Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Are We Counting Crayons?

I just wanted to reflect a moment on today's motivational speaker.

What do these things have in common?

  • Norm-Referenced Tests
  • Grading on a Curve
  • Class Rank

Seems to me these are Comparing, not Sharing.

  1. What is their purpose?
  2. What message do they send?
  3. Is there a better way?


  1. During the assembly today I couldn't help but think of my children. My 8 year old is in 2nd grade and SO excited about school and learning. He just loves going and being a kid. There are no grades yet and no pressure.
    Yesterday, he brought home a test that he got a 100% on. He doesn't even know what this means yet so I did not make a big deal about it. I don't want him to think the grade is what is important. However, he said to me something like "Mom. I was the only one who got a 100%. Aren't you proud of me?" How did he know he was the only one? Maybe he made it up but why did he think I would be proud of him for it? My answer to him was "The grade isn't what matters to me. The important thing to me is that you learned the information." Then we proceeded to talk about new stuff he learned about weather. My son is very bright but I don't want him to think he is better than anyone else because he understands things more quickly. I love the fact that he doesn't know this yet. At recess kids of all different walks of life still play together. But I fear the time is coming when he will be judged more on his school performance. We all know that as soon as this happens, kids that played begin to form alliances which will begin to separate kids from one another. It can be a cruel game.

    Is it me or does anyone else think it is crazy that already there is emphasis put on grades? Why, at 2nd grade do they even get them? Do they understand them? They are already learning to "count the crayons".

    I can't even think about 3rd grade and CSAP's!

  2. I had a 7 year old second grader developing anxiety last fall. She was doing very well, but was agonizing over what she missed. It took my wife and me three months to help her see what she was learning rather than the questions she missed. However, the messages in class contrast with our discussions. She must get a 90% to move to the next level of math. It doesn't matter if the sub-90% is due to not knowing or to just being deliberate and slower so you can check your answers. We looked back and she had missed one problem over 9 tests, but had been told that she wouldn't move on 5 times. I understand the purpose in trying to get kids to stop counting their math. However, the message she got was not that. It was I can't miss anything. Frustrating!

  3. Yikes, Melissa and Brad, you are scaring me with Carter being a 1st grader. I know the pressures of school get younger and younger. Carter has 2 books, a journal entry, and math to do EVERY NIGHT and he is just 6. His reading however has skyrocketed since September, so I know it's working, but wow, it starts early.

    It's interesting, when I first read the post, Karl, I thought about my all-boys freshmen class I taught last year. Studies show that boys like competition in the classroom and since we have focused so long on female achievment, competition is sparse in our classes. I added the ranking (before we had IC) and the boys really got into it. They checked their rank and wanted to help the guy on the lowest rung--I didn't tell them each others' ranking, they just admitted out loud. I think if we focus on grades while creating students empowered by their own learning, then grades serve the right purpose...I think.