It’s a new school year, and teachers will be talking a lot about how to nurture the kind of skills that lead to academic success. I’m not talking about reading and math skills–but rather the behavioral traits and mindsets that are getting a lot of attention in educational circles. The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research just released a… Read more →
We’ve known this for a while, but here’s another survey to add fuel to the fire: Parents tend to inflate their kids’ academic progress and deflate their kids’ emotional resilience. In a nutshell, they don’t worry enough about the fact that schools are increasingly unable to prepare students with the skills they need to succeed in college and the workplace–and… Read more →
There’s no place like home, right? When Dorothy clicked her heels three times, she was immediately transported to familiar ground—her home in Kansas. For many of us, the same sentiment applies to how we make decisions about our schools. Decision-making at the state and local level—home—is important, and many parents and educators have advocated tirelessly for this. With the passage… Read more →
As a busy high school student with a demanding schedule, the last thing I wanted to add to my plate was yet another standardized test. But my school signed up two years ago to take an international exam based on the PISA test, which is supposed to tell us whether we knew how to apply our math, science and reading… Read more →
Opt-outers tend to consider themselves “progressives” so they don’t like to see themselves as the privileged few who put their kids’ comfort ahead of the needs of other school children. But it turns out that’s exactly who they are. According to this recently released national survey about opt-out conducted by the Teachers College at Columbia University: The typical opt out activist is a… Read more →
Earlier this month, students for the first time took a new, and allegedly improved, SAT. The test’s developer included more-contemporary vocabulary and removed penalties for guessing the wrong answer. The changes came with a predictable outcry—complaints, for instance, that too many word problems in the math sections disadvantage some students. There was also a familiar refrain from parents: Why do we have this exam at all? Why do colleges put so much stock in the results? And why-oh-why do our kids have to take so many tests?
It might seem unfair that admissions officers place almost as much weight on a one-morning test as they do on grades from four years of high school, as a 2011 survey from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling showed. But there’s a simple reason for this emphasis on testing: Policy makers and educators have effectively eliminated all the other ways of quantifying student performance.
Classroom grades have become meaningless. Last year a public-school district in northern California decided to score on an “equal interval scale”—meaning every letter grade is assigned a 20-point range. Students who score above 80% get an A. Only those below 20% will be given an F. This is only part of a larger trend.
Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard, eventually gave in to grade inflation by assigning his students two grades, an official inflated grade for their transcripts and an unofficial grade reflecting what they actually deserved.
Years ago, I joined other parent leaders in my community to lobby our school board for a full-day kindergarten program, not because it would benefit my kids (it wouldn’t) but because it was an important investment toward closing the achievement gap in my economically and racially diverse community. And I still remember this mom, a white stay-at-home mom, who argued… Read more →