With the conclusion of PARCC testing last week, the realization that there are just a few weeks left in the school year, and reminders from school to order supplies for next year, it feels like education is center stage right now in my house. If my Facebook feed is any indication, it's a hot topic all over right now.
Just today I have come across three great articles on educating middle and high school students and wanted to share them. I know I'm not the only parent who struggles with finding the elusive balance of making sure our kids are motivated to learn and realizing their full potential while still maintaining behaviors that make them healthy and happy, both now and in the future.
- "Grades matter in middle school. Should they matter at all?" by Kim Kankiewicz in On Parenting from The Washington Post
I don't know Kim Kankiewicz, but it seems we had a similar focus on grades and GPA back in the day, and that our high-stress approach to learning has colored our feelings on our kids' education now.
"As a high achiever who benefited from the economy in which grades are exchangeable for access to higher education, I may seem an unlikely advocate for change. But I believe my investment in grades ultimately compromised my education. I traded curiosity for fear, exhausting myself to maintain my GPA and treading the surest path to an A."
Getting an A is not a guarantee of learning, or anything else, really.
Acknowledging that grades are here to stay, however, she decided to try to cut down on the stress she feels over her child's grades and take a different tack to "de-emphasize grades in favor of learning."
Questions like “What did you accomplish?" and "What did you do on this that you’re proud of?" can reframe the conversation about school, making it more positive for both parents and kids.
- "Best, Brightest — and Saddest?" by Frank Bruni in The New York Times
You may remember that I'm a fan of Frank Bruni after seeing him at a talk he gave while on tour for his book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, which I wrote about here.
In this article on the impact of academic stress on the mental health of teens, he writes, "[I]n Chicago’s western suburbs, . . . a high school teacher recently pulled me aside and, in a pained whisper, insisted that the number of advanced-placement classes that local students feel compelled to take and the number of hospitalizations for depression rise in tandem." I'm pretty sure that happened at the event I attended.
He shares a starting and sobering statistic: "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was 8.15 per every 100,000 Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 in 2013, the last year for which complete data is available; the rate was 6.74 in 2003."
While there is no one cause pinpointed for that rise, he makes the point that lessening the pressure we place on our kids cannot hurt.
"Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best."
I loved that parenting mantra he shared from a dad in Palo Alto.
- "Why my students' Advanced Placement scores matter. And why they don't." by Ray Salazar of The White Rhino: A Chicago Latino English Teacher on The Standard, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards blog.
The students in Ray Salazar's AP English Language classes took their AP tests this morning. As their teacher, he explains that scoring a 3, 4, or 5 is not how he measures the success of his students in Chicago Public Schools.
"I challenge students to challenge themselves as they create complex texts that that build their competence and confidence as writers. They complain sometimes. But when we pause to reflect on how they’re growing as writers and thinkers, students reveal their pride. This is why, the longer I teach AP English Language, the less I define my success or my students’ success by their scores."
He says that scores do matter and while he doesn't discount their importance entirely, he does offer a confession regarding his perforance as a high schooler, noting that a different number "would not have changed my life. I still turned out OK."
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