Monday, March 07, 2011

Raise Those Standards!

This morning, my whole school district got together for professional development. It began with a keynote speaker. His lecture was titled "It ain't the kidz!" The subtitle was something like "Only teachers can close the achievement gap in our schools."

If you read this blog at all, you know that premise doesn't go over well with me. So, I went into the lecture pre-jaded. However, the presenter was a gifted public speaker, and I ended up agreeing with a lot of what he had to say. He showed that very often, schools are expecting less of (and therefore teaching less to) minority groups based on their demographic, rather than addressing what the data of their aptitude actually indicates. No argument there. This is why I say that schools are a significant variable in the education equation, and schools need to do better. Still, I chafe at the presenter's insinuation that schools are the only variable that has an affect on outcome.

What was stated over and over throughout the lecture is that we need to have higher standards and expectations, more rigorous curriculum, and that failure cannot be an option. However, I was not surprised that there was never a mention of any consequences or ramifications if a student did not meet those standards and expectations. In our present system, the child who aces everything and the child who never lifts a pencil, advance through the system at the same rate.

This is a big issue in political discussions right now. So, I want you to take note of every time a politician, or someone in academia, makes a strong call for rigorous standards.... then note what consequences they mention. Enjoy the silence...

Do we need consequences to accompany standards? Can't we just have the high expectation?

Let's take driving as an example. What if we had high expectations for people's driving habits this year. We want everyone to obey the right of way laws, stay within 5 miles of the speed limit, etc... But for this year, there will be no consequence. We hope you will drive well, but the police will no longer hand out tickets.

How well do you think that will go?

Take the analogy out one step further: Let's hold the police responsible for every violation and accident... but forbid them from enforcing the law.

An expectation without a consequence is just another piece of advice that we may dismiss at our leisure.


Kifer said...

But what about the kiddies self-esteem when they are held back from their friends? This might make them feel dumb? Of course I'm being facetious, yet this seems to be the only argument against retention I ever hear. I read a book in college called "The Poison Apple" (I think) about a superintendent in Connecticut who did away with the A-F grading structure in favor of a Mastered Standard, Working on Standard, or Failing Standard. You don't advance a grade until you Master Standard. It worked great, but she got run out of town by the parents.

Don said...

I think you made your point rather well. Kudos!

"All talk and no game!"

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