Students blame themselves
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- Subject: Students blame themselves
- From: George Sheridan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2003 20:41:18 -0700
Students blame themselves
Parents, kids agree teachers not to blame for poor Level 1 rating
By Cathy Hayden, email@example.com
Marrion Harper pauses when she tries to explain why state test scores are
so low at Jackson's Lanier High.
Harper, 17, a Lanier senior, seems puzzled by the question at first, then
finally says it isn't the teachers' fault; it's the students themselves.
"We have a very good educational program, as far as helping students get
what they need," said Harper, who is planning to go to Millsaps College as
a biology major after May graduation. "It's up to the students to take
advantage of it."
Lanier High, off Fortification Street, is among 33 schools in the state
that are rated Level 1, or low-performing, based on student scores and too
little improvement on state tests from 2002 to 2003.
Lanier and Morrison Academic Advancement Center, a special school for
students who are two years behind academically, are the only Jackson
schools at Level 1.
For years, the Jackson School Board has struggled with cleaning up the area
near Lanier, at one point tearing down a pool hall across the street when
the district bought the property for a parking lot.
About 80 percent of the 940 students last year were on the federal free-
and reduced-lunch program, an indicator of student poverty. But the
historically black school has a rich tradition that includes powerhouse
sports teams, especially in basketball.
Lanier also houses a number of high-profile projects. Well known civil
rights leader Bob Moses' Algebra Project, which seeks to bring home algebra
concepts with hands-on activities, has been taught since the 1990s. A First
Amendment social studies project began last year is headed by Ouida Barnett
Atkins, daughter of the late Gov. Ross Barnett.
The school has gotten much benefit and attention from both those projects.
Yet for years, Lanier's test scores have been at the bottom.
"The students need to be pushed a little harder," says Jeremy Hinton, 17, a
senior who is Mr. Lanier. "The students just need to get more motivated."
Mary Green-Victory, a parent, puts the responsibility on the students,
using her own 11th-grade son as an example. He passed only part of the
English II test.
"I won't put it off on the school. I'll put that on my own child for not
doing what he needed to do," said Green-Victory, who is so involved at
Lanier that Principal Johnny Hughes jokes she should give out the school's
number as her own.
Green-Victory's involvement notwithstanding, new PTA president Charlotte
Cannon says parental support is weak. She was encouraged, however, by the
turnout at the first PTA meeting. Cannon was told about 10 parents usually
show up. But on Sept. 8, about 65 parents came.
Green-Victory believes students are behind in reading when they come to
Lanier. Students come from Brinkley and Rowan, both Level 2 middle schools.
At Brinkley, 38.8 percent scored at minimal in eighth-grade reading and 37
percent scored at basic. Minimal is considered failing; basic is passing,
Rowan students fare better, but not much: 26.8 percent at minimal and 34
percent at basic.
Anne Johnson, who has been teaching English at Lanier for about 10 years,
says she was "disturbed and concerned" when she saw the school's scores on
the English test students must pass to get a diploma.
Lanier students scored a composite 301.7, below the state average of 330
and the district average of 317.3.
Johnson says parents need to talk more to their children about the
importance of education and doing well on state tests needed for
graduation. Many students, she said, simply didn't try.
As a veteran teacher, Peggy Quinn is tough and assertive. But she still has
to ride herd on the 15 boys in her algebra class to keep them focused.
Quinn, a retired Connecticut math teacher who worked in Mississippi civil
rights 38 years ago, returned to Mississippi last year on the Algebra
Project with Moses.
Quinn said 54 percent of the Algebra I students passed the spring 2003 exam
compared to 33 percent the year before.
"You need a very radical kind of intervention in order to engage students
in the learning of math" and to give them "a real sense of how important
math is for their future," she said.
Lanier has tried several ways of engaging students and parents, Hughes
said. "A lot of our kids are coming from deprived areas and probably
wouldn't graduate without the support of the school," he said.
He can tick off a list of initiatives, including Reading Renaissance, which
uses the Accelerated Reader program to let students earn prizes for reading
books and passing comprehension tests, and High Schools That Work, which
gives students more hands-on projects to promote work skills.
Jackson Parents for Public Schools in 1999 began the "Ask for More" project
that targets nine elementary and middle schools that feed into Lanier High.
The project has trained teachers, mostly at the elementary level, and has
sponsored college days and a college preparation book for Lanier seniors
that was rewritten for all eight high schools.
Susan Womack, executive director of Jackson Parents for Public Schools,
said the project plans to evaluate if any changes need to be made, based on
the test scores and levels that came out last week.
"Lanier has some really fabulous teachers," she said. "I think we need to
take a look at that whole school community, assess the strengths and
weaknesses and figure out what we need to do to bring it up."
Cool, California 95614
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