High School fails to engage students

 USA Today reported a student survey conducted by a group of researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington. The team is frustrated by the results and they call the findings “troubling.”

One study reported that 55% of students admit to spending no more than three hours a week for class preparation, yet 65% report getting A’s or B’s.

A study of recent graduates who either went on to the workforce or to college; 40% felt  they weren’t adequately prepared in high school.

 The website is:


Ray C.



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4 responses to “High School fails to engage students

  1. canadawr5

    Man, that’s interesting!
    Maybe high school teachers and administrators fail to properly prepare high school students on purpose.
    Just think, if they prepare them properly,the kids might move on to take their jobs!

  2. sunyprof

    That’s pretty cynical Ray. WHY is it we expect so little of so many of our adolescents in our public schools? I’d love to hear what others think about that. Read the article first. Thanks for posting it RC. KES

  3. mandygrl101

    I think there are a lot of reasons why so little is expected of adolescents in high schools. One reason, which I experienced personally, is that schools underestimate kids. I think most middle school students could have handled the work load that I had in high school. Clearly, as this study has pointed out, high school is too easy. I went to a reputable high school in Syracuse, and I can honestly say that the AP classes were the only challenging ones. However, students knew they were challenging, and purposely avoided them because they knew they could stay in a Regents level class and do little to no work. Another problem, which we have been discussing recently in class, is that often teachers have to make the material easy enough for all the students to understand, which may result in teachers reducing their expectations, homework load, difficulty of the material, etc. This ties into a the huge problem of classrooms being designed for groups of students, rather than for individuals to work at their own pace, on topics that interest and/or challenge them. If this could be remedied, I think that students would find more meaning in school because they would be given more flexibility in terms of the direction of their education. This brings me to another problem: many students find high school pointless, and I can’t blame them. As we have found in our readings this semester, few think that they are doing anything meaningful, and if the work they are doing is meaningless, they obviously aren’t going to dedicate time, energy, or heart to it.

    I feel like I could go on forever! There are so many factors involved in this issue, and it really is depressing. I wish all kids could be involved with cool projects like the students at Candor, an alternative high school near Binghamton. Jonathan, a student in our 506 class, has his kids doing “real” work. They are doing a national/international project and are collecting 1.2 million beads to represent lives lost in the genocide in Darfur. They are connecting with the community, working together, and doing something important and “real.” And based on what he has said, his kids care about this work.


  4. sunyprof

    Mandy, yes, I agree with everything you say here. We have generally very low expectations–or–the wrong expectations–for what adolescents are capable of. We don’t even scratch the surface of that capability.

    We deem them “lazy” and “unmotivated” when the root cause lies elsewhere–they are simply not being asked to do work that is meaningful to them–or to the rest of us for that matter! And how are we letting them know the work they do matters? That latter question is one, given the time I spend in classrooms, I think a lot about lately.

    Of course there are difficult to motivate kids in even the best case scenarios. I would never suggest that “meaningful work” alone is a panacea that motivates all adolescents to strive to excel.

    But it sure would help.

    Don’t we find it a sad comment when high school students themselves deem their educations so unimportant and uninteresting.

    I think another reason we ask so little of them is that we’re afraid to. It means more work for us since the more we ask of kids the more we must ask of ourselves as mentors to their doing meaningful work.

    I also think we’re afraid of school’s being “too hard.” Rigor frightens a lot of teachers–doesn’t it? Please do let me us all know if you think I’m way off base here.

    E.g., to support student writers in doing their best work, the writing teacher has to be indefatigable–has to be willing to come back again and again to a text and the student who is composing it. Similarly, to motivate a range of readers (I know Atwell makes it look easy!), we have to take our own reading lives seriously, we have to make books available to kids, we have to be willing to go out of our ways to find texts that will interest students.

    At the risk of driving a few of you crazy, we can say what we want about Erin Gruwell, but the way I read TEACH . . . HEART, this is a woman who worked very hard to engage her students in meaningful work. It just about killed her–maybe that’s what it takes. Many days I think so. KES

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