Learning logs sink at Glen Burnie Senior High Students, teachers say progress checklist fails

November 09, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

What seemed like such a good idea not long ago to reverse SAT scores, help students get organized and keep parents aware of their children's progress has backfired at Glen Burnie Senior High School.

Students are grousing that daily learning logs are a waste of time and paper; teachers and the county's school board president aren't too keen on them either.

Principal David Hill and a group of teachers, parents and students came up with the idea of keeping logs during a brainstorming session last spring. They were searching for ways to combat precipitous drops in SAT scores at the 2,000-student school. Math scores fell 20 points and verbal 24 between the 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 academic years.

The logs, widely used in Anne Arundel elementary and middle schools, were envisioned as aids to help students stay organized, study for tests and show their parents what they were doing. They were supposed to work this way: At the start of each class, students would write on one side of a piece of paper what their teacher intended to teach them, and at the close of the period, they would write what they actually had learned.

An example: Chemistry students would write on the left of their logs a hypothesis about the outcome of mixing two chemicals, and on the right whether their hypothesis was correct.

Administrators printed 12,000 log pages so that students could keep one for each class in the front of their notebooks. Teachers learned how to incorporate the logs into their lessons during a teacher-prep day.

But just when all seemed like a go, the grousing began: Teachers went along with it, but not without asking what the point was, while some students complained and others didn't keep logs at all.

"It's a waste of time," said Reggie Fields, 14, a freshman. "It's too much writing for nothing."

Others don't care how they fill them out. If you took notes during class, says Ashleigh Clyde, a 15-year-old sophomore, "You just write, 'We took notes.' " Breaking out in laughter with a classmate over the forms, she added, "Or if you had a discussion, we just put, 'We discussed.' "

Student Deitrich Curry wrote an editorial in the Oct. 17 edition of the school newspaper, Big Red, saying Hill's good intention flopped when teachers began posting their objectives on blackboards. Students, he wrote, "just copy down whatever the teacher has for the objective."

Even Hill recognizes a problem. He said students, especially "college-bound kids who think they're already good learners," hate doing them.

And school board President Carlesa R. Finney had this to say: "It's only useful if it's useful. If there's really no purpose for a student, and they're complaining, then it's obviously not useful to them."

County educators say logs -- longer, more detailed formats -- have worked in elementary and middle schools. Chesapeake Senior High in Pasadena began using them in some classes this year. "I like the fact that it's helping the kids put more in their notebooks and keep better notes," said Principal Harry Calendar. While he has not gotten the complaints Hill has, he also hasn't gotten much feedback on how effective the logs are.

Hill says studies have shown some positive results, with the logs keeping students on track in classes. If they have no positive academic impact at Glen Burnie, he said, "We would go back to the drawing board."

But that may not be the solution students are seeking. Hill said: "We might need to add things [to the logs]."

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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