Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Proficient Nation

A letter was sent home from Jr. High with my eldest.  It explains how and why her math teacher has switched to standards based grading.
 "Don't worry, it will not change my teaching methods or the content covered"
 (because Common Core already did that last year)

I am an educated parent, my college math courses were of a higher level than required to teach math at an intermediate level (yes, I checked, to prove to my children that being a SAHM does not mean I am dumb).  

It doesn't so much matter to me how my child's work is being graded, or if her report card has letters or number grades.  I can tell with my own brain if she is understanding concepts.  I don't care if she knows how Otzi the Iceman died.  Other than a game of Trivial Pursuit that knowledge will never help her in the real world.  I do care that she be able to write a proper essay regardless of the topic.  When I review her test, if she missed the multiple choice questions I will note that, if she bombs the essay?  well then we will have a chat and she will re-write it, because essay writing is something a student needs to be GOOD at.

The issue I take with this letter is,
        "a 4 [out of 5] is proficient, Let's Celebrate!

I am a proficient cook.  My kids get fed at least twice a day, usually more.  They are growing and go to bed with full tummies (unless they choose not to eat).  They have never gotten food poisoning from food I have prepared.
I am not an excellent cook, therefore if I want  a tender mouth watering steak, seafood, or sushi, I must PAY someone to make it for me.

My issues are that we are telling kids that proficient is good enough, while at the same time telling them that they will never be good enough because  placed on the grade scale is a score that is above their grade level. That to get the highest score they have to do extra credit, to go above and beyond.

To me this says, I can't be perfect so why try? (or I try and end up in tears).  To a non self directed learner it says, no one expects me to get a 5 so why try.  We are setting our children up for failure and/or disappointment.

A regular homework assignment my daughter receives has an 'Exceeds Zone' option.  Exceeds implies Extra, right?  but then you read the fine print.  To receive an A on this assignment you must complete the 'Exceeds Zone'.  So is it or is it not part of the assignment?  It is not required, yet you are penalized if it is not completed. Confusing?  just a bit.

Requiring our children to do extra work, to go above and beyond, to earn the highest grade sends mixed messages.
  "a 4 is grade level, a 5 is above grade level"

This tells my 3rd grade daughter that she can't get a perfect score because she can't do 4th grade math.  I am confused how this helps kids feel better about entering the real world.  My daughter doesn't celebrate a 4, she cries, wondering why she isn't good enough to get a 5.
We are creating a generation of children that think 80%  is acceptable.  That showing basic understanding is good enough. Good enough for what?  Certainly not for success in life.

This method supposedly helps prepare students for the real world, but I have serious doubts that giving 80% in the business world is going to be good enough.

80% of a house will not pass safety inspection.

Obeying 80% of the driving law will usually get you to your destination, unless of course you are drunk.
An 80% effort in a sales pitch will not land you the account.  The account is going to go to the salesman who put in 110% effort.
By these standards I am an excellent cook, because I know that chicken needs to be 100% done.

The real world has competition.  Being proficient may be good enough to get a job, but it takes excellence to be successful in that job.
I realize the world needs all levels.  Not everyone need be excellent for the country to have its fair share of lawyers and surgeons.  But shouldn't our expectations for our children be that we strive to succeed?   And shouldn't the standards actually be attainable?

If you go above and beyond in the real word you are rewarded.  Usually monetarily.  You will earn bonuses, not just base pay.
Standards based grading requires our children go above and beyond just to make base pay.  Either the 5 is required or it isn't on the scale. 

Lets give our kids a consistent expectation, lets expect our children to strive for excellence, not proficiency. 

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