Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
In Virginia’s high-stakes testing climate, drills could be killing the desire to learn. It’s worth a review.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Some local politicians question whether Virginia’s Standards of Learning work against the goal of providing students with a rich public school education that sparks a desire to learn. Sen. John Edwards, Roanoke County School Board Member Mike Stovall and Freeda Cathcart, a Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates, want a statewide coalition to examine whether the SOLs are doing as lawmakers intended. Such a review might find that the consequences of demanding higher results and focusing only on meeting those demands saps students of the desire to learn.
Two things to note: First, students in Stovall’s suburban district generally meet and exceed Virginia’s increasingly difficult standards, so his is not a whine to excuse poor performance. Second, these are politicians expressing a very apolitical concept when most politicians call for increased rigor, more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses and tougher graduation requirements.
Testing and graduation standards are the products of political mandates that conform with whatever the herd thinks is required of today’s students to fill tomorrow’s jobs. All to keep the state and nation competitive in the global marketplace.
As political whims and educational fashions change, so do the standards. Today, for example, every college-bound student, regardless of interest or career path, must take Algebra II. Nicholson Baker, writes in an essay for Harper’s September edition, “Wrong Answer: The case against Algebra II,” that this sets up bright children for failure and a lifelong hatred of math.
“If Algebra II were an elective and colleges didn’t ubiquitously demand it, fewer people would learn it. But fewer people would fail it, too, and fewer people might drop out of high school, and the level of cheating would go down, and the sum total of student misery would be substantially reduced,” he writes.
Instead, Baker suggests a mandatory freshman teaser course that would briefly cover algebraic techniques, geometric proofs, data analysis, mathematical logic and math history and appreciation. Then make the rest of it an elective. Schools would still produce enough future engineers, mathematicians and scientists.
His suggestion is heresy. So, too, is the call by the local politicians to challenge Virginia’s much revered high-stakes testing. Examining the reliance on the tests, though, is in order.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday