Mansfield Texas Administrators' Blog

Created as a communication tool among the administrators in the Mansfield Independent School District in Texas.

Location: Mansfield, Texas, United States

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Five Causes of Low Student Performance

I had the opportunity to hear Pedro Noguera at a conference recently. He made some very interesting and important points for us to consider. His basic message was that, "If you don't believe that it can be done (improve student performance), it won't be done". He strongly believes that low performance is not about kids, but about how we treat kids. He went on to outline five causes of poor student performance.

1. Alienation - weak adult-student relationships. Most students learn through relationships. We all know that there are some teachers for whom students will do anything and in whose classes all students learn and learn well. Weak relationships cause weak engagement; block scheduleing and true advisory times help with this IF the time allocated is used wisely. And then there is the safety issue. Alienated students are those who create crises in schools.

2. Boredom - school is boring because of weak teaching according to Dr. Noguera. Weak engagement and poor reading skills exaserbate the problem. When teaching and learning are disconnected, boredom is the result. I had a professor who had a way or describing such disconnects..."She teaches the same way whether or not there are students in the room". Remember STUDENT PERFORMANCE IS THE KEY INDICATOR OF TEACHING.

3. Lack of clear academic focus - there is little or no articulation between and/or among classes in schools. This absence of focus gives students the impression that everything is random in schools and nothing is connected. We have all heard students ask, "Why do we have to spell correctly? This is Science class".

4. Dysfunctional school clutures - There is a pervasive culture of anti-intellectualism in most high schools. For example, in some schools, students of color find themselves ostracized by their peers if they achieve at high levels or even sign up for honors classes. Changing this student culture and reconnecting students to the school are key and are the difference between good and bad schools.

5. Poverty and inequality - Whether we want to admit it or not, these factors are still alive and well in our schools. When children come from backgrounds where these two factors are strong, they limit there aspirations to what they see as reasonably possible. Our role as educators is to open their worlds to the REAL possibilities out there in the real world--to the possibilities that perserverance can open to them. Since behavior is directly liked to future aspirations, raising the aspirations of our poor students makes our job easier.

These five issues bring me to a question that has bothered me for decades. "Can teaching be said to have occurred in the absence of learning?" Frankly, I think not. But there are five issues we can address each day in our schools and classrooms which may help us get to real changes in student performance.


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