Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Data Doesn't Create Meaning. We Do.

I found this TED Talk by Susan Etlinger to be interesting in and of itself, so I think it's worth 12 minutes of your time. Several of the things she said really resonated with me, so I'll discuss them briefly after you watch.


At just past the one-minute mark, she says:
We have to ask questions, and hard questions, to move past counting things to understanding them.
This is reminiscent of the oft-used quote (usually attributed to Einstein, but he probably didn't say it), 
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted
but I sorta like this one better. Because counting things is often a good thing but we can't stop there, we have to provide the context, the understanding, the wisdom to do something good with what we've counted.

At about the 6:30 mark, she says,
this is what happens when assessments and analytics overvalue one metric — in this case, verbal communication — and undervalue others, such as creative problem-solving
This sums up my main objection to PISA/PARCC/CMAS/fill in your own state test. We're so proud of ourselves for coming up with the metric that we've stopped asking ourselves whether it's an important metric in the first place. (I just finished Yong Zhao's new book where he goes into great detail discussing the history of education in China, and why the PISA results - and especially the conclusions assigned to those results - are almost meaningless.) We are overvaluing a metric that may (or may not) show how well you will do in school, but has very little worth in determining how well you will do in life.

At about 8:20, she brings it home,
And at this point, you might be thinking, "Okay, Susan, we get it, you can take data, you can make it mean anything." And this is true, it's absolutely true, but the challenge is that we have this opportunity to try to make meaning out of it ourselves, because frankly, data doesn't create meaning. We do. So as businesspeople, as consumers, as patients, as citizens, we have a responsibility, I think, to spend more time focusing on our critical thinking skills. Why? Because at this point in our history, as we've heard many times over, we can process exabytes of data at lightning speed, and we have the potential to make bad decisions far more quickly, efficiently, and with far greater impact than we did in the past. Great, right? And so what we need to do instead is spend a little bit more time on things like the humanities and sociology, and the social sciences, rhetoric, philosophy, ethics, because they give us context that is so important for big data, and because they help us become better critical thinkers. (emphasis mine)
At various time in my life I've taught students mathematics, so in some ways I'm a big fan of data. But the mistake we've made (and are currently doubling-down on with our new state tests) is confusing data with meaning. Data is only as good as the questions you ask, the way you ask them, the way you collect it, and - critically - how you then interpret the data.

Or, as Susan says at about 10:40,
if I don't know what steps you took, I don't know what steps you didn't take, and if I don't know what questions you asked, I don't know what questions you didn't ask
In education we currently have a love affair with data, without bothering to ask whether the questions we're asking are the right ones, or the only ones.

Data doesn't create meaning. We do.

Data doesn't define learning. We do. Or at least we should.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Data-Driven Schools: Homework

In my school's student handbook we state,
Homework is an expectation . . . Achieving students do homework at least 5 out of every 7 days . . . Do homework Sunday through Thursday, take Friday and Saturday off! . . . Average nearly two hours of homework each night.
Since we're increasingly encouraged to be "data-driven", I have a few questions.

Let's start with the "two hours of homework Sunday through Thursday." This has been an expectation since I started at Arapahoe . . . in 1991. I wonder what kind of "data" we based the two hours on. Why not 1.5 hours? Or 2.5 hours? Or for that matter, why not 111 minutes instead of 120? (We have an overly fond appreciation for numbers that end in 5 or 0.)

What kind of research did we do to determine that 120 minutes was the appropriate and most effective amount of homework each night? I'm one of only about 4 or 5 staff members who've been here since 1991, we've never done any research on this since then that I know of, and I don't know of any research that was done before then, so I suspect there is none. So if we just made up this number, how is that "data-driven"? Perhaps we need to sit down and rethink this and decide if that's truly the best number.

Of course if we did that, then we'd probably also want to look at the research on the effectiveness of homework in general. Alfie Kohn has been a longtime skeptic on the value of homework, so much so that he wrote a book called The Homework Myth. In that book he argues that the research shows no support for homework at all at the elementary level, and at the high school level there is only a weak correlation between homework and increased test scores (and, of course, that then leads into the debate about whether those test scores are meaningful or worthwhile). It's fair to say that he advocates for no homework at all, other than reading or self-assigned homework.

He recently wrote an article in the Washington Post about a new study that looked at homework and its effect on test scores and grades. In terms of test scores,
Was there a correlation between the amount of homework that high school students reported doing and their scores on standardized math and science tests? Yes, and it was statistically significant but “very modest”: Even assuming the existence of a causal relationship, which is by no means clear, one or two hours’ worth of homework every day buys you two or three points on a test. Is that really worth the frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, and potential diminution of interest in learning? And how meaningful a measure were those tests in the first place, since, as the authors concede, they’re timed measures of mostly mechanical skills? (Thus, a headline that reads “Study finds homework boosts achievement” can be translated as “A relentless regimen of after-school drill-and-skill can raise scores a wee bit on tests of rote learning.”)
And the effect on grades?
There was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grade, and “no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.” This result clearly caught the researchers off-guard. Frankly, it surprised me, too. When you measure “achievement” in terms of grades, you expect to see a positive result — not because homework is academically beneficial but because the same teacher who gives the assignments evaluates the students who complete them, and the final grade is often based at least partly on whether, and to what extent, students did the homework. Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades?

And yet it wasn’t. Again. Even in high school. Even in math. The study zeroed in on specific course grades, which represents a methodological improvement, and the moral may be: The better the research, the less likely one is to find any benefits from homework. 
It's important to note that not everyone agrees with Kohn's interpretation of the data, but even most of what I've read in support of homework tends to show it having a relatively small effect on student "achievement" (I prefer the word learning, myself), and often ignores the question of whether this work should be done at home or could be done at school.

I find it interesting, however, that we haven't looked at any of the research, or any of the dialogue between folks like Kohn and Willingham, we've just decided it's good, and that two hours five days a week is the optimal amount. So why do we assign homework?

In general, I think there are three main reasons that I've heard teachers use (and have used myself).
  1. Students need the practice.
  2. I can't cover the curriculum unless I give homework.
  3. It teaches responsibility.
The research provides little or no support for number one. What little support it does give could be accomplished by giving them time in class to practice. At what point did we decide that school was so important that we decided to assign students a "second shift" of work at home after school was purportedly over?

Which leads to number two: there's not enough time to cover the curriculum. I agree with the diagnosis 100%, but not the treatment. Instead of assigning homework (and assigning students a "second shift") in order to cover the curriculum, we should change the curriculum.

I struggle with the increasing emphasis on covering more, and more advanced topics, earlier and earlier, and the emphasis on curriculum over learning. For example, we are now teaching topics in Algebra I (typically a freshman course) that we used to teach in Algebra II (typically a junior course). Why? And does it matter if you learn Algebra by age 15, or would it be okay if you mastered it at 16? (Or 25 for that matter?) We say we want to create lifelong learners, yet our policy is that they must learn things at certain ages that we determine (and standardize for all students). It's as if we think there's an expiration date on learning.

As far as the third reason, I have yet to see any research that shows that assigning homework teaches responsibility. In fact, anecdotally, I would say that it does not. How many high school teachers have you heard complain about students not doing homework? Yet we've been assigning them homework for years, shouldn't that have taught them responsibility by now? But, even if it did, would that be the best way to teach them responsibility? I would suggest that giving them meaningful and important things to do might teach them responsibility better than assigning homework of dubious value.

So, where does that leave us? If we truly believe that "data-driven" is the way to go, then the data is telling us that we need to step back and reexamine both our assumptions and our practices. I've previously suggested with textbooks that the default should be to not get a textbook, and then we have to justify why we need one. I would propose something similar for homework, the default should be no homework, any homework we assign should be justified. And that justification has to be well thought out and can't rely on any of the three reasons above, and has to also take into consideration the social and emotional health of our students.

And what about "average two hours of homework each night Sunday through Thursday"? Show me the data.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What Do Your Last Five Tweets Say About You?

What do your last five tweets/posts/snapchats/instagrams/fill-in-the-blanks say about you?

What do you want them to say about you?

(I'd appreciate it if non-Arapahoe folks hold off on commenting for a couple of days as we'd like our students and staff to respond first. Feel free to add a comment if you'd like beginning on Sunday, October 5th. Thanks.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Data-Driven Schools: Sleep

Over the last few years there have been many articles regarding the research surrounding sleep. These articles not only focus on health, but frequently focus on the importance of adequate sleep for learning, and often focus on the need for teenage brains to get enough sleep (most of the articles seem to indicate that, for most teens, 9 hours is the minimum they need). The most recent, of course, was the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Pediatricians have a new prescription for schools: later start times for teens. Delaying the start of the school day until at least 8:30 a.m. would help curb their lack of sleep, which has been linked with poor health, bad grades, car crashes and other problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a new policy.

The influential group says teens are especially at risk. For them, "chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm."

The policy, aimed at middle schools and high schools, was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Studies have found that most U.S. students in middle school and high school don't get the recommended amount of sleep — 8½ to 9½ hours on school nights — and that most high school seniors get an average of less than seven hours.
This is a topic I've brought up frequently over the last few years, but it has gained very little traction. It's not that folks disagree with the research or the recommendation, it's mainly the problems it causes in three areas: after school daycare (older students watching their younger siblings), after school sports (practices and games), and after school employment. While I agree that those are real issues we should consider and tried to help mitigate, I don't think they should take precedence over our students' health and learning.

(I'm not sure I agree with the Executive Director of the National State Boards of Education who is quoted in that article suggesting that it's costs related to busing that's the problem. All school start times could simply be shifted later, or secondary schools could be shifted to start after elementaries - neither would affect the cost of busing.) 

Our student newspaper staff just did a survey where they asked a variety of questions and, interestingly, one of them was about sleep. Let me be clear, this is not a scientifically valid study, but given the sample size (323 students out of roughly 2150) and the distribution method (all students received a link in their student email accounts, so decently random), I think the data is going to be reasonably accurate.

The newspaper staff polled upperclassmen (11th and 12th graders) separate from underclassmen (9th and 10th), although the data for sleep was fairly similar. The choices students had were: less than 5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, and more than 8 hours of sleep. For both underclassmen and upperclassmen the median response was 6-7 hours, with the distribution of both groups skewing toward the left (fewer hours of sleep), with upperclassmen a bit more skewed than underclassmen.

So now we have some reasonably actionable data about our students. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 8½ to 9½ hours (with some studies recommending slightly more), and our students are reporting they get between 6-7 hours a night, with a significant number getting even less than that. (I should probably also mention that first period for us starts at 7:21 a.m.)

So I find it interesting in this age where schools are increasingly "encouraged" to be data-driven (at least when we're talking about test scores), that this set of data doesn't appear to be driving anything (except decreased health, increased accidents, and decreased learning for our students). While I frequently question data-driven decision making related to test scores (because I question the quality and meaningfulness of the data itself), in this case I think the data is pretty clear-cut: our students are not getting enough sleep, and it's adversely affecting their well being.

I wonder if we're willing to take on the challenge of making the right decision for our students' health and learning, even if it means inconveniencing adults?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

troll

This is a great example of poetry and digital storytelling to share with your students, not to mention a subject worth discussing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Little Respect Goes A Long Way

A few years back Daniel Pink wrote about emotionally intelligent signage in A Whole New Mind. It's the idea that we have choices when we create signs, and that if we create them with how humans will react to them in mind, we will likely be more successful. More recently, Thaler and Sunstein wrote about the idea that we can subtly "nudge" people into behaviors that are more productive for them - and for society.

Here's an example of an emotionally intelligent sign, instead of the typical "Slow Down" or "Fines Doubled in School Zone", they went with:


To me, a lot of it comes down to respect, and to making the conscious choice to assume that people will, more often than not, make a good choice rather than a bad one. In general, I think my school does a pretty good job with this. Compared to many high schools of our size, we give our students a fair amount of freedom, and assume that - with help - they will usually make the right decision. But that doesn't mean we can't improve.

Eight years ago I wrote this post when these signs started appearing around the building:


In response, I posted a sign outside my room that said something like:
Please get out your Cell Phones, iPods and Electronic Devices and use them to enhance your learning during class.
I felt it sent a much better message to our students. Regrettably, I still see many of the "no cell phone" signs around the building (in fact, I took the above image today), yet none of the "use them to enhance" signs.

I was reminded of this issue because we have new digital signage around the building this fall. Typically the slides are created once a week, with occasional additions or subtractions during the week. We are now in Week 5 and I believe this is the only slide that has appeared every day this school year.


Let me be clear, I think it's important that we have an open campus and I think it shows respect for our students. I also agree that some students struggle with this freedom and so therefore need some help managing this, which sometimes means they have their open campus privileges temporarily replaced with Study Center until they get the hang of it. Having said that, I'm not a fan of the above slide (or having it play over and over again on the digital signage).

I think there are a variety of ways we could communicate this message in a more positive, emotionally intelligent way. Here's one, although you can probably come up with some better ways.


I think this communicates essentially the same message, only in a much more positive, respectful way. The way we currently have it phrased, it's threatening: "screw up and we'll take it away." Phrased this way, it assumes that most students will handle the responsibility well (and 98% of them do).

There are a variety of other signs around the building (and I imagine your building as well) that should perhaps be rethought. Perhaps instead of "No Food or Drink in the Halls!" we could say,
Our custodians work really hard. Let's help them out by enjoying our food and drink in the cafeteria, and cleaning up any spills. Thanks!
Or maybe your Class Expectations include a long list of "don'ts", why not trying something more like:

I think a little respect goes a long way.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Textbook Is Not The Curriculum

I thought I'd give a little update on two of my previous posts. Despite overwhelming opposition by the professionals that we pay to teach our students mathematics, our district went ahead and adopted the Agile Mind materials. The rollout this fall has been less than smooth, including many technical issues that have been slow to be addressed (students not being able to login, students not being able to load the materials, some of the materials loading but not others, etc.). We are diligently working through those technical issues and I imagine we will solve them reasonably soon.

But the other concerns the professional mathematics educators expressed regarding the materials are not so easily addressed, and many of them are coming up in the day-to-day use of these materials. The Algebra team at my school (Algebra being the only course where they are required to use the Agile Mind materials at this point, although Geometry and Algebra II will be required in the future) has been extremely frustrated up to this point. Being the dedicated teachers that they are, they aren't giving up, they are still trying their best to make this work, but they have been burdened by the expectation that they must use these materials. (And, as stated previously, Agile Mind seems to be designed to work as a script, not a resource.)

As a result of the technical problems with Agile Mind, I have had a fair amount of interaction with the Algebra teachers around Agile Mind (full disclosure: I'm not teaching Algebra this year so am not experiencing this myself), and I've mentioned several times that they don't have to use these materials. Like any textbook or other approved materials, it is simply a resource for them to use. The only expectation of them is to help students learn the mathematics curriculum as decided by the Board of Education, and they can use their professional judgement on how best to do that. Every time I've brought this up they look at me and say, essentially, they been told they must use these materials. (Apparently it was even mentioned that the district can "track" how often students log in, and therefore how often teachers are using the materials, although it's somewhat unclear as to which half of this the emphasis was being placed on.)

Which brings me to why I'm writing this post. I have a daughter who is in ninth grade and is taking Algebra at Arapahoe, so therefore is using the Agile Mind materials. She recently brought home a letter from the district saying that all the students would be surveyed three times throughout the course of the year to help determine the impact on mathematics instruction and achievement of the use of the Agile Mind materials. The purpose of the letter was to allow us to opt-out of the survey if we wished, per School Board policy.

Normally we wouldn't have any issue with our daughter taking a survey such as this but, for the first time, we are choosing to opt her out. It's not just because of the 45 minutes of mathematics learning she will miss out on while they are taking this survey, although that's certainly part of it. But it's because of the letter itself, and how it reflects on the above discussion and my previous blog posts. Here's the full text of the letter.


Do you notice anything about this letter? Here's what I noticed. It refers to the Agile Mind Curriculum in the header and three separate times in the the first paragraph. It's not a curriculum, it's materials that have been adopted to support the curriculum. This may indeed just be a slip of the keyboard (although four times in one paragraph is a whole lot of slippin'), but the problem is that - whether it's a slip or not - that is exactly how it's being implemented by the district. It's being treated as a curriculum, not in support of the curriculum. Not only is this exactly what the professional teachers of mathematics feared back in the spring when we were discussing this, it is in direct violation of the curriculum adoption process in our school district.

I've stated before that I think the materials adoption process in our district is deeply flawed, but at least it was a process that was more-or-less followed, even though the results of that process were not ideal. But clearly the process for curriculum adoption was not followed, and so for the district to now be referring to this as the Agile Mind Curriculum in a formal communication home to parents is stunning.

So, as a professional educator, as someone who has a fair amount of experience teaching students mathematics, as someone who is fairly well connected to the on-going discussions around learning and what's best for our students, as a staff member in Littleton Public Schools and at Arapahoe High School, and as a citizen and taxpayer, I have a question. But let's ignore all those roles and I'm just going to ask this question from one perspective:
As a parent of a ninth grader enrolled in Algebra at Arapahoe High School in Littleton Public Schools, I'd like to know what the LPS School Board is going to do about this?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

When 0.1 Is Greater Than 0.9

I've figured out why we have so much trouble with mathematics education here in the United States. It's because for years teachers of mathematics have been teaching their students that 0.9 is greater than 0.1. I'll even sheepishly admit that I've taught it that way in my classes as well.

But I have incontrovertible proof that it's actually the other way around. What's my proof? Well, in thousands of staff meetings and PLC's around the country this time of year, teachers are being told that 0.1 is greater than 0.9. Let me illustrate.

Picture two students who take the same state-mandated, standards-based test. One student scores a 2.0 and the other scores a 2.9. Based on the scale that has been setup, both those students are grouped in the "Partially Proficient" category. In order to be considered "Proficient," students must score a 3.0 or higher. This is where the faculty meetings, PLC's, and the mathematics comes in. Teachers are being told how important it is to get the 2.9 student up to a 3.0; how we should be focusing on those students who are really close to the Proficient level (often referred to, lovingly of course, as "bubble kids") and developing strategies to nudge them up over the 3.0 barrier.

The student who scored 2.0, however, well that's a tougher sell. You see, to move that student from the Partially Proficient to the Proficient category would require an increase of 1.0 and that's really, really difficult to do. We could raise that student's score by a dramatic 0.9 and it still wouldn't do us (I mean them, of course I mean them) any good because they'd still be Partially Proficient. Increasing the 2.9 student by 0.1 is greater than increasing the 2.0 student by 0.9.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the actual impact on the 2.9 student's life from moving her to 3.0 is probably non-existent (and also probably statistically suspect), whereas the impact on a 2.0 student's life of advancing her to a 2.9 could be significant (assuming, of course, that standard is worth improving on for that student's needs and interests).

But you'd be missing the point. Or at least 0.8 of the point.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Leadership is a Choice, Not a Rank

Lots to think about in this TED Talk. Please watch it first, then I have a few thoughts to share after.


Video of Captain Swenson

NextJump - Lifetime Employment. Note their home page:



Barry-Wehmiller Companies - Everyone took time off instead of laying people off. Note their home page:


For me, the key message in this talk was about trust. We need to trust our leaders. More importantly, our leaders need to trust us. I think that may be one of the two or three core problems in education right now.

The Federal Government doesn't trust the States.

The States don't trust School Districts.

School Districts don't trust Teachers.

Teachers don't trust students.

No one trusts anyone. In fact, we don't even trust ourselves. From the talk:
What I learned was that it's the environment, and if you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do these remarkable things, and more importantly, others have that capacity too. I've had the great honor of getting to meet some of these, who we would call heroes, who have put themselves and put their lives at risk to save others, and I asked them, "Why would you do it? Why did you do it?" And they all say the same thing: "Because they would have done it for me." It's this deep sense of trust and cooperation. So trust and cooperation are really important here. The problem with concepts of trust and cooperation is that they are feelings, they are not instructions. I can't simply say to you, "Trust me," and you will. I can't simply instruct two people to cooperate, and they will. It's not how it works. It's a feeling.
Isn't that the organization we'd all like to work in? Isn't that the educational system that would be the most effective for our students?

Choose.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Last Among Equals

Let me be perfectly clear: I think we put on a good graduation. Let me also say that I think everyone's motives are good and this is certainly not the most pressing issue we face in education. Having stipulated that, I still think the following is worth spending some time thinking about.

We just graduated the Class of 2014. As most of you know, this was a difficult year at my school, but students, staff and the community came together, persevered, and finished strong, and graduation was a fitting culmination for that effort. You can even watch video of our graduation if you want, as our student broadcast club streamed it live.

But each year I get a little more bothered about one part of our graduation (this is twenty-third AHS graduation I've attended). Our graduation starts with the graduates coming in, some opening remarks from students and staff, an amazing performance by our choir and symphonic band (starts at 27:30 of the video), and a keynote speech by a student speaker (who, as usual, was great - starts at 50:30 of the video, note the selfie she took). Then we get to the part where we read the graduates' names and they receive their diplomas. This is the part that increasingly bothers me and, while it's not the most important issue in the world, I still wonder if we should revisit how we do this.

We start by asking all of the honors graduates to stand and be recognized collectively (no names are read yet, this is at 1:07 of the video). These are students with GPA's between 3.50 and 3.79. They then sit down and we recognize the High Honors graduates, those with GPA's of 3.80 and above.

The high honors graduates names are then read first, individually, by the Assistant Principal in charge of Curriculum, with their college choice (or occasionally some other destination) read after their name (at 1:08:10 of the video). We start with the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, then all the other high honors graduates are read in alphabetical order. They come up one by one and receive their diplomas and then return to their seats. (Before I go on it's important to note that all of these students - both honors and high honors - were recognized three days before graduation at our Awards Convocation).

Now all the rest of the students names get read (at 1:28:25 of the video). They are read by two faculty speakers, who alternate reading names one by one from each half of the alphabet so that it goes faster. These students have their names read, but no college choice or other destination, although the honors students get a "with honors" appended after their name.

We end with some closing remarks, the moving of the tassel, and then they exit. All in all, it's a wonderful ceremony. And yet . . .

I have very mixed feelings about the special recognition of the honors and high honors graduates. On the one hand, we are an academic institution, these students have worked hard, and it's nice to be able to recognize their achievement and hard work. I don't mean to discount that at all, I just wonder why we feel the need to raise their accomplishment above others on the day of graduation?

Part of my concern is over how honors and high honors are determined. They are based on grades, of course, with AP classes counting more. ((All of our classes except AP classes are worth 4, 3, 2, 1 for A, B, C, D, and AP classes are 5, 4, 3, 1, so we have a significant number of students above 4.0.) I've written frequently before about my concern with grades, so I won't dwell on this here, other than to say that I have serious doubts about how well grades reflect learning, and I also question the wisdom of determining both the honor and the additional recognition at graduation partially on whether a student decides to take AP classes or not.

While my concern with grades is certainly a part of my concern over this custom, the main focus of this post is not on the relative worth of grades. It's more about whether it's appropriate at graduation to elevate some students over others. (Again, keeping in mind that these students were all recognized three days before at a special awards convocation that was held just for them, their friends, and their families.) After all, part of our graduation ceremony (all 23 of them I've been at), is our Principal saying she certifies to the Superintendent that all of these students have met the graduation requirements of Arapahoe High School and Littleton Public Schools. And then the Superintendent states to the Board of Education that he certifies the same thing. So assuming we believe that our graduation requirements actually mean something, all of these students have met the requirements we have put before them. So then why do elevate some graduates over others?

There are some students who graduate from my high school that from the day they start as a freshman know they will not be an honors or high honors graduate. Now, before you accuse of me of the "soft bigotry of low expectations", I'm a firm believer that each student can achieve and has amazing potential. I'm also a strong believer in Dweck's concept of Growth Mindset. It's not that I don't think all students can learn, or that they can't be successful, or that they can't achieve, it's just that I think we as educators put a premium on a very small subset of what it means to be successful. Students that can't - or don't want to - fit into that narrow band of school-based, school-defined success are somehow deemed less worthy.

Everyone who has been an educator (or been around kids at all) knows of students who work incredibly hard, who learn and achieve and go on to do great things. They typically have a growth mindset, and they constantly challenge themselves to achieve their own goals. But often that doesn't translate into an A in school, which means they won't get special recognition at our graduation. Just because a student's GPA is 3.79 or below doesn't mean their achievement is worth less recognition, or that their future plans are any less worthy than the high honors graduates' plans.

If we believe that school is for all students, and we believe that what we offer and require of all of our students is meaningful, and that students that meet those requirements have accomplished something, then when and how they receive that diploma shouldn't be differentiated by their cumulative GPA. We should celebrate all of our graduates, and not be silent about their plans for next year simply because they didn't reach an arbitrary number on a dubious scale. They shouldn't be last among equals.