The WaPo ran a must-read article over the weekend, written by a graduate of one of their top charter schools, now struggling as a freshman at Georgetown:
I stay in contact with most of my graduating class through Facebook. Many of my friends are at four-year schools on the East Coast, and they’ve been through similar struggles in their freshman year. Generally, we agree that our schools did not prepare us, even though they tried. My high school was one of the best I had the choice of attending; compared with other public schools in the District, it made an excellent attempt at getting me ready for college. But any high school administrator in Washington faces a problem similar to my professors at Georgetown: They’re stuck correcting the damage done before we got there.
Robinson points out that he was able to get straight A’s through memorization and repeating anything the teachers told him. But it wasn’t until he got to the last few charter high school that they began to teach him any critical thinking. It’s not that the teacher didn’t care about Darryl Robinson (although many accused him of cheating when he got A’s). It’s that they are in a system that doesn’t really give a crap as long as goals dictated from on high are met.
One of my biggest concerns about our public education system is that it has become focused on competence rather than excellence. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example, grading schools on how many students reach the bare minimum of proficiency. Truly talented and smart students, like Darryl Robinson, are left on their own.
For a student raised in a good family in a safe neighborhood, that’s fine. My own proficiency in math came to the fore when one of my teachers let us advance at our own pace. But with poor neighborhoods, drug-riddled cities and parents who may or may not be invested, it’s the death of genius. Massive potential is almost wiped out.