Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Credits and Philosophy (?)

Thought Experiment: What if we awarded all 40 or 44 credits or whatever students need to graduate to all the 11th graders. That's it. They are done credit-wise. (Of course, Regents must be passed).

I'll sidestep issues of motivation for the moment (i.e, the argument that they wouldn't be motivated to do anything we asked them to do --- an argument that reflects what the speaker himself or herself really thinks of students and the work we are doing in school).

The result (again if tests were passed) would be graduating a large number of kids...many of whom we would say didn't do what we really wanted them to do OR didn't learn much OR don't have the skills a high school graduate ought to have.

If you agree with this line of thinking, my next question is: so what?

So what if kids graduate at this point in time not having really done what we wanted them to do, or learning much or having skills? My own response is that it depends on (1) why the situation occurred and (2) how we relate to what we do about it in the future.

(1) Why did it occur (in this thought experiment)

IF it occurred because we have an attitude that "this is as good as it gets" and we don't have any higher expectations for our kids, then we have a problem in my opinion. This is not a school I want to be a part of.

HOWEVER, if it occurred because in our striving for constant improvement, this is what we did this time and we understand we are not yet good enough at our model, then it seems more acceptable to me that we do this. If we aren't good enough yet, someone has to pay the cost. Why should it be the student? Why should our inability translate to extra years in high school for a student? Why not bear the brunt of that cost ourselves by saying openly that of our graduating class only x % met the standards. Which brings me to....

(2) How we relate to what we do about it in the future

IF we say, there's nothing more we can do then it's a problem for me.

HOWEVER, if we use the x % of the first graduating class as a metric and set school improvement goals beyond that and hold ourselves to that then we can always get better. In 5 years we can graduate students where 90-100 % meet our standards (for example). But why should we hold ourselves to that standard for our first graduating class.

What do you think? I'm very interested in comments on this topic. Oh yeah...think of this: How different would our graduating class be (some who met and some who didn't meet the standards) from graduating classes around the city? the country? If we're worried about the consequence to the student -- what consequences and how would we prevent them if we kept kids longer?


SAM said...

It's offical, he's gone off the deep end.

SAM said...

Michael, the only real place it matters is where it always "matters". By who and where we get evaluated. The DOE, the state, Bill and Melinda, Big schools.
They would say we should make sure our first students be held over until we do get "good enough" and that will be a motivating factor to improve (the commitments we made to them). And what if we don't get better? What if we are functioning at full capacity (I don't believe that)is that fair to the students that followed the first year ones? they should have been informed by our x% graduating rate.

SAM said...

Just to be clear, I'm being hypothetical.

But to continue in that vein....I don't believe there is any measure of "good enough" anywhere. Bill and Melinda would have no idea of how our kids ranked in terms of "good enough" as compared to similar schools. In fact, if we gave everyone their credits we would probably produce the same range of "good enough" of any other similar school.

How would Bill and Melinda (or any of the other players) know? How do they know now for veteran schools? How do they know for the Met in Providence that has no Regents, pretty much passes everyone on year to year and then gets them all into college? Gates are big funders of the Met and they don't even use a credit system or a set of exit standards.

I'm not sure I understood the second point. Maybe you are saying: if this is the best we can do and only 10% of the kids graduate to standard (whatever that means), it's not fair to future students to see 90% graduating because they think 90% are meeting the standards? If that's the point, then how do these same kids evaluate any school that graduates 90%? Are we to believe that these other schools have 90% meeting some agreed upon standard or is it more likely that they have a great range like any other place and do what they have to do to graduate kids?

SAM said...

Here are the reactions I've been hearing:
(1) It's terrible. It becomes the same old seat time and no connection to education (I don't think it has to be -- I think we could commit to making the credits mean something and get better at that by some measure every year)
(2) It's great. It can be like Summerhill. (This one bothers me because it sounds like there is no commitment to making the credits mean something and I would be afraid that with an exercise of this experiment we would have some folks not working on the performance expectation to credit project. One could counter that we could always work on performance expectations but they don't have to be linked to credit...but that's not Summerhill either).


SAM said...

Al Writes:

I've been letting this sit for a while -- mainly to combat the "good idea" syndrome I have. So, I think I've worked through that...

This thought experiment isn't like Summerhill. It is us admitting that we need to get better and not taking that out on the kids. With that, I agree. We might just award credits for "whatever" to these 11th graders and do our best to get better for the next cohort. If we're going to do that, though, I feel that we aught to work our tails off to get these kids into college (even giving them -- heaven help us -- help on the SAT's and such!)

Listen, NY State cares about the Regents exams. NYC cares about credits. We care about the kids. We think that they ought to know and be able to do our performance expectations. We have combined this with NYC's "credit system" to move our kids through. The performance expectations are not complete (they are barely a rough draft) but we think this is how kids should be educated. We didn't get our shit together for the first cohort. We should figure out some way to help them through.

Here's a thought. How about this: for this cohort, once they pass the Regents in a given subject area, we give them all the credits they need to graduate in that area. In the meantime, let's keep using the grids to track them toward graduation, keep refining the performance expectations, keep pushing the staff to become better at using instructional conferencing and building better learning plans and using the grids more effectively. But know that we're going to be using the Regents as the gatekeeper. Once the kid's done with the Regents, they're done with us.

Now, that having been said, we ain't doin' such a great job with the Regents. But we have to get better at it all, anyway.

What do y'all think?