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8FillTheHeart

"The high stat kids can't think; they can't apply what they supposedly know."

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Ever since our disastrous visit this week to a university that is ranked amg the top 50 public universities in the country(recounted here) http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/493481-well-not-what-i-expected-is-a-fairly-accurate-summation/ I have been _____________ ( ????? I can't quite think of a word that actually articulates my thoughts) about educational methodologies and real outcomes and the long-term implications.

 

The following are just a series of parts of various post/articles from the past few yrs, but they are really bothering me and I really just need a place to vent.

 

"[in] Breakpoint and Beyond, George Land and Beth Jarman describe a longitudinal study they conducted on 1,600 kindergarden children aged three to five. They gave them eight tests on divergent thinking and an astonishing 98 per cent of the children scored within the creative genius category.

 

Five years later, they re-tested the same children, now aged eight to 10 and only 32 per cent scored in the creative genius category. Five years later only 10 per cent of the children scored in this category. In tests of over 200,000 adults over 25, only two per cent scored enough to be classified as creative geniuses."

from AoPS. http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Resources/articles.php?page=hardproblems

We ask hard questions because so many of the problems worth solving in life are hard. If they were easy, someone else would have solved them before you got to them. This is why college classes at top-tier universities have tests on which nearly no one clears 70%, much less gets a perfect score. They’re training future researchers, and the whole point of research is to find and answer questions that have never been solved. You can't learn how to do that without fighting with problems you can't solve. If you are consistently getting every problem in a class correct, you shouldn't be too happy -- it means you aren't learning efficiently enough. You need to find a harder class.

 

The problem with not being challenged sufficiently goes well beyond not learning math (or whatever) as quickly as you can. I think a lot of what we do at AoPS is preparing students for challenges well outside mathematics. The same sort of strategies that go into solving very difficult math problems can be used to tackle a great many problems. I believe we’re teaching students how to think, how to approach difficult problems, and that math happens to be the best way to do so for many people.

from RR's Math Prize for Girls talk http://mathprize.atfoundation.org/archive/2009/rusczyk

“While challenging and improving the mathematical problem-

solving skills of high-performing students are surely every-day

objectives of those who teach such students, it is not a problem,

relatively speaking, of major import in American education.â€

-Department of Education Grant Reviewer

The readiness gap for college prep track high school graduates is huge.......estimated around 60% are not adequately prepared for college level work (which means dumbing down of higher ed is inevitable) http://www.highereducation.org/reports/college_readiness/gap.shtml

 

I can't find the link I was looking for, but the obvious American solutions are same old, same old.......start earlier (preschool) and test more. (And since when have those approaches improved educational outcomes in the US??)

 

Eta.......editing the latter part of my post. Sigh......it is very depressing to me. Am I alone?

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I pay minimal attention to educational studies that focus on stats.  Frankly, the quantitative measures imposed on our children are, to my mind, part of the problem with the education system.  Hence the motivation I had for not placing my child on the traditional path.  I live in a place without magnet schools.  When my son was five, the only public school option taught kids reading and arithmetic in order to pass end of grade tests.  No science, no history, no foreign language until high school. 

 

I did not start homeschooling until seventh grade.  Prior to that my son attended a Montessori school, supplemented with a rich home life of books, games, travel, and ideas.  This has been a huge influence on who my son is.  Frankly, he could care less about tests and grades.  He pursues his passions and follows rabbit trails.

 

We knew that he needed to find a college that would cultivate him.  I believe that we succeeded. 

 

What does it mean to be a top this or that?  My son knew what he wanted to study so he read the CVs of faculty.  This is usually what a grad school applicant does but it became my son's approach to undergrad.  He also received a great piece of advice on where not to attend from a state archaeologist with whom he had worked.  This guy knew how the money flowed at certain schools.  The little that was in archaeology would go to grad students not undergrads.  He purposely applied to colleges without grad departments in his discipline.  LACs often have faculty that are dedicated both to teaching and research.  My son has never had a class taught by anyone but a professor.

 

His college pays for his membership to a professional society in his field.  His college helped him with a grant to pay for his travel expenses associated with a return to Britain last summer where he had a low level supervisory position at an archaeological site.  He is currently writing the mandatory thesis that all students write as part of the senior year studies.  

 

I could care less that some people have never heard of his college.  Is it on any "top" lists?  Yes--it is on the USNews list of best schools for Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects.with some decent company. and is on their top ten list for best undergraduate teaching.  But the college does not have the panache of better known schools. 

 

You have to dig deep to find a good fit--and then keep your fingers crossed that it is affordable. 

 

As homeschoolers we have been thinking outside the box for our kids all along.  Why go with the herd for college?

 

 

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Random thoughts --

 

My oldest was homeschooled from 4th through 8th and went back to PS for high school.  Just this past week I was provided a copy of a letter of recommendation done for him by the teacher he had for APUSH and AP Gov.  The teacher emphasized that DS can apply what he's learned, that he "shows great skill in analytical and critical thinking" and is "consistently above his peers in application of basic knowledge to solve problems and provide solutions."  So apparently he's very aware of the problem, and from the wording of his letter I assume not being able to apply knowledge is common.

 

I could say DS's ability to apply his knowledge was due to those years of homeschooling, but truthfully I think it's because in general we've always emphasized the importance of critical thinking, so he would've had that skill even if we hadn't spent several years homeschooling.

 

My nephew is a junior in a local college, majoring in some sort of agricultural field that I can't remember the specific name of.  Nephew also has lots of real life experience already.  He's been farming on family land since he was in high school and also works as a "right hand man" for another local farmer.  Nephew chose to go to a local university so he could continue to do those things.  He has told me over and over that many of his professors don't know how to apply their knowledge to real world situations.  In many regards he feels like he's going through the motions to get a piece of paper when he already knows more than most of his professors.

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This was the reason that we decided to homeschool way back when our first should have been entering preschool. (Though we continue to homeschool for many reasons.) You are not alone.

 

I need to kick myself when I feel tempted to follow the public school model for fear of my children's future. We all know that there are exceptional schools and exceptional teachers. But there is a reason they are considered "exceptional"- they are the exception and not the rule. I do think there is merit to some of the ideas behind the common core standards. They still fall short (especially in math) but I do see an attempt at crafting a curriculum that goes deeper and focuses on thinking (it is not a coincidence that the architect of the common core is also the president of the college board). Many of the ideas in the common core reflect Bloom's Taxonomy and are akin to methodologies from gifted education. I am not touting the common core, I am merely looking for a glimmer of hope- a reason to feel less depressed.

 

We were recently looking at high school options. When reviewing one of the elite private schools in our area I looked at the course descriptions. The Odyssey is one of the titles that is studied in English 1. I was momentarily pleased. But wait, it is the graphic novel of the Odyssey that is studied. Yes, they use the graphic novel not as an introduction for students who are unfamiliar with the book, not as a stepping stone to the original work, nor as a method of comparison. They actually study the graphic novel and do not read the original.

 

I am guessing that on this board there are others who would be as appalled at that as I am! (And that is without reference to the tuition at this private school!)

 

Assuming we are able to continue to homeschool (thereby delaying the impact institutional education may have on my children) my biggest concern is the one you referred to about higher education lowering its standards to meet its students. I expect a great deal from higher education and the thought that we may be left with fewer and fewer schools that truly challenge students is indeed depressing.

 

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I could care less that some people have never heard of his college. Is it on any "top" lists? Yes--it is on the USNews list of best schools for Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects.with some decent company. and is on their top ten list for best undergraduate teaching. But the college does not have the panache of better known schools.

 

You have to dig deep to find a good fit--and then keep your fingers crossed that it is affordable.

 

As homeschoolers we have been thinking outside the box for our kids all along. Why go with the herd for college?

I edited my op probably while you were typing your response. But.....my thoughts are whirling precisely bc how are we even to go about trying to figure it out if we can't go by any rankings, numbers, stats? The professor's rant was about the very students that the dept of ed would hold up as **the** positive educational outcomes. The university, by all word of mouth accts, is great. Other than boots hitting the ground in direct investigation in person, how do we even begin to have a real filter? (Bc this rant was not departmental specific but about students in general).

 

(Those of us with limited resources can't really do that much in person investigation, especially in terms of distant geographical locations.)

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This is a big question and I think there are many facets to the problem.  I have a few random thoughts though I'm not sure I'll be prepared to articulate them even after I finish my coffee...

 

- Does this problem apply to all students at all ability levels in many/most PS?  (I'd guess yes.)  

- Does this problem more significantly affect students of higher intellectual ability (regardless of the level at which they actually perform)?

- Is there a significant extent to which current PS methods and goals inadvertently hide the strengths of some students?  I.e., non-traditional learners, whatever that may mean (that would include some 2e kids but also others of all sorts of ability levels and especially some from disadvantaged backgrounds).  Would a deeper approach help find these strengths?

- Also as a practical matter, high-ability students seeking top grades in order to apply to competitive colleges may mean that in many high schools they're seeking the 100s that Rusczyk refers to, so grading a course with lots of depth might involve taking the extra step to grade differently, e.g., on a curve or otherwise translating grades in the 80s into an A, etc.

- Does more depth and challenge require more personal attention or is there a practical way to administer this sort of education in traditional PS classrooms?

- The inability (from administrative constraints or lack of training) of many teachers and administrators to think outside the box themselves or to incorporate a greater range of depth is possibly the biggest obstacle, from elementary grade levels on up.

- In a classroom (or even in a homeschool) where ability does not correspond to average grade level expectations, how much should be demanded from high-ability students who lack the motivation to think hard?  (this is a real problem for one of my kids)

 

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Robert Pirsig wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1974. Part of his purpose was to illuminate the apathy and unthinkingness of the whole university-level educational process. One of his monologues in the book is about the "Church of Reason", and how the real University isn't in the buildings of a campus any more than a religion is in the bricks of a temple or church. The real University is "that great heritage of rational thought that has been brought down to us through the centuries and which does not exist at any specific location."

 

You can't look at the surface or at test scores to measure whether a given learning community is true to these standards of reason and teaching, and a standard model of University one of the least likely places, IMO, to meet the needs of someone with a genuine passion to learn.

 

I would be looking at something like Reed College. Maybe Berkeley or Cal Tech.

 

(BTW, that speech or whatever from Griffiths is pretty interesting. My favorite physics professor ever held Griffiths in very high regard, and used two of his textbooks in our classes. ;) Even if Reed isn't up your alley, he points out a lot of really good aspects of a strong undergraduate program that you could look for.)

 

(I also wonder if you can glean some good ideas from this thread on another message board. There are a lot of career physicists, engineers, and scientists weighing in. The OP's son sounds similar to yours in that he's going to hit the ground running in college and needs a strong program with a lot of scope for advanced studies: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=119025)

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I find it depressing also, but I know from attending the public forums here that the majority of parents who have moved here in the last decade wouldn't have it any other way. The majority wants full inclusion.  They do not want the 'elites' to be in public school..whether that is a county-wide AP/IB type of magnet or an honors program in the zoned school, and that includes the children of the blue-collar and welfare people they grew up with who did bootstrap themselves up to the point that their children are now considered intellectually 'elite'.  It's very sad -- before they removed the IB/AP programs as well as math/science clubs here the high school was sending its top grads to MIT, Cornell, NYU, Columbia, Brown, and Princeton. The occasional student will get there now, if they do a lot of online coursework or outside research on their own dime. 

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FWIW, employers in Britain still seem to employ graduates from Oxford and Cambridge, more or less regardless of their area of study.  The difference between Oxbridge graduates and others is two-fold: students are admitted by interview in addition to very good exam results (and the interviews deliberately 'bounce' applicants to think on their feet and beyond their school studies); every student gets a one-on-one (sometimes one-on-two) tutor/student tutorial every week, in which they have to read out loud and defend an essay.  The tutors are full lecturers/professors, not graduate students.  There's nowhere to hide in the system.

 

L

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I blame the insanely competitive nature of college admissions over the last decade or so. Students who think "outside the box" and value true learning instead of building an impressive (on paper) resume get passed over in favor of the kids who know how to "play the game". It's a dilemma that I personally struggle with a LOT in our homeschool- how to balance what I think is actually better with what has become necessary to be a competitive applicant.

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Another thing that we as parents must learn to do is to trust our kids.  This is important within our home schools but also as they make the leap into college and life.  I am not addressing moral issues.  Whether our kids attend Exclusive U or Podunk U, opportunities will exist. We should not be the ones finding them or placing our kids into positions where they are noticed.  This is something they must do.

 

Let's face it:  the transition to university life is easier for some than others.  Just the different-ness of it or the serendipity of the random roommate or even a problem back at home can affect first year college students.  Parents have to trust that their students will work through the issues.  Maybe they will come to us for help.  Maybe they will need a serious intervention.  Maybe it will all roll off their backs.  Hard to say.

 

But we as parents cannot force our kids to join campus clubs, attend lectures or join in the biweekly departmental lunch.  How much they are engaged is up to them and frankly this is where I think a lot of kids fall flat.  If they do not feel like a part of their academic department, then they are not seeking out the extras. 

 

How comfortable is your student within the campus community as well as the department of his potential major?  (He may change his mind about the major after a semester or two.)  Are there engaging activities, interesting clubs?  Not just on paper but really happening on campus. The overnight visit is critical in my opinion.  It was the overnight the scratched one school off the list immediately.  It gave my son the chance to see how the social life at one college was wrapped up within the Greek system. 

 

If a student finds a comfortable fit both academically and socially, then the way will be easier.

 

Did your son ever speak to any of the students at Yuck U?  I wonder what they thought of their professors...

 

(Part of the reason that I wanted to make this post is to help alleviate the guilt that some parents feel when they realize that they cannot afford Perfect Fit U.  It is one thing to have the perfect fit on paper; it is another thing for a student to take advantage of what the school offers.  Sometimes students have to make it work--and they find that less than perfect can work quite well.)

 

 

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Here are some interesting points that Dan Goleman makes in his book Focus:

 

A classic model of the stages of creativity roughly translates to three modes of focus: orienting, where we search out and immerse ourselves in all kinds of inputs; selective attention on the specific creative challenge; and open awareness, where we associate freely to let the solution emerge--then home in on the solution.

 

 

The brain systems involved in mind wandering have been found active just before people hit upon a creative insight--and, intriguingly, are unusually active in those with attention deficit disorder, or ADD. Adults with ADD, relative to those without, also show higher levels of original creative thinking and more actual creative achievements.

 

 

Goleman mentions that about 4% of adults have ADD. Land and Jarman found that 2% of the participants in their study were creative geniuses.

 

When challenged by a creative task, for example, finding novel uses for a brick, those with ADD do better, despite zoning out--or perhaps because of it.

 

 

In an experiment where volunteers were challenged with the move-uses task, those whose mind had been wandering--compared with those whose attention had been fully concentrated--came up with 40 percent more original answers. And when people who had creative accomplishments like a novel, patent, or art show to their credit were tested for screening out irrelevant information to focus on a task, their minds wandered more frequently than did others'--indicating an open awareness that may have served the well in their creative work.

 

 

…people who are extremely adept at mental tasks that demand cognitive control and a roaring working memory--like solving complex math problems--can struggle with creative insights if they have trouble switching off their fully concentrated focus.

 

 

ADD/ADHD kids often have trouble on tests like the AP and whatnot, yet they appear to be the most creative. On the other hand, those who can focus well can struggle with switching to a mode that allows them to come up with creative solutions. (The lower, unconscious part of the brain making contact with the upper part of the brain.) Maybe these two points are part of the problem.

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ADD/ADHD kids often have trouble on tests like the AP and whatnot, yet they appear to be the most creative. On the other hand, those who can focus well can struggle with switching to a mode that allows them to come up with creative solutions. (The lower, unconscious part of the brain making contact with the upper part of the brain.) Maybe these two points are part of the problem.

 

Along these lines, I'd add other people with various twice-exceptionalities who lean toward a visual-spatial learning style, e.g. as described by Silverman in Upside-Down Brilliance and by the Eides in The Dyslexic Advantage.  They may have special talents for creative problem-solving but weaknesses that may prevent a better showing on certain testing measures or in other aspects of traditional school.

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I think the feel of the campus community can't be overstated. I ended up actually attending a school that only made it on my list because of a very generous scholarship offer (one of these post ACT letters from a school, stating basically, if you apply, we can give you money) and because my desired major, at the time, was fairly rare (only one to two schools per state had an accredited program) and they had one. The reason I picked them, among others was that when I did my on-campus visit, there had been a suicide on campus the prior week, and it was obvious the whole campus was grieving, reflecting, and feeling that they, as a community had failed this student. That was something I hadn't seen at the schools I'd done my prior coursework, or at my high school (where it really was the case that if you weren't popular, you could drop dead and no one but your immediate circle of friends would notice). There were other selling points (a great library, lots of opportunities for undergrad research, a small town setting, and the aforementioned scholarship offer, which was increased by both my major departments), but the final selling point was that it felt like a place that I couldn't slip through unnoticed.

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Well, why would kids be good at divergent, creative, applied thinking after thirteen years of schooling? It's not on the test. All along, kids are rewarded for having the right answer, and the right answer is the one the teacher or test-writer had in mind.

Practically anything off the beaten path is excluded from discussion for K-12, because we don't have time for that in the class agenda, and it's not in the rubric for the project. It wasn't until college, in DH's and my experience, that there was some encouragement to think about implications and exceptions, or otherwise to go beyond the givens. But by then, most students have been successfully trained out of it.

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Another random thought:  rote knowledge/skills seem at first glance to be easier to test for than problem-solving skills.  (Maybe some creative problem-solver could solve that testing problem  :))  Wouldn't it be interesting if all students were required to prepare for and take tests similar to the AMCs?

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If the statements by the professors were saying they see more and more students who can boast high achievements, but lack reasoning abilities and the skills in creative problem solving, I would have a hard time arguing with their observations.  Achievement seems to be trumping ability and experience more and more.  Achievement can demonstrate ability, but it can also demonstrate other factors which may or may not bode well for the development/ability of a learner capable of analysis, synthesis and creativity consistently over time.  Unfortunately, it may also hide deficits in work habits, resilience, and the ability to persist on tasks. 

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Robert Pirsig wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1974. Part of his purpose was to illuminate the apathy and unthinkingness of the whole university-level educational process. One of his monologues in the book is about the "Church of Reason", and how the real University isn't in the buildings of a campus any more than a religion is in the bricks of a temple or church. The real University is "that great heritage of rational thought that has been brought down to us through the centuries and which does not exist at any specific location."

 

You can't look at the surface or at test scores to measure whether a given learning community is true to these standards of reason and teaching, and a standard model of University one of the least likely places, IMO, to meet the needs of someone with a genuine passion to learn.

 

I would be looking at something like Reed College. Maybe Berkeley or Cal Tech.

 

(BTW, that speech or whatever from Griffiths is pretty interesting. My favorite physics professor ever held Griffiths in very high regard, and used two of his textbooks in our classes. ;) Even if Reed isn't up your alley, he points out a lot of really good aspects of a strong undergraduate program that you could look for.)

 

(I also wonder if you can glean some good ideas from this thread on another message board. There are a lot of career physicists, engineers, and scientists weighing in. The OP's son sounds similar to yours in that he's going to hit the ground running in college and needs a strong program with a lot of scope for advanced studies: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=119025)

I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was in high school.   It is one of the few books I read back then that I can still clearly remember large portions of the actual book.

 

He has already applied or is applying to a lot of the schools discussed on that other website.   Thanks for linking.  

 

My thoughts aren't just about my ds which is why I edited my OP.   My thoughts are more along the lines that our country is on the wrong path.  And, no, I do not believe that CC is going to change anything for hte better.   I think that the problem is far more serious than that.   Teachers aren't qualified.   Teachers do not have the freedom to teach in their own way.   Education is a one size fits all proposition.   I think CC is simply another bandaid over a serious wound.   Surgery is necessary.

 

Along these lines, I'd add other people with various twice-exceptionalities who lean toward a visual-spatial learning style, e.g. as described by Silverman in Upside-Down Brilliance and by the Eides in The Dyslexic Advantage.  They may have special talents for creative problem-solving but weaknesses that may prevent a better showing on certain testing measures or in other aspects of traditional school.

 Ds resembles that remark.  ;)

 

Well, why would kids be good at divergent, creative, applied thinking after thirteen years of schooling? It's not on the test. All along, kids are rewarded for having the right answer, and the right answer is the one the teacher or test-writer had in mind.

Practically anything off the beaten path is excluded from discussion for K-12, because we don't have time for that in the class agenda, and it's not in the rubric for the project. It wasn't until college, in DH's and my experience, that there was some encouragement to think about implications and exceptions, or otherwise to go beyond the givens. But by then, most students have been successfully trained out of it.

 

I agree completely.   When I read the OP on divergent/creative thinking, this was my response:

 

The question to ask is why do the numbers drop so significantly?   Perhaps worksheets/workbooks/educational practices/philosophies which force children into thinking that there is only one answer/one correct POV?   We take inquisitive kids and then mold them into compliant, passive receivers of pre-digested information and ask them to regurgitate the givens.   Seems like a sure fire way to destroy creative and curious thinking b/c fitting the "model student mold" does not involve unique approaches or questioning givens, etc.   The "perfect student" raises their hand and answers predictably according to the prescribed answer that the teacher wants to hear.

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Well maybe I'm not as hopeful as you all, but I don't see the decline.  When in history has more than 60% of the population been ready for college?  Nothing I've read from the founding fathers assumed more than a 60% educated population.  When I graduated high school in the 1970s, I can't believe even 50% of the graduates went to college. 

 

Personally, I think schools are an institution and all we can expect of schools is what an institution can provide.  Yes, there is that occasional exciting teacher meshing with a class that raises the bar, but it's usually a temporary, non-reproducible case.  It seems basically impossible to me to create imaginative, creative, thoughtful citizens by putting them in a box for their entire day.  I can't recall one inventor or great thinker I've ever read about who attributed his genius to hours in a classroom. 

 

My idea is that kids spend too much time in the classroom today, and that's the downfall.  Families and society have given up the ultimate responsibility of forming our future citizens, and turned it over to an institution, because, well, they're the "experts."  Kindergarten used to be where you got used to school and talked about colors.  My 6yo grandson lives with me and in his kindergarten year, he left home at 7 am, returned at 2:30, had homework and basics like eating or bathing, was asleep by about 7 pm.  Half his summer was spent the same because he wasn't reading yet.  There's a push here for public-funded preschool, as well.  I would expect those creativity statistics to be moved back further.

 

If I were king, I'd pull kids out of the buildings, I'd use the buildings only for the basics (becoming literate, etc.) and allow families, communities, churches, and even the individual on his own initiative to provide most of the education and life experience (like like Lincoln who taught himself Latin because he was enthused to attend a university).  I shudder to think of attending a college where everyone has had the exact same life experience in the exact same type of building, and I don't think that would be helped by fixing up what is taught in that building or adding to it.  No, the result of setting people free to live their lives individually probably wouldn't be that over 60% were ready for college.  But I think more would be ready for other things, including at least some new and exciting things. 

 

Just one perspective,

Julie

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If the statements by the professors were saying they see more and more students who can boast high achievements, but lack reasoning abilities and the skills in creative problem solving, I would have a hard time arguing with their observations.  Achievement seems to be trumping ability and experience more and more.  Achievement can demonstrate ability, but it can also demonstrate other factors which may or may not bode well for the development/ability of a learner capable of analysis, synthesis and creativity consistently over time.  Unfortunately, it may also hide deficits in work habits, resilience, and the ability to persist on tasks. 

 

That is exactly what he was saying.     The irony is that I would not argue with him, either!!   Anyone who has spent any time on this forum reading any of my posts would know that I am the anti-thesis of teaching to the test or focusing on a knowledge-based education.   My efforts have been to always encourage higher order critical thinking skills.   He lost an opportunity to engage based on inaccurate assumptions that ds was really not capable of his level of accomplishment w/o simply skipping across the surface w/o really digging in and understanding material.  

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Quote

 

"[in] Breakpoint and Beyond, George Land and Beth Jarman describe a longitudinal study they conducted on 1,600 kindergarden children aged three to five. They gave them eight tests on divergent thinking and an astonishing 98 per cent of the children scored within the creative genius category.

 

Five years later, they re-tested the same children, now aged eight to 10 and only 32 per cent scored in the creative genius category. Five years later only 10 per cent of the children scored in this category. In tests of over 200,000 adults over 25, only two per cent scored enough to be classified as creative geniuses."

 

 

What this particular quote says to me is

 

1. All children start out with the potential to be geniuses, and we (the parents, the system, life, the universe) ruin the vast majority of them

 

or

 

2. Better tests need to be written

 

or

 

3. Testing is useless

 

 

An interesting discussion all in all.

 

Regards,

Kareni

 

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My thoughts are more along the lines that our country is on the wrong path.  And, no, I do not believe that CC is going to change anything for hte better.   I think that the problem is far more serious than that.   Teachers aren't qualified.  

:iagree:

 

Right now, at our school (which is pretty average for the nation in stats), kids are taught to the test from the start.  They learn to copy (not cheating, but looking for answers in a text or equivalent and copying it onto a piece of paper).  They learn to memorize things - anything from lists (periodic table) to math steps on a calculator to history facts or vocab words.  They learn to read - as in - they can sound out the words and reproduce them.

 

BUT, when I'm in a class I'll always ask the deeper questions - what does what you just wrote mean?  Why does that work?  Explain in your own words that paragraph you just read.  All I get 98% of the time are blank stares. Half of the other 2% of the time they just try to repeat stuff to me using the same words or steps, but that's not what I'm looking for.  It seldom matters if it's the lowest academic classes or the highest.  Kids are learning what we are teaching them, but they aren't learning what they need to know.  It's really sad.

 

And... many of the teachers can do no better.  Some can.  Those are great teachers.  But often they get stymied by the system.  Youngest just mentioned to me last week that one of our best teachers at the high school (one he has and has loved for the past 4 years) was complaining that he has to have kids fill in "Student Learning Maps" because "We all know kids can't learn anything without a Student Learning Map.  Mind you, I've never once had a student tell me, 'Oh, I remember that because I filled it in my Student Learning Map!', but the powers that be obviously know how students learn...grr!"

 

All colleges want students who can think, but I think our country is turning out fewer and fewer of them each decade as we change education.  We might have more with good copying, memorizing, or basic reading skills - that's true - but I think more could THINK in the older "less formal education" days.

 

Youngest opted (against my preference) to return to public school for high school, but fortunately, he retained the ability to think creatively (mostly learned at home and by homeschooling 4th to 8th).  EVERY singly one of his teachers has noticed that AND appreciated it.  As much as I love him, there really isn't anything "special" about him that he would be able to do that and most other kids can't.  It's just how they were brought up educationally both at home and at school.

 

Just my two cents from what I've seen.

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I'm not convinced the problem is new.  My grandfather was a chemist at Monsanto his whole life, and he told me once "Geniuses are a dime a dozen.  I'd take a hardworker any day over a genius."  He went on to tell me that in chemistry, he saw geniuses all the time but that they just did not have either the work ethic or the creativity to solve the problems that needed to be solved.

 

Ruth in NZ

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(Part of the reason that I wanted to make this post is to help alleviate the guilt that some parents feel when they realize that they cannot afford Perfect Fit U.  It is one thing to have the perfect fit on paper; it is another thing for a student to take advantage of what the school offers.  Sometimes students have to make it work--and they find that less than perfect can work quite well.)

 

Excellent point. As parents it can be easy to get into the mindset where we feel it is our responsibility to make everything work out for our kids... or that we've failed if we can't give them the perfect educational opportunity. In reality, education is in large measure what students choose to make of it. What is most important is not what the experience of the "average" student at the school but YOUR student at that school. Are they involved? Do they go to campus events? Do they go above and beyond what is required? Do their friends help them grow in positive or negative ways? Do they get to know professors?

 

While the "average" or "middle" of the public K-12 may not teach critical thinking well, we need to keep in mind that the "top" kids are often still quite amazing. Perhaps at times amazing in spite of what happens in school rather than because of what happens in the school - but still amazing. I think a lot of people would be surprised by the level of students at the very top of their classes at "Podunk" colleges. While we should maintain our critical thinking about the need for significant reform in the system, I also think it is important for homeschoolers not to underestimate strong students from public and private K-12 education.

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Well maybe I'm not as hopeful as you all, but I don't see the decline.  When in history has more than 60% of the population been ready for college?  Nothing I've read from the founding fathers assumed more than a 60% educated population.  When I graduated high school in the 1970s, I can't believe even 50% of the graduates went to college.

I like a lot of what you wrote in your post, Julie, but I don't agree that we have 60% of the U.S. population ready for college. We don't even have an 80% high school graduation rate in many places, and graduation is not by itself good evidence of college readiness. And while the Founding Fathers surely did not see a large percentage of Americans going to college (probably not even a large percentage of white males), not very many people these days support a family by farming, as most did in the 18th century, nor are trade apprenticeships widely available. The economy has changed dramatically.

 

Some stats:

  • The makers of the ACT (who are looking for those convergent thinkers) think that only a quarter of seniors who take the ACT (i.e, they've weeded out those who have dropped out of high school or not bothered to take the test for college admissions) are actually ready to do college material. (Data from 2012.)
  • {Regarding the high school class of 2001} "Only 70% of all students in public high schools graduate, and only 32% of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges." (Manhattan Institute using USDOE data)
  • "Ninety-three percent of middle school students report that their goal is to attend college. However, only 44% enroll in college, and only 26% graduate with a college diploma within six years of enrolling." (National High School Center, 2012)

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The question to ask is why do the numbers drop so significantly?   Perhaps worksheets/workbooks/educational practices/philosophies which force children into thinking that there is only one answer/one correct POV?   We take inquisitive kids and then mold them into compliant, passive receivers of pre-digested information and ask them to regurgitate the givens.   Seems like a sure fire way to destroy creative and curious thinking b/c fitting the "model student mold" does not involve unique approaches or questioning givens, etc.   The "perfect student" raises their hand and answers predictably according to the prescribed answer that the teacher wants to hear.

I am weary of either or propositions.  A creator needs fodder to work with and worksheets/workbooks may actually be a very efficient way to practice and build the fodder.  I saw discovery learning models and creativity nuturing programs gone awry with Dd for the years she spent in school.  Content matters, and sometimes it really is as simple as memorizing a list, filling in blanks, selecting from a assortment of choices and/or other seemingly compliant tasks.  Talent without practice and content acquisition, in many arenas, equals potential as opposed to production.  Sometimes there is only one right answer to a given question and knowing it can be critical to acceptable performance. 

 

On the other hand, content without application and experimentation is ultimately nothing more than can be derived from a static source.  Intuition, imagination, inquisitiveness and a load of other skills/talents can languish without opportunities to apply and practice (even to misapply and fail).  These often need time and a culture that allows them to be expressed, tried and encouraged. 

limits on what we can ever hope to affordably accomplish

 

The older Dd gets, the more immersed in the college bound population we are.  I see far too many high achieving kids who can't articulate an original question, lack wisdom gained from experience, dismiss the value of any knowledge beyond their areas of excellence, avoid potential failure to the point of never being challenged to overcome adversity, can't communicate effectively...  Then I see very creative teens who haven't been challenge to conform when appropriate or necessary to the task. 

 

I find myself sympathetic to the claims of college professors and employers that we are failing to fully educate.

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I just had a conversation with a swim coach this am and he is worried about the kids.  He says all these kids (except mine) are in high pressure IB programs and they are exhausted. They are so stressed with the pressure of just keeping up an insane workload and the constant sense that they have to do the sports and the clubs or they will not get into College A or College B.

 

What I have seen is that these are bright students who work very hard, but just do not have the time and space to actually think. They are well-trained parrots right now and they look good on paper, but there is something missing.  The core of what learning is supposed to be about seems to be missing.

 

Real learning takes time. 

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The question to ask is why do the numbers drop so significantly?   Perhaps worksheets/workbooks/educational practices/philosophies which force children into thinking that there is only one answer/one correct POV?   We take inquisitive kids and then mold them into compliant, passive receivers of pre-digested information and ask them to regurgitate the givens.   Seems like a sure fire way to destroy creative and curious thinking b/c fitting the "model student mold" does not involve unique approaches or questioning givens, etc.   The "perfect student" raises their hand and answers predictably according to the prescribed answer that the teacher wants to hear.

 

Certainly. But any other kind of teaching would require competent teachers who can recognize a creative alternate solution that does not agree wit the solution manual, not teachers who can only solve the problems with the help of the solution manual and have no big picture grasp of the material they are teaching (math being one of the biggest problem subjects here- creativity in math is completely beyond the grasp of the average math teacher.

It would also require the people who develop curriculum to be experts in their field who know what problem solving skills students will actually need instead of being from "schools of education" where they talk a  lot about "how to teach" but have limited subject understanding themselves.

All of which would require the best students to go into teaching, and not the ones with ACT scores of 19 (http://www.examiner.com/article/chicago-teachers-average-19-on-act) or students who were failing their original major and switched to teaching.

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I am weary of either or propositions.  A creator needs fodder to work with and worksheets/workbooks may actually be a very efficient way to practice and build the fodder.  I saw discovery learning models and creativity nuturing programs gone awry with Dd for the years she spent in school.  Content matters, and sometimes it really is as simple as memorizing a list, filling in blanks, selecting from a assortment of choices and/or other seemingly compliant tasks.  Talent without practice and content acquisition, in many arenas, equals potential as opposed to production.  Sometimes there is only one right answer to a given question and knowing it can be critical to acceptable performance. 

 

 

  

Certainly. But any other kind of teaching would require competent teachers who can recognize a creative alternate solution that does not agree wit the solution manual, not teachers who can only solve the problems with the help of the solution manual and have no big picture grasp of the material they are teaching (math being one of the biggest problem subjects here- creativity in math is completely beyond the grasp of the average math teacher.

 

Both of these remind me (from opposite directions) of a post made by jennynd. I hope she doesn't mind me quoting it bc this is what I mean by not accepting non-conformance and punishing thinking.

His first test result came back, he got 85, I was just about start yelling at him and I notice .. wait, he didn't get single question wrong. EVERYTHING is correct. how did he get 85?? It turns out the teacher do not like he solve a 4 digit divide by 1 digit question using ÷ . She want him use long division symbol )____

So points were taken beacuse of that. BUT the answer was right.. another question , at the end it was 30 * 600 and my son quick have 18*10^3.. no.. that is not acceptable, he has to write 3*10*6*100 then 18000 then 18*10^3... I was so angry when I went through the test. there were 6 question were like that. She took 15 points and that is out of 25 question total. They are not only dumb down, they are punsih the kids who are smart... Not this is 5th grade accelerated math.. not 3rd grade.

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I like a lot of what you wrote in your post, Julie, but I don't agree that we have 60% of the U.S. population ready for college.

 

My mistake - I misread the original post as being based on only 60% being ready for college, but I see now she said 40%. 

 

I still doubt anywhere near 40% went to college in the 1700s, 1800s, or 1900s. 

Here's a quote from PBS: 

Few American adolescents completed high school in 1900, and only one in fifty finished
college. By the end of the century, more than 80 percent of adults had completed
high school and a quarter of the adult population had graduated from college.

I don't see today as a decline from that.  Perhaps in the 2000s the number going to college went over 40% because of the new expectation of college, and maybe the making of college to be more like high school?  Maybe that's why the concern over a "decline"? 

 

Either way, I continue to have a conviction that prep for a quality, thinking college student isn't best provided by lining everyone up in an institution from age 5. 

 

Julie

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Certainly. But any other kind of teaching would require competent teachers who can recognize a creative alternate solution that does not agree wit the solution manual, not teachers who can only solve the problems with the help of the solution manual and have no big picture grasp of the material they are teaching (math being one of the biggest problem subjects here- creativity in math is completely beyond the grasp of the average math teacher.

It would also require the people who develop curriculum to be experts in their field who know what problem solving skills students will actually need instead of being from "schools of education" where they talk a  lot about "how to teach" but have limited subject understanding themselves.

All of which would require the best students to go into teaching, and not the ones with ACT scores of 19 (http://www.examiner.com/article/chicago-teachers-average-19-on-act) or students who were failing their original major and switched to teaching.

 

Yes. When universities are pickier about who can get into the education program, unqualified persons are not running public education bureaucracies, and the top-tier students see teaching as a rewarding career choice, there might be more scope for divergent thinking in classrooms. Meanwhile, students and teachers are to color inside the lines and think inside the box.

 

It would take a lot to get those divergent thinkers and/or highly successful convergent thinkers in front of K-12 classrooms in large numbers. I say this as a graduate of a small college's education program--one that did not have an education honor society chapter because, sadly, there weren't enough ed majors with a high enough GPA to fill all the officer positions. :/ My family actively discouraged me from choosing a teaching career because it is a hard, low-status job that does not pay very well compared to other post-college careers. I know some brilliant, hard-working educators, but those who tend toward divergent thinking have a lot to struggle with.

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I think young people today have experienced far less unstructured leisure time growing up than kids in the past. Most of us probably had moms who were SAHM's at least until we entered elementary school and if we attended preschool at all, it was play-based and very part time. Maybe we did a few extracurricular activities (Scouts, CCD, and a musical instrument in my family) before high school but it wasn't multiple activities per day every single day of the week. I don't think I had homework at all until 4th grade and it was minimal until 7th grade. A lot of our time was spent just hanging out with friends and/or siblings rather than in an adult-organized activity. That is very different than the typical situation today.

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You know, the analogy that's occuring to me is sending all kids through a mandatory 13 years of basketball and then having a university coach saying, "I don't know what's wrong with these kids. They're supposed to be such great athletes, and we only admitted those with the best stats. But they suck at hockey!"

 

Yeah, they do, and by picking those who were best at basketball, you've eliminated those who spent a lot of time on anything else (like hockey or ice skating). When you pick the kids with great SAT scores, ACT scores, and AP test scores, one of the things you're selecting for is skill at identifying which of four choices the test-makers want. The top stats belong to those who have played along and learned to get the "right" answer. (But that's the best data you can get, because most of the kids who are *not* good at those things aren't going to even apply to your highly competitive university.) The ones who have learned to play hockey, so to speak, are those who have done it on their own.

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Is it fair to say that higher education is primarily a business?

 

Today you need a college diploma more than ever before. Many jobs (not careers but jobs) that never before required a higher education now want employees with a diploma. What happens to higher education when a diploma is so widely required? With so many students beating down the doors of universities, do universities have to continue to excel? Is the principle of supply and demand at work here?

 

As with all businesses, do some universities continue to excel while others rest on their laurels?

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You know, the analogy that's occuring to me is sending all kids through a mandatory 13 years of basketball and then having a university coach saying, "I don't know what's wrong with these kids. They're supposed to be such great athletes, and we only admitted those with the best stats. But they suck at hockey!"

 

Yeah, they do, and by picking those who were best at basketball, you've eliminated those who spent a lot of time on anything else (like hockey or ice skating). When you pick the kids with great SAT scores, ACT scores, and AP test scores, one of the things you're selecting for is skill at identifying which of four choices the test-makers want. The top stats belong to those who have played along and learned to get the "right" answer. (But that's the best data you can get, because most of the kids who are *not* good at those things aren't going to even apply to your highly competitive university.) The ones who have learned to play hockey, so to speak, are those who have done it on their own.

 

I totally agree.  To a certain extent, I feel like the colleges have brought this on themselves.  They select the students they admit, and they signal very clearly what they want.  I'm guessing that this dean, complaining about all the high-stat kids, doesn't care a whit if they earned a varsity letter on some sports team, or served in a leadership role in some extracurricular activity.  But that's what admissions keeps insisting is important.

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Is it fair to say that higher education is primarily a business?

 

Today you need a college diploma more than ever before. Many jobs (not careers but jobs) that never before required a higher education now want employees with a diploma. What happens to higher education when a diploma is so widely required? With so many students beating down the doors of universities, do universities have to continue to excel? Is the principle of supply and demand at work here?

 

As with all businesses, do some universities continue to excel while others rest on their laurels?

Fair?  It is cynical.  Harvard, Kings College (Columbia), William and Mary, Princeton and so forth all had admissions exams and/or admissions requirements dating back to their founding.  The barrier to entry was often the ability to read Latin and/or Greek and credentialed references.  Today, some schools are unabashedly for profit, while some operate more or less in accordance with founding missions (land grant universities, some LAC's).  Some are hybrids or waivering on between mission and other motives (prestige, money...).  Selectivity has been a real part of the process here and abroad for a very long time.  Today, we have colleges to fit almost any interest, need, level of ability and so many other factors. 

 

Employers often require college diplomas because they can afford to do so and the cycle results in the ever escalating need for entry to the workforce and selectivity to the gateways to entry.  To the extent online education or hybrids challenge the established systems effectively, who knows what the future holds.  I can envision in the not too distant future with big data and enhanced assessment learner profiles so detailed employers could cherry pick exact traits, but that is another story.

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My thoughts aren't just about my ds which is why I edited my OP.   My thoughts are more along the lines that our country is on the wrong path.  And, no, I do not believe that CC is going to change anything for hte better.   I think that the problem is far more serious than that.   Teachers aren't qualified.   Teachers do not have the freedom to teach in their own way.   Education is a one size fits all proposition.   I think CC is simply another bandaid over a serious wound.   Surgery is necessary.

 

That's what I meant by bringing up Pirsig: our country was already entrenched in a wrong way of thinking about education almost 40 years ago when he felt compelled to write about Quality and the Church of Reason. Nothing revolutionary has happened since then, if anything the wrongness has just gotten more institutionalized. Of course CC isn't a miracle cure. It's just another way of publicly recognizing that there's a problem.

 

I worked in a big research university about 10 years ago, and the treatment of undergraduate education there horrified me, as did the attitudes of 99% of the students. That's why I'm unsurprised that your son is having trouble finding his most appropriate community of learners, especially if you're looking mostly at the most highly rated graduate research institutions; and why I'm unsurprised that the professor was so frustrated by mass-produced students that he was blind to the possibilities of finding a young person who's on another path altogether.

 

I want another path for my own kids, and I want them to find colleges and/or jobs that value them for their ability to think independently. I don't expect the schools to preserve that ability, so as long as they're in public school I know I'm going to be expending a lot of energy to counteract the drag of grading and testing on their innate desires to learn and innovate.

 

The problems of the education system are huge, and overwhelming. For now I am trying to do my little drop in the bucket by helping locally in the classroom and maybe starting some clubs or do some tutoring to help keep kids exposed to a wider world of thinking and learning. But if the system shifts from having a neutral effect on my own kids to having a negative one, I will pull them out and not look back. Put on your own oxygen mask first, or something, I guess. :(

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When you pick the kids with great SAT scores, ACT scores, and AP test scores, one of the things you're selecting for is skill at identifying which of four choices the test-makers want. 

 

I'm still shocked that multi-choice is present in high-school level tests.

 

L

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I'm still shocked that multi-choice is a present in high-school level tests.

 

L

 

It doesn't stop there.... there are multiple choice on the exams for graduate and professional school as well - GRE, MCAT, GMAT, etc.

 

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I'm still shocked that multi-choice is present in high-school level tests.

 

L

A well designed multiple choice question (or better, series of questions) can very effectively and efficiently be used to distinguish whether an individual understands and learned to recognize and use content and processes.  While it is possible to randomly guess the correct answer, doing so consistently over time with a variety of questions is less likely.  Grading multiple choice is subject to less subjectivity than essay or short answer, which can be an issue.  Help me understand the reason it would be shocking to use multiple choice in assessments.?.?.?.  (I prefer a variety of means to determine ability/performance, but wonder why multiple choice should not be used as one of them).

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Good Morning, 8 and others.   :)

 

I am concerned about this issue, but I think the problems run deeper than we might suspect.  

 

I have been following the CC issue.  The state of MO has posted CC samples on its site.  

http://dese.mo.gov/divimprove/assess/documents/asmt-sbac-ela-gr4-sample-items.pdf

 

Begin, if you dare, on page five of the PDF.  This isn't a proof reading exercise for fourth graders. It is the prompt.

 

The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf      

A Shepherd's Boy was tending his flock near a village, and       

thought it would be great fun to trick the villagers by pretending           

that a Wolf was attacking the sheep: so he shouted out, "Wolf!     

Wolf!" and when the people came running up he laughed at            

them because they believed him. He did this more than once,           

and every time the villagers found they had been tricked, for          

there was no Wolf at all. At last a Wolf really did come, and the    

Boy cried, "Wolf! Wolf!" as loud as he could: but the people           

were so used to hearing him call that they took no notice of his            

cries for help. And so no one came to help the boy, and the Wolf           

attacked the sheep.  

 

This gem comes from the instructions on page 7:  

 

The enormous discrepancy between Lexile and F -K makes it clear that   

qualitative measures are most appropriate for assigning the  grade level 

for this short poem. The simplicity of the poem, its language, and its   

ideas indicate the appropriate placement is grade 3.  Based on these  

sets of measures, this  passage is recommended for assessment at    

grade  3 or 4. 

 

I didn't make it past page 14.  This is the Score Point 3 Sample - a response similar to this should receive a top score: 

 

 

Score Point   3 Sample: The poem and the story are similar in how the actions of the leaves                

are similar to those of the little robin. First the Tree tells the leaves that they are getting           

sleepy and will need to go to bed. Similar to this is Bessie’s mother telling her to let the                   

robin out of its cage. Next, the leaves beg the Tree for one more day to enjoy swinging in                

the breeze, hoping the Tree will forget and allow them to stay on the Tree until spring. This                  

is similar to Bessie, who at first disobeys and does not let the robin out of its cage. Finally,    

though, she does let the robin out because she does not want to disobey her mother.   

Finally, although not described, the leaves fall. In “The Little Captive†the robin stays in the                

cage at first, and then Bessie takes it out and holds it out an open window. Finally the                

robin flies off but not without returning several times and eating crumbs off the table. The              

story of the leaves is similar to the story of the robin in both characters’ desire to stay               

where they are. 

 

The entire document is depressing.  Smarter Balanced is one of the two testing agencies that is driving CC in this country.  THIS is the standard that is driving education in this country.  Read it and weep - or run away!  

 

This is the work of the adults who are in charge.  I am stunned.  Completely stunned.  How can you fix something that is this broken?  A bunch of folks need to be fired and sent to the back of the line.  

 

Peace,

Janice

 

Enjoy your little people

Enjoy your journey

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A well designed multiple choice question (or better, series of questions) can very effectively and efficiently be used to distinguish whether an individual understands and learned to recognize and use content and processes.  While it is possible to randomly guess the correct answer, doing so consistently over time with a variety of questions is less likely.  Grading multiple choice is subject to less subjectivity than essay or short answer, which can be an issue.  Help me understand the reason it would be shocking to use multiple choice in assessments.?.?.?.  (I prefer a variety of means to determine ability/performance, but wonder why multiple choice should not be used as one of them).

 

I agree. I am using multiple choice questions in class discussions, as part of all my exams.

When constructing the answers, I work in the common misconceptions and typical mistakes, and seeing a student's answer can tell me much about his level of understanding. It is also possible to require a student to work out a complex problem and to use multiple choice only as the answer format. Guessing will not be terribly useful - with four choices, a sole guesser would achieve an average of 25%.

The format multiple choice does not say anything about the quality and value of the assessment. If the questions are well designed, they can be as valuable as a full page of calculations.

 

Nscribe also brought up the issue of subjectivity. Even in a subject like physics that does not leave much room for personal interpretation and preference, it is possible to have bias when grading fully worked problems with partial credit. It is, in fact, very difficult to be absolutely consistent across a large number of exams, and the decision about partial credit is always a subjective one that requires judging the severity of each mistake. (If, OTOH, no partial credit were given for a problem, we might as well make it a multiple choice one an have an easier time grading). For this reason,  my final exams consist solely of multiple choice. It eliminates point haggling at the end of the semester, and it secures me against any bias.

 

Lastly, I do not believe that large scale examinations with millions of participants can effectively be graded in a full response format. Essay readers on the SAT have 1-2 minutes to evaluate an essay, making an in-depth evaluation impossible.

Of course there are subjects like English or history, where a sole use of multiple choice questions will be insufficient to assess mastery. Students must write essays and have those evaluated and receive feedback. But the mc format can be extremely useful - if the questions are well designed, and if the instructor does not teach towards a specific test format.

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What I was saying about the CC is that some of the aims of the CC seen to recognize the issue 8 brings up. I find it hopeful that part of the issue seems at least to have been identified. A wide scale solution is a very monumental problem indeed. I will admit that I have not given the matter enough consideration to propose a solution.

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Fair? It is cynical. Harvard, Kings College (Columbia), William and Mary, Princeton and so forth all had admissions exams and/or admissions requirements dating back to their founding. The barrier to entry was often the ability to read Latin and/or Greek and credentialed references. Today, some schools are unabashedly for profit, while some operate more or less in accordance with founding missions (land grant universities, some LAC's). Some are hybrids or waivering on between mission and other motives (prestige, money...). Selectivity has been a real part of the process here and abroad for a very long time. Today, we have colleges to fit almost any interest, need, level of ability and so many other factors.

 

Employers often require college diplomas because they can afford to do so and the cycle results in the ever escalating need for entry to the workforce and selectivity to the gateways to entry. To the extent online education or hybrids challenge the established systems effectively, who knows what the future holds. I can envision in the not too distant future with big data and enhanced assessment learner profiles so detailed employers could cherry pick exact traits, but that is another story.

I agree that it is cynical. And, it is not an opinion I hold but merely a "is this a part of the equation" question that I ask. My question was aimed more at the first part of 8's question relating to the experience she had at a particular top ranked school. Just to clarify.

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- - The inability (from administrative constraints or lack of training) of many teachers and administrators to think outside the box themselves or to incorporate a greater range of depth is possibly the biggest obstacle, from elementary grade levels on up.

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We moved and enrolled our kids in our Blue Ribbon, excellent rated public schools when my oldest was 9.  They had come from a Montessori school, were used to self-directed learning, and with the exception of yearly standardized testing (with no time devoted to test prep) that began in 4th grade, they had never taken a multiple choice test prior to public school.

 

My 5th grader came home during the second week of school with his first ever multiple choice test results.  There was a big fat F written across the page in red ink with an additional paper attached to the sheet that I had to sign and return to his social studies teacher.  I expressed my shock to my son that he received such a grade.  He did not care one iota about the F and said that the test was "stupid" and that all of his answers were correct. 

 

I still remember one of the questions he missed:  The question had various mountain ranges numbered across the southern section of the US. The question asked which mountain range was furthest west.  My son chose the Rocky Mountain Range instead of the "correct" answer of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

 

I wrote a note to the teacher on the form I was required to submit to acknowledge the F.  I explained that the questions were poorly written and that all of my son's answers should also be considered correct.

 

I received a phone call from his teacher.  She told me that my son was at a serious disadvantage coming from a Montessori environment since he did not have any experience taking multiple choice test.  She told me that my son would not be successful unless he learned how to take multiple choice tests.  This conversation terrified me and was the straw that broke the camel's back: we withdrew my son the next day.

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A well designed multiple choice question (or better, series of questions) can very effectively and efficiently be used to distinguish whether an individual understands and learned to recognize and use content and processes.  While it is possible to randomly guess the correct answer, doing so consistently over time with a variety of questions is less likely.  Grading multiple choice is subject to less subjectivity than essay or short answer, which can be an issue.  Help me understand the reason it would be shocking to use multiple choice in assessments.?.?.?.  (I prefer a variety of means to determine ability/performance, but wonder why multiple choice should not be used as one of them).

 

I come from a very different tradition.  Answers at that level are almost all essay based, except for maths and some science questions, which may be answered with a calculation or a sentence.  Grading rubrics are strict, so that in order to get a particular grade for an answer, you need to include items a, b and c, with extra marks available for going beyond what is expected for the syllabus - getting 100% is unheard of, because there is always a higher level that can be attained.  I taught Calvin three UK high-school level exams, so I spent some time studying the rubrics.*

 

It's not so much pure guessing that I would worry about.  It's that in an essay format answers have to be presented as part of a cogent argument, rather than as individual snatches of information.  To me it would seem to give a better picture of knowledge properly internalised.  FWIW, I have never taken an exam that was machine marked, despite being educated to Masters level.

 

* I did forget in my earlier posts that there are sometimes labelling activities too: for example, to label the rooms in a Roman bathhouse in a Classical Civilisation exam.  The labels still have to be written in rather than multi-choiced.  An exam might start with something like this as a 'warm up' before the more serious work of paragraph answers and essay answers.

 

 

L

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[ This is the Score Point 3 Sample - a response similar to this should receive a top score: [/font][/size][/size][/font]

 

Score Point 3 Sample:

 

The poem and the story are similar in how the actions of the leaves

are similar to those of the little robin. First the Tree tells the leaves that they are getting

sleepy and will need to go to bed. Similar to this is Bessie’s mother telling her to let the

robin out of its cage. Next, the leaves beg the Tree for one more day to enjoy swinging in

the breeze, hoping the Tree will forget and allow them to stay on the Tree until spring. This

is similar to Bessie, who at first disobeys and does not let the robin out of its cage. Finally,

though, she does let the robin out because she does not want to disobey her mother.

Finally, although not described, the leaves fall. In “The Little Captive†the robin stays in the

cage at first, and then Bessie takes it out and holds it out an open window. Finally the

robin flies off but not without returning several times and eating crumbs off the table. The

story of the leaves is similar to the story of the robin in both characters’ desire to stay

where they are.

I didn't read anything other than your post Janice, but if they are expecting a 4th grader to read 3 different stories and write a comparitive essay as a response, then that is way out of whack with appropriate skill levels for 4th graders, IMHO. Considering how many high schoolers' essays I have read that can't write as coherent Of a comparison as that paragraph, I would suspect the only way they will get 4th graders there will be by doing nothing but replicating that assignment repetitively for months. (Which to me defeats the entire purpose behind writing instruction) But it does not surprise me bc I completely disagree with the ps goals of most elementary level subjects.

 

Connections, CC professes to address critical thinking, but call me completely skeptical. In order for those goals actually to be achieved, teachers really need to have freedom to teach vs being constrained by constant dictates and that means teachers need to know how to teach. I'm convinced of neither.

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I didn't read anything other than your post Janice, but if they are expecting a 4th grader to read 3 different stories and write a comparitive essay as a response, then that is way out of whack with appropriate skill levels for 4th graders, IMHO. Considering how many high schoolers' essays I have read that can't write as coherent Of a comparison as that paragraph, I would suspect the only way they will get 4th graders there will be by doing nothing but replicating that assignment repetitively for months. (Which to me defeats the entire purpose behind writing instruction) But it does not surprise me bc I completely disagree with the ps goals of most elementary level subjects.

 

Connections, CC professes to address critical thinking, but call me completely skeptical. In order for those goals actually to be achieved, teachers really need to have freedom to teach vs being constrained by constant dictates and that means teachers need to know how to teach. I'm convinced of neither.

Actually, I would be happy to have a fourth grader who knows what the word finally means.  

 

Giggle,

Janice

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I totally agree. To a certain extent, I feel like the colleges have brought this on themselves. They select the students they admit, and they signal very clearly what they want. I'm guessing that this dean, complaining about all the high-stat kids, doesn't care a whit if they earned a varsity letter on some sports team, or served in a leadership role in some extracurricular activity. But that's what admissions keeps insisting is important.

Absolutely!! It is a manipulation of admission standards that has become a sort of sport in and of itself. The actual losers are the kids who do care to think deeply yet don't play the sport.

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