Friday, February 18, 2011

Ending social promotion will not help

When one is drowning, one grasps at straws.

Governor Martinez, PED Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera, and public education in general, are drowning in declining performance. They have clutched a straw; ending social promotion. They are buoyed by the "fact" that education reforms in Florida, including ending social promotion, are being credited with success. The supposed success is not universally agreed upon. Seizing upon one aspect of a complex dynamic and assigning weight to it, is skating on thin ice.

The "social promotion" they're talking about looks like this;
a child who has not mastered grade level skills is passed on to
the next grade level for reasons that seem politically correct.
A third grader without third grade skills is passed to the forth
grade to avoid that "damage" done by retention.

On a theoretical level, it makes sense to retain students who
have not acquired prerequisite skills. Mastery learning, wikilink,
makes sense; students who master one level are better prepared to acquire the next.

In practice, a student who is behind in one discipline (typically reading) is held back in all. A student who could be growing in other areas (non-readers can continue to learn by means other than textbooks) is held back in every subject.

This points to the fundamental flaw in the model; not only are students of the same age expected to perform on the same level in all subjects, but even a single student is expected to be at the same grade level in all subjects. A third grade non-reader who could easily be doing eighth grade math is denied that opportunity by requiring them to fit into the obsolete group think model for education; every student on the same page in the same book on the same day, for twelve years. "Cemetery seating" in classrooms and the standardization it implies and requires needs to be questioned.

The ultimate goal of education is to create independent learners.

If that is goal, how can it not be an objective?
Why is it not the primary objective?

How long will we continue to beat a dead horse;
the effort to try to standardize the performance of students
who could hardly be more different from each other
in the way they learn best, for no real good reason?


Anonymous said...

Exactly Ched!
Many of us have been thinking that for years, and you expressed it clearly and legitimately here.
Some university should award you an honorary doctorates in education!
Thanks for all your hard work and thoughts.

ched macquigg said...

and thank you, for your kind attention.