This summer, Gateway Public School's Executive Director, Sharon Olken, served as a guest on KQED's "Forum" with Michael Krasny, as part of a panel of education experts. The panel included Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University School of Education; Ulrich Boser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; and local Bay Area teachers. Why, they wondered, are American students overworked and underengaged and what can our schools do to help?
The question was generated by a recent report from the Center for American Progress, titled "Do Schools Challenge Our Students?" At just under 30 pages long, the report is an incisive criticism of the way in which many schools - and students - confuse being busy with being challenged. "Consider, for instance," the researchers write, "that 37 percent of fourth-graders say that their math work is too easy [and] more than a third of high-school seniors report that they hardly ever write about what they read in class." These statistics, culled from the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, speak to a growing crisis in which students work for work's sake, with little to no investment.
More importantly, the study highlighted how difficult it is for schools to present information that is not only applicable to students' lives but which prepares them to compete in a global economy: "72% of eighth-grade science students say they are not taught about engineering and technology," it claims.
At Gateway, we "work with kids across the city who really reflect the diversity of San Francisco," Sharon explained. "Our goal is to help them all be ready for college, but we have a really broad definition of what that looks like." That definition includes not only academic pursuits that foster a love of learning for learning's sake, but also which "provide[s], within an academic setting, access to real world questions and problems and environments so that they can try to see the link between being a great presenter of ideas and running your own business."
To hear Sharon talk more about Gateway and student engagement, click here to download the entire KQED episode. The report from the Center for American Progress can be found here.