Monday, December 6, 2010

Skills or Effort?

It's not unusual, it seems, for kids to move through American schools with adequate to above average grades only to discover in outside assessments that the kids really don't know what they're talking about. It may be B+ students in class who perform below proficiency on state tests, or it's often college students who seemed to breeze through high school with A's, B's, and C's but end up failing or in remedial classes in college.

The New York Times profiles this issue in an article about schools in Minnesota and administrators who began to seriously, and rightly, question the discrepancy in results. It seems that we are developing a population of kids who are quite adept at "doing school." They do their homework, take notes in class, get by on tests, and (in my opinion) earn "extra credit" for work not indicative of true knowledge or skill - the EC for a box of Kleenex is one of the biggest abominations of grades.

Thus, it's no surprise that half the students who go on to colleges and universities don't actually earn a degree. Clearly, the issue is "rigor" or more specifically a serious lack of it in the classroom. My students have long complained about how hard it is to get an A in my class, and it often seems they expect the A, or at least a high B, for effort. That's simply should not be the case - and it will have huge ramifications for them later on.


Krista said...

I recently subbed in an 8th grade classroom (for a position that I had applied for, mind you) and was appalled to see that the teacher's idea of extra credit work was to bring in a box of Kleenex! Really?

I'm so glad to see someone else who feels the same as I do about that.

mmazenko said...

Sadly, far too few see it the same way. There is such a tremendous lack of rigor in public education - I'm starting to support all the criticism of schools because it's pretty clear there is some real grade inflation and a serious lack of educating going on.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend whose wife got a job teaching math at a nearby high school. She wasn't giving all the kids A's and B's. She not only got grief from the students, but the parents and the administration as well. She was essentially told to get with the program or take a hike. She's now working in the private sector.

This is nothing new. But it's not really about the grades, it's about the expectations. In much of the country, education isn't particularly valued - degrees are valued, honors are valued, grades are valued - education is not. It makes me sad.

I'm glad that you expect your students to learn and I hope that your students are excited about coming to your class.