Monday, July 12, 2004

What comes after you roll up your sleeves 

Via Reformk12, this story comes from Camille Cosby (Bill's wife) about what it took to get her younger brother to read.
Camille Cosby remembers when her brother, three years younger than she, entered St. Cyprian's unable to read in the third grade.

"You'll forgive the exaggeration," she said, "if I say he was ready for Shakespeare by the end of his first week after our sisters began shaping him up."

Yes, it was an exaggeration, but an instructive one about the work the Oblate Sisters continue to do to this day at St. Frances Academy in one of the roughest, toughest parts of East Baltimore. Contrary to the notion of those who apologize for failing public schools by saying private schools get to cream the top echelon of students, St. Frances has taken public school kids who were flunking and turned them into the 92 percent of the academy's students who go on to college.

"We always try to help those who are in the greatest need," Sister Mary Alice said. "However, [the students] have to work themselves up into some kind of academic performance or they can't stay."
Chett Breiling at ReformK12 makes an excellent point:
Just because a student has been poorly taught (or not taught) in the past is no excuse to condemn him to future failure. Just roll up your sleeves, as the nuns did with Ms. Cosby's brother, and teach.
There's no doubting that parents who don't get involved in their children's education put them behind. The question really is whether or not teaching methods exist to converge these students onto high-performance paths. Those nuns at St. Cyprians seem to have something there. Can it be duplicated? Not, Chett says, unless you give them responsibility, lest they end up like this. And maybe a little accountability as well.