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George Neely Many Lodi students are not going to college — so why can’t we change how we teach them?

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George Neely

George Neely, Lodi Unified School District trustee

“It’s a misconception that we can’t get rid of a teacher who’s not performing. If we’re having a problem with a teacher, there are ways we have dealt with that in the past.”

George Neely, Lodi Unified School District

“I don’t think there was anybody there who didn’t want to bring graduations back, but there are physical limitations.”

George Neely

Age: 61.

Occupation: Director at ABLE Academy.

Family: Married 18 years in second marriage, with two sons from a previous marriage.

Community activities: Board of trustees for GOT Kids Foundation; former member of the Lodi Public Library board; enrolled in night school to get his administrative credential.

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:43 am, Wed Oct 22, 2014.

I've learned a lot about public education since leaving General Electric. It's been an interesting journey through the teacher credentialing process, teaching at different schools, and then becoming a member of the LUSD Board of Education.

One of the things I learned is that the processes of public education are deeply entrenched. I have often heard those in charge justifying their position by stating how long they had been in education. I heard things like, "I've been in education for over 30 years, and ..." believing that statement gave them more credibility. Fact is, longevity does not equal expertise, nor does it validate one's position.

I point this out because to get those decision makers to look at education in a different manner is almost impossible. This is especially true when addressing the goals of public education.

In my last article, I stated that the goal of public education should be to prepare students for life after high school. That goal seems obvious to me. It seems obvious that we want our children to exit their primary schooling equipped with the tools for their next step in life, whatever that step might be.

But that goal cannot be realized under our current system that mandates standards based on the desire for all students to attend college. I am continuously frustrated by the entrenched "experts" who develop our education policy and who cannot or will not grasp the concept that not all students will go to college.

Take a look at the facts:

Only 70 percent of students entering high school will graduate. Of those who graduate, only 65 percent go on to college. That means that for every 100 freshman entering high school, about 45 go on to college. And of that 45, about 55 percent, only 25, will obtain a bachelor's degree within 6 years. So if the goal of public education is to produce college graduates, we have fallen way short.

The problem starts with the "one size fits all" attitude that dominates public education. The "one size," of course, is for students to be college-bound. This is currently the true goal of public education, and is supported by our standards-based system.

If there is any doubt in your mind, go to the California Department of Education website, see which courses are required, and then look at the standards for those courses. You find required math standards like, "Students use the quadratic formula or factoring techniques or both to determine whether the graph of a quadratic function will intersect the x-axis in zero, one, or two points."

What you won't find on that website or in the standards for required subjects are things like, "Students will determine the true cost of borrowing money," or, "Students will compute tax savings achieved through pre-tax investments." There are standards for Career and Technical Education courses, but those classes are not required.

Please understand that what I am proposing is tantamount to educational blasphemy. The education community will write this off as "tracking," the practice of dividing students into college and non-college bound tracks. This was a common practice when I was high school, but now is seen as completely politically incorrect because of the fear that it will divide students along racial lines. You will also hear opponents scream about lowering standards, or hear them hide behind the old mantra that "all kids deserve a college education." Let's look at these one at a time.

To start with, yes, all kids deserve a college education. No argument here. The question is, do all kids want a college education? Looking at the statistics, the answer is obviously no. Let's face it: Some people do not want to go to college. Whatever their reason is, it's their choice.

Secondly, I am not calling for a lowering of standards; I am calling for a change in the focus of required standards. We can still keep the standards we have for those that need particular classes as they prepare for college. We can even raise those standards and better prepare our students that are bound for a CSU or UC school.

Finally, the argument that really gets me is the one about race. Those who put forth this objection assert that some minorities would be disproportionally represented in the classes that did not meet CSU or UC requirements. The point I make against this argument is that if you're worried about groups being disproportionally represented, then you should begin by looking at the graduation rate for minorities.

As I said earlier, the national graduation rate is about 70 percent overall, but that same rate for African American and Hispanic students is only 57 percent. That's the disproportion we need to focus on. Our current strategy only adds to this problem by forcing students to take courses and meet standards for which they are not academically prepared.

If we can graduate more students, prepared for life's next step, we will in fact be preparing more students for college. We will also be preparing more students for trade school and the workplace with the skills they need to be successful in life. Our job in public education is not to just prepare students for the UCs and CSUs; it's to prepare our students for life's next step, whatever that might be.

Lodi Unified School District trustee George Neely is a former military officer, General Electric executive and public school teacher.

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Welcome to the discussion.

3 comments:

  • Kim Parigoris posted at 10:04 am on Mon, Jul 9, 2012.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 470

    Excellent article, with very valid points. Let's not put square pegs in round holes and end up with students who fall in to a life of crime or public assistance because they have no interest in attending college and other options are being closed to them. It's about time someone take a realisitc approach to problems, not trying to force our own agendas and beliefs on people by forming more bureacracies and control.

     
  • Joanne Bobin posted at 2:15 pm on Wed, Jun 20, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    I don't recall for certain if I voted for Mr. Neely. Most likely, since I believe in having new blood in the District's trustee rotation, but I will not vote for him again.

    Not because he advocates the option of vocational instruction for students who do not wish to continue on to college. I believe vocational programs should be an option.

    Mr. Neely wrote:

    "Finally, the argument that really gets me is the one about race. Those who put forth this objection assert that some minorities would be disproportionally represented in the classes that did not meet CSU or UC requirements. The point I make against this argument is that if you're worried about groups being disproportionally represented, then you should begin by looking at the graduation rate for minorities.

    As I said earlier, the national graduation rate is about 70 percent overall, but that same rate for African American and Hispanic students is only 57 percent. That's the disproportion we need to focus on. Our current strategy only adds to this problem by forcing students to take courses and meet standards for which they are not academically prepared."

    The amount of arrogance, not to mention ignorance, that Mr. Neely demonstrates by this statement is astounding.

    Graduation rates for African American and Hispanic students are much lower than for Anglo students because they are being "forced" to take classes "for which they are not academically prepared?"

    So the solution, according to Mr. Neely, is to track them into vocational programs for which they may be more suited? Because they no doubt to not have the mental acuity to be "academically prepared?"

    This man should not be allowed near ANY students, let alone be on a school board making decisions with this kind of attitude.

    What about this crazy idea? Find out why African American and Hispanic students are not academically prepared. Get them into programs that help prepare them academically such as AVID. Get teachers into professional development that trains them to help these students. Get parents involved in their children's education.

    The types of vocational courses that were mandated and the jobs for which students were trained on the vocational track in the high school system from which I graduated, i.e., typing, stenography, and bookkeeping for females and auto and woodshop for males are almost non-existent.

    These are not the types of jobs that students should be preparing for, even if they do not go to college. Most of the job skills today require math, they require science, they require computer programming and a higher level of computer skills other than word processing.

    One of the biggest problems with our job market today is the fact that workers are
    NOT being prepared for the jobs of the future.

    Mr. Neely's attitude that we should channel lower performing students who may not graduate into vocational programs in order to boost graduation numbers is ludicrous. The idea that we let students continue on without the necessary academic and study skills to even survive a vocational program is misguided at best. At worst it is irresponsible.

     
  • Doug Cornwell posted at 12:18 pm on Wed, Jun 20, 2012.

    D E Cornwell Posts: 2

    I wholehearted agree with your article. The only thing I might suggest is that all students deserve the opportunity to go to college, not that all students deserve to go to college. It is so refreshing to see someone from the education field suggesting that the system needs to be fixed. Keep on pushing there are many out there who support you.

     

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