David Safier’s guest column “Don’t blame teachers for poor test scores” hit a few key nails on their heads.
As a volunteer math tutor at a local public school and a retired electronics engineer (M.I.T. ‘60), my analytic nature made me try to understand why the students I interacted with were not doing better in math.
Not having an education background, I googled “Why students fail?” and read several well-crafted articles by educators, teachers and students, and came to the same conclusions as did Mr. Safier.
All of the sources I read knew full well the reasons behind failure.
Few suggested ways to correct the root causes of failure because, frankly they were too complex and too dependent on the student’s personality and their home environment.
Knowing root causes is one thing, but changing the social cauldron to which the students return home to is quite another.
My experience tutoring locally demonstrated that there was indeed a demographic factor, but not the family income per se.
Regardless of the income level, students from families that placed a high importance on education did better, much better than students whose parents who, for a variety of reasons, did not care how their children did in school.
Affluent parents with college educations likely have a higher income, but more importantly, they placed a higher importance on education.
To the parents involvement with the child’s schooling demanded time and energy that simply wasn’t there after a long, hard day at work.
Teachers I worked with are dedicated and doing a splendid job. They were supplied the best textbooks and online and in school computer learning programs.
Alas, teachers and tutors alike can’t undo and reverse the negative impact of complacent and disinterested if not abusive parents. Perhaps more mentoring and one-on-one tutoring could improve grades, but there is just so much time available during the school day, not to mention the severe shortage of tutors and mentors.
If there is one change I could make by waving a magic wand, it would be to better support the self-motivation of the individuals.
History is replete with individuals whose determination let them overcome the obstacles life put in their way.Nothing has changed today.
Michael Neidich, B.S.E.E.