Academic journal article High School Journal

In Retrospect: What College Undergraduates Say about Their High School Education

Academic journal article High School Journal

In Retrospect: What College Undergraduates Say about Their High School Education

Article excerpt

This article presents the results of a study in which university students were questioned about their high school experiences. Major findings include (1) There is a great need to improve the quality of instruction that students receive in math, science, critical thinking, and study skills; (2) Hispanic and African American students believe that there is a need for greater access to college preparatory courses; and (3) Race/ethnicity and culture have a great impact on students' schooling experiences and the value that they place on different aspects of their schooling. Implications for educators and policy makers are discussed.

Introduction

Although they are often underrespected, underpaid, and underappreciated (Ingersoll 1999), teachers fulfill one of society's most important roles because they are entrusted with preparing students for the workforce or for college. A plethora of research regarding teaching and instructional practices exists. A recurring theme is that there is a link between teacher efficacy and students' skills and knowledge base. Well-prepared teachers, such as those who majored or minored in the subject that they teach, tend to provide better instruction to their students (Wenglinsky 2000). Underprepared teachers, such as those who majored in Education, instead of a more specialized subject, like math or science, tend to provide a lower quality of instruction (Drew 1996). Thompson (2000) reported that the majority of the teachers who participated in a study that she conducted said that most of their students were reading below grade level. At the same time, nearly 60 percent of the teachers said that they did not receive adequate training to teach reading. Moreover, students of color are more likely than students from mainstream backgrounds to have underprepared teachers (Quality Counts 2000; Wilson 1996). One possible related outcome is that African American, Hispanic, and Native American students nationwide have lower math, science, and reading test scores than Whites or Asians (National Center for Education Statistics 1999).

Ingersoll (1999) reported that out-of-field teaching occurs in more than half of the secondary schools in the United States and over four million secondary students are taught by such teachers each year. He found that nearly one third of secondary teachers who teach math, one fourth of secondary English teachers, and one fifth of secondary science teachers did not major or minor in the subject that they were teaching, nor did they major or minor in a related subject. Ingersoll also revealed that high poverty schools, small schools, and private schools were more likely than larger or affluent schools to have teachers who were teaching out-of-field. Within the same schools, students in honors, Advanced Placement, and College Preparatory classes were less likely than others to be taught by teachers who were teaching out of their field. Furthermore, junior high or middle school students were more likely than high school students to have underprepared teachers. Ingersoll listed a number of negative consequences of out-of-field teaching that affect both teachers and students.

In addition to the negative effects of out-of-field teaching on student achievement, researchers have identified other factors that affect student achievement. The result is a clear delineation between the qualities, attitudes, and instructional practices of effective versus those of ineffective teachers. Effective teachers have high (Foster & Peele 1999; Hale 1986; Lucas, Henze & Donato 1995; Nieto 2000) and clear expectations, model what they want students to do, upgrade their skills and knowledge base continuously, use multiple strategies to make the content comprehensible to all students, believe that all students can learn, and they utilize an additive versus deficit pedagogy. Additionally, teachers who are effective with students of color show them that they care about them (Foster & Peele 1999), make the curriculum culturally relevant (Au 1993; Delpit 1995; Kunjufu 1986; Ladson-Billings 1994), respect students' linguistic codes (Darder 1991; Delpit 1995), create a cooperative versus competitive classroom climate (Coiner & Poussaint 1992; Foster & Peele 1999; Hale 1986), create structure and emphasize discipline (Foster & Peele 1999), and build on students' prior knowledge and skills (Roe et al. …

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