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Thursday, May 5, 2016

New education philosophy?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

We teach our kids the ABCs.

Then we assign the young, developing minds a corresponding letter to determine whether or not they are actually grasping the alphabet, along with their multiplication tables, concepts in science, and the history of the country.

It's worked for many, many years.

Now, the Waukee School District and some of its educators have apparently deemed this mode of gauging student progress outdated and obsolete.

I'm all for thinking outside the box. There are plenty of areas in our current education system and curriculum I think could benefit from some adjustments and upgrades. In recent years one could really make the argument, based on how Iowa has dropped in national education standings, that some changes are needed.

However, changing the grading system doesn't even make my list.

An article, written by Mary Stegmeir, in the Des Moines Register, indicated that Waukee School Board will be voting to eliminate letter grades at the district's middle schools, replacing the previously acceptable form, with standards-based reporting which uses identifying terms such as "beginning," "developing," "secure" or "exceeds" in 10 to 12 objectives per subject.

The article went on to explain that standard-based reporting offers "progress reports measure only a student's understanding of the material. Students can progress at their own pace and retake assessments during the year to prove proficiency in each benchmark."

If this is genuinely going to improve the education, and I guess only time, continued monitoring and ultimately proficient knowledge testing will determine whether the change was merited.

Maybe five years from now I'll look back and say, "Wow, was I wrong on that one."

It's happened before, and I'm certain it will happen again.

But right now, I can't help but wonder if this is being done, not to improve education, but instead to somehow take the sting out of receiving a letter grade of D or F by students who aren't getting it.

There's a stigma associated with a D or an F. That's nothing new. If you're getting a D, you're struggling, but at least your trying a bit, and maybe the teacher will give you the benefit of the doubt if you're making attempts to grasp the content. If you're pulling an F, you're not even trying. There's way too much help available to kids these days struggling with classes for that to not be the case.

And if this is one of those efforts to soften the blow of a poor grade by changing the failing designation to "beginning" - then I think these changes are nothing more the make up on a pig.

Time will tell - but please, let's not follow this trend locally until it actually demonstrates some success.

Randy Cauthron
One Man's Perspective