Monday, January 30, 2006

Exit Standards

Okay, so I know we've been here before in LPS (early 90's), but this is what College Knowledge has to say about how students should finish high school:

To begin, they [high school faculty] design a set of culminating exams, projects, or requirements that students must accomplish successfully for their program of study to be considered complete. These activities are discipline specific, or if integrated, have standards for each of the disciplines that a project addresses. These culminating projects or demonstrations integrate the content knowledge expected from students who are prepared to enter college with the thinking skills and habits of mind that will be required of them shortly. The projects require the personal characteristics, such as independent work, initiative, sustained effort, inquisitiveness, and attention to detail and quality, that will serve students well in the postsecondary environment. (p. 76)

The more I think about this, the more problems I have with graduation requirements that are - in the end - more about seat time and attendance than about learning. Yes, the majority of our students do learn a fair amount in our classes that are required for graduation, but I don't think that's sufficient. If we want students that not only have content knowledge, but personal characteristics such as "independent work, initiative, sustained effort, inquisitiveness, and attention to detail and quality," do our current graduation requirements actually "require" any of that from them?

To graduate from AHS you have to have 35 credits of english, 30 credits in social sciences, 4 semesters of math, 4 semesters of science, 6 credits of fine arts, 6 credits of practical arts, 12 credits of PE, and enough electives to total 188 credits. Nowhere does it say you actually have to know or be able to do anything. Shouldn't we expect that of our students - and ourselves? And shouldn't we have some way for them to demonstrate what they know and are able to do?


  1. I agree, I think that testing as we know it has a place but does it help us to really see what a student learned? I think the skills that college and life later on require should be a focus of the high school. I am not saying that we need to get rid of credit requirements but mybe we should rethink them. It seems the "drive" in education comes from ideas that do not want students to grow. NCLB for example, like other educational reforms, looks good on paper at face value. The real issue comes when you try to achieve the things that are in the reform. We find new ways of testing basic "knowledge" but is this "wisdom" or "skills"? I wonder if we are truly trying to pinpoint the issue or are we just taking a "shotgun" approach to "fixing" something? (Sorry about all of the quotes but the terms that I was using just seemed to need them.)

  2. I agree, it often seems that most classes we take could be sped along or only be taken once or twice a week and we would learn the same. Effort points take over the actual meaningful points. I personally dislike this trend, if I wanted to sit around all day and learn I could stay at home and watch the Discovery channel. I would much rather be graded on understanding and work than simply showing up. It seems a bit degrading to simply award points for being able to remember the seating chart.

    This quote from the comic strip Zits seems to relate. "High school isn't about education, it's about endurance."

  3. I think that we are rewarding kids too much for just being here and then finding ways to make sure that they graduate. I have had one student for three years and she has never passed algebra. She has bounced to different classes that she has gotten credit for and probably will graduate having taken the same material for 3 years. Does that make sense?