Preparing the Unprepared

Submitted By:
Pearl Rock Kane, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY

Independent schools, representing fewer than 1.5 percent of all schools in America, are granted tax exempt status, partly because the schools serve as models of R&D, showing what is possible for all students. With small classes, and freedom from mandated tests in most states, independent schools have been allowed to invent themselves to meet the needs of the students and families they serve. As a sector, however, independent schools have seldom served as models for public schools. A recently released study by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) offers a compelling reason to get involved. Public school graduation rates have reached record highs masking a troubling finding that many students graduate from high school unprepared for success in college or jobs. They enroll in college and land in remedial courses, or start jobs and discover that they’re missing skills for productive employment. Students have been told that doing well in school and meeting expectations will prepare them for the future. Unfortunately, researchers claim, that’s a myth, and not because they can’t master challenging material. Often, it seems, they are seldom given a chance to try. Most students, especially students of color, those from low-income families, and those with mild disabilities, miss out on four crucial components of learning: grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers with high expectations. These are the very practices independent schools have long claimed contribute to student success, opening the possibility for independent schools to be a resource.


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