What the outcome of public education SHOULD be . . .
"For every outrage, we'll inspire you with a smart, workable solution. For every visionary goal, we'll show you how it can be achieved."
- Stephen Trinkaus, Executive Director School Change Now
We know that standardized testing isn't going to go away tomorrow, and it IS important to quantify and qualify learning in some way, but it should not be the focus. We want the next generation to learn to be happy, content, highly functioning and successful adults, not to make someone's spreadsheets and reports look good at the district office.
8) Evaluation and Grading Systems that Motivate All Children
We evaluate kids in school so they can be sorted by ability level, held accountable for their work, to measure their learning, and to relay the student's progress and level of mastery to parents, future schools and employers. The most common system of evaluation is by a gradient ("grades"), be they A-F, percentages, grade point averages, etc. It is, ultimately, the use of punishments (low grades) and rewards (high grades) that is supposed to get students to work harder.
The problem with this is that it tends to measure compliance, and not what has truly been learned and retained. It is a form of external rather than intrinsic motivation. The result is that we lose the opportunity for students to have novel, exciting, personalized learning experiences where not only is far more knowledge and skill acquired, it is retained for a much longer period of time.
Furthermore, grading varies too much from teacher to teacher, school to school, and district to district, that it hardly provides the subjective evaluation of a student that it is intended to do.
Far too many students end up with failing grades not because they aren't capable, but because they aren't engaged, or the punishment/reward system doesn't work for them, or both. How many more students would work towards their potential if teachers focused on engagement and smart, innovative feedback rather than berating them with traditional grading methods?
Transforming schools into project-based learning environments with an emphasis on online curriculum gives us the opportunity to implement an evaluative framework that incorporates a constant feedback loop and consistent grading.
We advocate a system where only online learning is evaluated on a gradient. This gives us the opportunity to have a consistent evaluative criteria for every student undertaking a specific online curriculum. It is literally built into the software, and educators, parents, and guardians can track both progress and mastery in real time.
Projects and activities would be graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and students would need to complete self-evaluations where teachers would be able to add input (either in a coded or manual system).
With this approach, teachers would no longer be required to take home piles of homework to correct and grade, or spend untold hours at the end of each evaluation period conglomerating all the grades on quizzes, tests, homework, projects, attendance records and whatever else they put into their formula to determine a student's final grade. Grades automated, as the online portion of grading is built into the software, and the project portion of the grading would be a quick evaluation of the relative progress of the student.
We need to let go of the assumption that traditional "objective" grades reflect mastery - they don't. They measure a very small spectrum of what a student has achieved. We should see the current grading system as being as obsolete as the industrial school model itself - far more suited for a different time in history where the emphasis was on being able to repeat tasks without much thought or creativity.
Student-centered does NOT mean that students are only exposed to what they already know about and understand. It is the job of the
participating, creating, trial and error, inspiration, and following our passions
This type of learning is student directed and owned, meaning the student has a stake in their education alongside parents and educators. True student-centered learning must also be determined by success criteria. The instructor and student need to clearly articulate the criteria of success when given an assignment. This ensures that students can identify, understand, and track the quality of their work with the support of their educational community. This process of formative assessment allows the student to essentially ‘grade’ themselves and discover exactly what to do to improve their work. .
School would be designed to support a child's emotional, social, physical, and intellectual needs throughout the formative grade-school years. And by "throughout" we mean that you just don't get a lesson, for example, on investing money in 11th grade - you get to learn financial literacy throughout all the years in public school.
We only propose solutions that can be done within the confines of existing facilities and school budgets. None of these require new buildings, more teachers, or higher taxes.
Although per student spending varies by state, on average in the US we currently spend $11,392 per student per year for their public schooling. (source) This is the fourth highest amount in the world (source), yet our students lag significantly when compared to those in other industrialized countries. (source) Let's take those resources and give students the education that they deserve and that will help them thrive as adults.
For our $11,392 per student per year investment, we should expect so much more.
1) A Significant emphasis on lifelong skills
Lifelong skills allow us to handle life's challenges with grace, and to be more engaged, compassionate, and productive human beings. They include things like creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration, information management, adaptability, curiosity, and reflection. Emphasizing these in school will result in not only more personal success later on, but also bring forth a generation prepared and capable to take on the world's problems and find solutions to them. Since lifelong skills are not easily measured, they tend to fall by the wayside in a public education system geared towards the quantification and classification of acquired knowledge. But what good is all the knowledge in the world without the skills and maturity to put it to good use?
Lifelong skills can be acquired in an educational setting by implementing programs that include peer-to-peer mentoring, project-based learning, community engagement, and giving students regular opportunities to participate in, and feel part of, something greater than themselves. (More on all of these below.) In this model, the role of a teacher be seen a life-learning facilitator rather than an authoritative imparter of knowledge.
What is the purpose of public schools and compulsory education? Is it to . . . Get a job? Be happy? Be a good citizen? Be compliant? Be knowledgeable? Learn how to think? Learn what to think?
If you were an anthropologist and came to study our schools, it might appear that the purpose is to acquire skills in rule following, test taking, desk sitting, and information regurgitation, and hopefully in the process learn how to read, write, do math, operate a computer, and perhaps play a few sports. It you're lucky enough to go to a forward-thinking school, teamwork and critical thinking might be included
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