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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Raising the Bar

"Raising the Bar" usually implies and means adding more tests. We don't usually see a change in curriculum or even raising our expectations of the students. In fact, when we see school districts "raise the bar" we really see a dumbing down of the instruction in more test prep. Students rise to the occasion when the curriculum is more challenging.

I've read recently of how a former school that was to be avoided is now taking on a whole new face. This school is changing its curriculum and aligning more closely with a college curriculum. I like the idea. I like that a teacher will be walking into a class and be able to design a course that will really provide challenges and innovative content to the curriculum. The possibilities become endless as teachers imagine what they can do in their own classroom and in collaboration with other teachers. Project based lessons will be possible. I would imagine that teaching to the test is not the focus in this school. I know from my own experience that teaching to the test is a waste of time and futile. Students become bored and lessons aren't and can't be very inspiring. It is basically drill and kill. It's aiming low. From my experience students who work on projects develop all the skills and more that they need to pass those heinous final assessment tools.

I imagine that this new revamped school will provide the inspiration to excel while the students fine tune the skills necessary to pass any form of assessment. I also imagine the students in this school will be preparing web/portfolios of their work. I see many great and grand possibilities with this school. I hope to be reading about them in the future.

"Raising the Bar" means challenging the students, making them responsible for their own learning, making work project based, being more conscious of the next level: college, and engaging the students in mental gymnastics that the current form of assessment is lacking. We don't see many schools doing this. For me, of course, the key is making schools places of scholarship and that means, make the student work public, have them engage in peer review, and pass it on for other scholars. This would be a bold and pedagogically sound move for schools to follow this credo and establish a new norm, a new bar by which schools and scholars operate. Not too many are ready to make this move as we see.

Good luck Miami Edison Senior High.

Another school in another state is showing more respect for students as more and more students are allowed and possibly encouraged to take AP and IB classes. This is raising the bar by letting the students challenge themselves in more advanced ways instead of the menial mindless current state exams that rely on Multiple choice. This is very encouraging, especially I have seen practice of not allowing students into these classes unless they had achieved a certain grade. Making it harder sometimes is the key to success. Watching tests get easier is insulting to the students. When we challenge them they rise to the occasion.

Bravo Beaufort County.

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