School is an ordeal. School is meant to be endured. School is a practice in completing traditional activities in order to jump through the obstacle course of life. School is just what you do. You need school to survive, so school should be easier for you. None of that should be true, but for some, they wish it was.
I went to a professional development today for Freshman Academy teachers. Freshmen courses, as well as many other courses in high school will be implementing a new grading style. What kind of grading style? No grades. At least, not in the traditional sense. We're going go move to Standard-Based Grading. Our sophomore English classes have been using this style of grading all year. Students are assessed on their abilities to perform a certain skill rather than their ability to complete a series of assignments. The assignments go toward the skills for the unit. The assignments are the practice, the journey, the means of learning. The actual grade comes from how much knowledge the kids have.
My neighbor is a sophomore teacher. One of her students was failing because he could not and would not do the work to show he had attained a certain skill level. His mother called and said the exact title of this entry to my coworker. "If my son can't master the skills, he just fails? That's not fair!" Why not? If he can't do the skills assessed in sophomore English, how is it fair to pass him onto junior English? Senior English? How is it fair to send him onto graduate with inadequate skills to pursue college? It's not. It's not fair to that student and it is not fair to his classmates who worked and learned those skills in order to earn the credit.
School is not an obstacle created by some angry entity to be endured by generations of children. School is to teach students a series of skills so that they may lead productive, successful lives. School is not about playing the game of school. It's about preparing children for the real world.
Students are held more accountable for their own work. It is up to them to work until they get a skill. Teachers will reteach the skills they are missing. For students who master the skills earlier than their peers, they will be able to go more in depth and continue to better themselves instead of stopping at the same point as every other student.
Students will be responsible for their learning and their grades will be based on their performance on a smaller number of assessments rather than copious amounts of daily work. What does this sound like? College. Considering the culture shock most of the students from my school go through when they enter college, this can be a fantastic change. Instead of going from an environment where teachers are the givers and students the passive receivers, students will work to create their own knowledge.
I just hope we get a lot of teacher buy in on this great idea.