Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pleasantly surprised at being impressed

Go ahead.......turn on the news, open a newspaper, or read a magazine. They'll be sure to tell you......the American educational system is in disarray, our kids are not keeping up with the rest of the world, and most teachers are lazy folks that just chose the profession to get their summers off. Right? Thats what the media it must be true.

With four kids in public school, I'm spending more time than ever at the school. Particularly with my wonderfully (but disruptive) kindergartener. She's continuing to struggle, but I will admit that we've set the bar very high for her, and we refuse to lower it. We communicate constantly with her teacher, and are advocating advocating advocating (which is the 2009 word for nagging). But in addition to Jen's issues, Mike coaches for the district, so he is on the high school campus daily. We attend a minimum of two football games per week, plus the occasional volleyball game, which will soon "morph" into wrestling meets and basketball games, and then "morph" into track meets. I was also involved last spring with hiring the new high school principal and, generally, attend those occasional parent meetings regarding whatever curriculum changes, etc. that they feel that involved parents might want to know about. Our school is doing a great job everywhere, from what I can see, but the latter is what put me in the school last night.'s the setting: The superintendent and both of our principals presenting their reasoning and strategies behind moving our K-6 school into a standards-based grading system this year, and explaining how its going to work. Twenty-thirty parents in attendance. I admit to having been skeptical about what I knew of standards-based grading, but keep in mind that I have two high-achieving sons in the high school, a first-grader doing well, and a kindergartener that bucks every system, regardless of what the system is.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised to leave the meeting absolutely blown away at the dedication and commitment that our school administration and staff applies to education. Unbelievable! When Dr. Holland (our superintendent) broke it down and applied the reasoning behind standards-based grading, I was easily able to see how it has the potential to dramatically improve student learning. But, WOW, it also takes a huge amount of dedication from the teachers to make it work.

Simply put, if you are a patient going in for heart surgery, do you want a doctor that was given "extra credit" because he had great attendance, a good attitude, and great effort, but didn't have the best skills at actual heart surgery? Or do you want to recognize his great attendance, good attitude, and great effort for what it is........GREAT........but also make sure that he's able to perform heart surgery? The two things are NOT one and the same! By dividing academic accomplishment from citizenship, we can make sure that our kids come out of the school with BOTH academic accomplishment AND great citizenship. And if their are "holes" in their learning, we will know exactly where those "holes" are so we can address them.

Fascinating stuff! I can hardly wait to see how this is going to work in "real life", but I commend our district AGAIN for making tough decisions for STUDENTS. And making their own jobs harder in the process. WOW!

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