If at First You Don’t Succeed

2012-10-24 – We’ve gotten so used to muddled thinking about education that we cheer yay when we read something that really deserves a doh.

This week I got hold of a report called A New Model of Student Assessment for the 21st Century by Camille A. Farrington and Margaret H. Small about and experiment run in Chicago’s Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS).

The experiment was the adoption of a mastery method of student assessment. Unlike the standard assessment method that flunks students who fail to achieve mastery, YWLCS simply gives students marks of “not yet proficient” and allows them to keep trying until mastery is achieved. The school actually sets a higher bar of mastery than traditional schools. Without the stigma of failed classes, students keep trying and reach the higher bar.

If at first you don’t succeed . . .

A. Try, try again

B. Give up, you’re out of the game

At YWLCS the correct answer to this question is A. Try, try again. But at almost all other high schools the correct answer is B. Give up, you’re out of the game.

How is it possible that B is the correct answer? The authors of this article correctly state that the century old function of most high schools is not to educate kids but rather to sort them into groups that will go to college and groups that will not. Answer B is the appropriate answer to accomplish this sorting function. If you agree with that purpose, you are not bothered by this outcome. But I ask you please not to call it education. It is sorting.

If, on the other hand, you believe in education, your reaction to this report must be: why doesn’t everyone adopt this method of assessment. Doh!

An interesting article.

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