This past week, David Malone of The Pittsburgh Promise visited Allegheny College to give us a better idea of the program. If you are not familiar with it, a few articles will be listed below. Essentially the program draws from a fund in order to give inner-city students with a particular grade point average the ability to attend a college or university or trade school. I think that this is a great theory, but may not work out so well in other areas.
GPA is an interesting idea. It is supposedly a measure of how well the student is learning.
Who's responsibility is it that a student learns? There are so many factors involved in learning that the big picture becomes clouded. Should students be held accountable for their own learning? If they do not get the attention they need, should they seek out alternative ways to gain the information. Students do not share the same story as they walk through the doors in the morning into class. The student who has had a good night of sleep and a complete breakfast may be better at learning than the student who has to work to help support his family. The range of attitudes and situations is insurmountable. Should some be more accountable than others?
Should the parents be held accountable? There is only so much that one can do to help a student. The parents should provide an environment where the student is able to learn and to fail if need be. The problem arises when parents cannot not financially support the children. They might have problems within their own family or with drugs or alcohol. Once again, we see the complexity of the situation.
Should teachers be held accountable? So often teachers would love to help their students more. Constraints of testing and holding their position seem to hold teachers back. The red tape of the governmental educational system stops them from doing more. That is aside from their personal situations. Once again, we're faced with immense complexity.
So does GPA really show how much a student has learned or gained from their educational experience? I tend to think not. It definitely should not decide whether or not they should be able to continue in their education. If anything, a lower GPA should encourage students to learn more.
So what is our responsibility? What can I do as a student without $160 million to help those students continue? What do we do as a community to help motivate students? I believe that motivation can trump the complexity of a situation. The drive and desire to learn will overcome the issues.
Pittsburgh Promise links: