is how I presented the unit:
- Day one: Students learned the anatomy of the male and female reproductive system. They then completed a worksheet where they had to label anatomical diagrams of each. Then they had to describe the function of each organ (testes, ovaries, uterus, etc.)
- Day two: Students learned about sperm production and the three main hormones that regulate it.
- Day three: Students learned about the menstrual cycle and the hormones controlling it. They also completed a crossword puzzle that had the chapter vocabulary words as answers.
- Day four: students completed a worksheet that allowed them to apply what they have learned about the physiology of the human reproductive system.
- Day five: students learned about the stages and major landmarks of pregnancy, including major events of each trimester, effects of drugs on birth defects, and the three stages of labor.
- Day six: Students watched the film “Life’s Greatest Miracle” which includes videos of a developing fetus and an actual childbirth.
- Day seven: Students completed a worksheet with questions about the stages of pregnancy and labor.
- Day eight: Students played a review game that was boys versus girls in a “Family Feud” format.
- Day nine: students took a quiz on the material. 4 questions were true/false, 16 were multiple choice.
I have 63 Biology students. During the nine days of this unit, 28 of them were absent at least once. Seven of them were absent more than four times, one of them because he is in jail for weapons and drug violations and hasn’t been able to make bail. Of the four worksheets that were assigned, 41 students got a zero on at least one of them for failure to even attempt to complete it, twenty of the students got more than one zero. Six of my students do not speak English, so I am required to give them no less than a ‘C’ no matter how they perform. Apparently, some judge ruled that to fail a non English speaker is a violation of their Constitutional rights. They know this, so most of the students who fall under the “shelter” rule don’t even try.
One of the questions during the Family Feud review game was “Name a hormone that is involved in human reproduction.” The answers were testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and gonadotropin releasing hormone. They knew testosterone and progesterone, but beyond that, they were lost. I got several answers that were not even close. One answer was “I forget, but isn’t it a hormone that makes you horny? The human horniness hormone?”
They took the unit quiz today, and the results were heartbreaking: the highest score earned was an 80. The average was a 46. The low score was a 20. If I spent more time on this, I might get better scores, but then I would be losing valuable time that needs to be spent on one of the other 84 things that I have to teach them.
In my school, we separate students into three categories: college prep, honors, and ‘regular track’ students. The regular track is made up of students who have made it clear that they don’t want to be here. One of my regular track students recently told me “I don’t want to graduate. The only reason that I am here is because my probation officer said that I have to be. As soon as I can, I am dropping out so I can take my GED.” This is why, when I was asked to take over biology, administration told me that my goal was to increase the pass rate on the standardized end of course exam from 26 percent to 50 percent.