The battle over standards-based grading, mastery learning and other progressive grading and assessment practices continues to be waged in classrooms, OpEd pages and PTA meetings across the country. Voices of those who miss the “way things used to be” argue with those who say it’s broken and we need to fix it.
From the moment that I brought a new grading system into my own classroom, I faced many questions: Why isn’t homework and participation affecting students’ grades? Why are you accepting late work? Why are you letting students retake tests and quizzes? It seemed like madness to some, and coddling to others.
The argument against these practices most often comes down to the idea that the real world is a harsh place and it is naive and counter-productive to shield students from failure. We need to toughen them up, traditionalists say, so that they will not expect success at every turn as adults. (read more…)
Have you been exhausted, anxious or just plain stressed lately? Has the current focus on common core standards, accountability and insane politics put you over the edge? This is your lucky day! Step right up for a sure-fire remedy guaranteed to bring vitality and energy to teaching and learning. You will be amazed by the immediate results gained from a dose of humor.
Directions: Take frequently as needed for depression, bad mood, loneliness, anger and stress. Humor can also help improve relationships with administrators, parents and students. May be especially helpful in coping with difficult people. Keep in reach of children.
Warning label: Excessive use may cause tears. Can be contagious. Humor is more than the snake-oil skill of telling jokes. The research addressed here focuses on many preliminary findings, and could be biased toward the positive benefits of humor. Be absolutely certain that the drug is of the positive and healthy variety. (read more…)
As we continue to fight to keep the arts in education, it is time to realize that the real fight is keeping the art in education. When I first started teaching many years ago, teaching was primarily seen as an art — an innate ability to use creative skill and imagination to communicate and build relationships that facilitate learning. The curriculum guide was a small gray book covering all subjects. Now, teaching is seen primarily as a science. Attention is paid to specific teaching techniques, core curriculum, testing and narrowly-focused results. Data is collected, analyzed and used more for accountability than to personalize student programs.
We need to create a balance of art and science as we nurture the students in our care. Granted, research over the past few decades has provided us with evidence of how the brain functions, how students learn in different ways and that they have multiple intelligences. (read more…)
What if we gave a test and everyone passed? That should be the goal! If that happened, however, instead of celebrating that success, policymakers likely would have the test-makers create harder tests. The reason is pretty clear: standardized tests primarily are for controlling education, not educating students.
Standardized tests measure student performance, identify “failing” schools and help evaluate teachers, all with the goal of increasing student achievement. This is a rather indirect and uncertain route for achieving that goal. To be managerially effective and fulfill their purpose, standardized tests cannot be designed for all students to pass them — some have to fail them.
Even though standardized tests primarily measure how large groups of students perform, the test items can represent specific learning objectives. Individual responses can, therefore, indicate what students know or don’t know. This can be useful information, but it doesn’t tell why they answered incorrectly, nor does it indicate how to best instruct them. (read more…)
Children and adults alike use play to make sense of the world. Here are some things we develop through play: creativity, imagination, problem solving, resiliency and the ability to handle the unexpected.
Back in 1999, after eight years of operating out of a shop front (and eventually several shop fronts), we moved The Grauer School onto our dream site: five, green, coastal acres in Encinitas, Calif. We could have a real playtime at last — a green recess. Running, chasing, throwing, falling. It was then that we made an unexpected finding about the typical California suburban kid: many did not know how to recreate or use unstructured time. They stood around, looked into their computer screens, hung out in corners of the field and slouched on couches in the lobby.
Since I grew up running pretty much all day long, and since my parents’ primary form of discipline consisted of the demand, “Get outside!” this problem had never occurred to me. (read more…)