06 May, 2010

Grade free and rank Free Schools

In our tiny village, the school board has decided to do away with grading and ranking in the high school. Without the input of their teachers, the taxpayers, or the parents of the students attending the school, they have waived grades and rankings as inhibiting factors for our children's education. President Obama said that our students need to be better prepared to meet and compete with students from around the world.

What did Obama mean when he said our children need to be better educated? Let us take a look at students around the world. In India, pupils in the elementary grades are learning advanced mathematics by the time they reach the age of nine. They are expected to know a minimum of two languages when the reach middle school, their own and English. Most pupils are able to speak two or three Indian languages as well as English before they reach middle school.

Pupils in China must memorize 5,000 characters before they can read their newspaper and 12,000 characters in order to enter the university. Their ability to memorize is unequaled. This doesn't stop them from studying mathematics at much higher levels in the high schools than we study here.

In Singapore, students will take eight A level exams before they graduate, while in England the populace is happy if their students learn and take two A levels.

When I state some of these figures, people brush it aside, saying that foreign students learn by rote and our children are learning to think critically and analyze.. Yes, that is true. In the early years Asian students do learn by rote. But when they begin analyzing and thinking critically  they have a wealth of material to think about critically. They aren't playing catch-up in their teens and their twenties.

Japanese Schools have classes without grades and without rankings. But they have had this system for some time. The difference is that the teachers develop the curriculum, and are not expected to teach a curriculum that is handed down from so called experts who have never taught a class. The teachers are interested in all of their children succeeding. If there are many first grade classes, all the teachers help out the students  who are falling behind. They will spend extra hours doing this.

I'm afraid that the classes in Oregon, Wisconsin will end up teaching our children even less than they do now. The bright ones who want to be ranked so they can go to top universities will go to private schools, and the failure rate will only increase.

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