Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Realistic Minimum Standards

A message from Cyber-Space:
What I would like to see is some specific minimum standards that every non-disabled child must meet to move from one grade to the next. Nothing too strenuous, just some minimum standards.

For example in Math I would like to see all Grade 2 kids knowing their single digit add/subtract facts.

For Grade 3 all kids must know their single digit Mult facts. Etc.

The new math standards include the above but I’m suggesting that these minimums be made absolute requirements for grade advancement. I don’t want to see a new law for this. Instead I would like to see each district (or school) establish minimum quality requirements for grade level advancement. I want them to show some pride in committing too and achieving specific goals. Have the parents and teachers come to agreement on which specific math requirements must be met, which specific books must be read, etc. at each grade level. Today, many schools and districts have “vision” or “mission” statements or both. For example, Laurelhurst Elementary in Seattle has a mission statement that reads:

“The teachers at Laurelhurst are facilitators of learning, posing questions that elicit creative and critical thinking, and nurturing in their students a life-long love of learning. By engaging with each student as an individual and validating and building on their strengths, we work to create community within the classroom, the school, and the larger community, while promoting independence, confidence and responsibility. We provide educational experiences for students which enable them to reach their highest potential and empower them to achieve their goals and dreams as successful, compassionate members of a diverse community. We provide stimulating, culturally enriching, creative experiences woven through a rigorous curriculum that integrates technology, science, and the arts."

Not to pick on Laurelhurst in particular, but this is nice and uplifting but essentially commitment and goal free. The teachers are facilitators, posers, nurturers, engagers, providers, and promoters. No specifics on what each non-learning-disabled child is required to learn to advance from grade to grade. No accountability for the child, the parent or the teacher. We need some commitment here and I think it starts with the teachers and school.

The parents need to be involved in making sure their kids meet the minimums too so they aren’t surprised at the end of the year. If the minimums are pretty reasonable then it’s hard to argue that a student shouldn’t graduate to the next grade level. Summer school for those that need it.

As things stand now there are no real standards so half the kids in the 4th grade at my school don’t know all their multiplication facts so they aren’t ready for multi-digit multiplication or long division. Some of the teachers complain about it but I don’t see them making sure the kids are learning this minimum content. It’s like the kids come to school, the teachers do their thing, if the kids learn then great. If not then that’s great too.

It’s like a bad paint job on a car. Sloppy work pure and simple. And this aspect of things has nothing to do with teachers being weak in subject content. Instead, for too many, it is no pride in their work product.


Anonymous said...

Minimum standards are not the issue, they are the problem. When you lower academic standards, you provide incentives to create more curriculum, and what you get is a hodge-podge of mostly bad, without a lot of good. Imagine a lie wrapped up in a blanket of truth to make it believable. That's public education.

dan dempsey said...

Lower standards ... hard to lower something that is non-existent.
Try the Seattle promotion / non-promotion policies ... absolute ignored fairy-tales, which speak of effective interventions.....

So how does a class of 8th graders that have 30% of the group unable to score above level one on the math WASL advance almost entirely intact into high school?

The answer is easy there are no standards. Oh I forgot I helped in the production of the new WA State math standards ... you know the Standards that Seattle ignores.

Anonymous said...

Instead of 'Success for all', how about 'Anything goes' or 'Goodloe's way or the highway' or 'America educates everything, including Rocks'. Math reform has endless possibilities and they're all good for overeducated, college professors who ought to sit on their hands for a change.