Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

Grant Wiggins has a thoughtful blog post up today about academic standards--the third in a series. In this post, he discusses the uselessness of the single grade, either the "A" of traditional grading or the "meets standard" of today's report cards. He proposes a different way of evaluating student work, which is multifaceted and, for a change, useful to students, parents, and teachers.  It is definitely worth a read.

What Wiggins does not discuss, however, is what his proposal would require, logistically. The sad fact is that teachers are already overworked and overwhelmed--especially English teachers who are trying to assign authentic writing work to their students. As budgets force more and more students into a single classroom, the ability of teachers to do evaluate student writing in a thoughtful way becomes more and more challenging (assuming the teachers are qualified and prepared to do such thoughtful evaluation, which is a whole other question).  Even online courses, which are supposed to promise an escape from the tyranny of the clock and the class schedule, are seeing student-teacher rations rise, and curriculum developers remove open-ended assignments and questions in favor of auto-scored, multiple-choice assessments, to make it possible for online teachers to "manage" more students.

I'm not saying Wiggins is wrong. He rarely is (I had issues with his anti-fiction tirade, but other than that, I'm a fan). But someone, somewhere, someday, is going to have to figure out how to reconcile the requirements of high-level instruction with the logistical and financial realities of how we do schooling in this country.

Ha ha!  I'm kidding, of course. They're not reconcilable. Which is the dirty little secret of American education. We know what works. We know what needs to be done. We know how to help all children learn and perform to high levels. We just have no intention of paying for it.

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