We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
EPA Academy students are graded on a five-dimensional rubric, based on (1) Personal Responsibility; (2) Social Responsibility; (3) Communication Skills; (4) Application of Knowledge; and (5) Critical and Creative Thinking.
Only 20 percent of the grade is based on knowledge, notes Michele Kerr, who taught an ACT prep course for disadvantaged students at a nonprofit from 2007-09. Compared to district high school students, East Palo Academy tutees had “the lowest skills and the highest grades,” Kerr recalls. Students with high A averages turned out to have very poor reading and math skills, though their writing was relatively strong.
I used to tutor 3d-graders in a semi-destroyed neighborhood in Houston. A surprising number of them still wanted to learn, despite everything their schools and families had done to them. They'd been fed all kinds of craziness about arithmetic. I never found one who'd been urged to memorize the multiplication table. Mostly they'd take a problem like 5 x 7 and start by adding 7 + 7 + 7 . . . . I thought it was nice that they recognized that that was the same process, in slow motion, but I tried to get across to them that the way they were trying to do it was so slow they'd grow old before they finished. They were going to have to learn some shortcuts.
I'm not a big fan of the "relevancy" fad in education, but I did enjoy the scene in one of "The Wire" seasons where the ghetto teacher shows the kids how to compute probabilities, then lets them practice in gambling games like craps. They all started making money on the street. Just hook that computing ability up to a result they're interested in, and it's amazing how fast even intellectually beaten-down kids can learn. It's like Bailey White, using the sea-disaster stories that she found all her kids were entranced by, to give them an incentive to learn to read harder and harder texts. She used to paste bowdlerized easy texts onto the pages with the pictures, only to find that the kids would tear up the taped pages to get to the greater detail in the original text underneath.
That first jolt from mastering something with the mind is like a shot of heroin. Get them hooked on that, and they can probably learn later the benefits of slogging hard through more difficult material for a delayed jolt. After that, they'll hardly even need teachers.