Yesterday the student reviews of their course were released. They are given the opportunity to complete a questionnaire on the course experience. It isn't released to faculty until after grades are in, so they are protected from petty retribution. You have to be thick-skinned to read them without wanting to strangle some of the students. But then you have to laugh because they so obviously are disconnected from reality. My favorite this semester was with regard to the four short writing assignments. "Mr. R returns papers with grades but no comments on what was wrong or why a particular grade was given..." That would be a bad thing, except that every paper is read and commented on extensively using Word's "review" feature. Papers are then returned to the students as email attachments. The comment means the student never opened up the returned paper.
Coincidentally the Dallas Morning Fishwrap offered this opinion piece this morning:
Maybe No Child Left Behind is the wrong message for our students and our schools. Maybe we do need to leave some students behind. Sit in on the early-morning college class I teach, and you’ll find groggy students sneaking in 15 and 30 minutes late. You’ll see two students who came to class all semester and never turned in a paper or piece of homework. Only about half the class will have their assignments for the day — and more than half of those assignments will be sloppy and haphazard. Twenty-four percent of my students plagiarized this semester. And 42 percent of the students who registered for the class stopped showing up after a few weeks and never bothered to drop the course, which, of course, means an F on their transcripts.
I’d offer that my experiences as a teacher might be an aberration, but I’ve heard these concerns from others, too. And the problem seems to be getting worse. Our teenagers are graduating from high school without knowledge of what it means to be a good student. We worry so much about teaching core subjects, yet we have missed an important first lesson: Too many of our students have little or no work ethic. We can’t sweep this fact under the desk any longer. Good students have integrity. They have a work ethic that includes showing up for class on time, listening attentively, participating in discussions and completing assignments by the deadline. They also know that plagiarizing is academic suicide. Scholastic dishonesty is rife in our schools. Teddi Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University’s Rutland Institute for Ethics, says, “The last figures we have indicate that about 21 percent of undergraduate students admit to some kind of cheating on a test, and nearly half of undergraduate students — 48 percent — admit to having done some kind of written cheating.” With all the portable electronic gadgets and easy access to information on the Internet, it’s easier than ever to cheat. There’s even a thriving market for businesses that will write a custom paper for as little as $10. And when students are caught — as many are — they seem remorseless.
A chapter in our textbook asks: “Is underachieving the norm in today’s education? Have we become proud about our lack of knowledge?” Students in my class were quick to offer up views of their educational experience in Texas: Parents don’t care, teachers “can’t fail us,” it is “too easy to cheat,” and the TAKS is a joke. It doesn’t matter how poorly a student performs in the classroom, the students say — he’s going to pass. One student told me she failed the science TAKS three times and graduated anyway. It seems we have let our students down. They have successfully learned how to just get by. They know we don’t expect much from them.
Apparently I am not alone in my frustration.