USA Today – Greg Toppo
“The good news on America’s report cards: More high school teachers are handing out A’s. But the bad news is that students aren’t necessarily learning more. Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen. In 1998, it was 38.9%. By last year, it had grown to 47%. That’s right: Nearly half of America’s Class of 2016 are A students. Meanwhile, their average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale — suggesting that those A’s on report cards might be fool’s gold.”(more)
News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Cooperative learning first gained traction as an instructional method in the 1970s and was widely implemented in K-12 classrooms by the 1990s. It is based on the premise that collaborative participation creates an enhanced learning experience. Proponents of this teaching strategy site improved student communication, heightened oral skill development, more advanced learning, and enhanced student responsibility.
Cooperative learning, however, is not without challenges. One of the biggest obstacles to effective cooperative learning is a negative group dynamic. Conflicts between individuals can reduce a group’s ability to work together and problems are magnified when members are too immature to adequately resolve conflicts. To make matters more challenging, personality mismatches can stall learning even when no overt conflicts are present. In addition, assertive students often move into leadership roles even when they are not best suited to direct a project.
Beyond personality issues, cooperative learning can also result in uneven workloads. When this type of learning is working efficiently, students support and inspire one another. Everyone has a similar workload and everyone learns. In many instances, however, more advanced students take over projects rather than spending extra time to help struggling students. In addition, unmotivated students often rely on more conscientious team members to complete required work. The result is not only an uneven workload but also uneven learning that leaves struggling students behind, permits lazy students to slide by, and allows more advanced students to stagnate.
Also, student evaluations for group assignments are challenging. It is often impossible to evaluate group members individually. This can result in all group members receiving the same grade regardless of how much they participated and contributed. In addition to artificially high or low marks, it is difficult to determine gaps in student understanding. This proficiency issue is particularly problematic in subjects like math, science, grammar, and writing where learning is cumulative.
It is not that the skills associated with cooperative learning are not important, but that the academic classroom may not be the best place to teach these skills. Instead of compromising basic learning in science, language arts, math, history, and foreign language we should consider using electives for collaborative activities. In addition, we should give students credit for sports, theater, makerspace (cooperative technical and art gatherings), and other group activities that occur after school hours. This approach would provide kids with an opportunity to build both basic educational and soft skills that are critical for success later in life.
KQED News Mind/Shift – Linda Flanagan
“Saxon Scott was 5 years old when her parents decided she could do without kindergarten. She’d sailed through a series of tests that measured her acumen, and moved directly to first grade once preschool ended. Now she’s 15 and a high school junior, and Scott thinks nothing of her relative youth. She continues to shine in the classroom, is friendly with students in her grade, and only briefly laments the fact that she won’t be driving until the end of her freshman year in college. “As someone who skipped kindergarten, I can say it wasn’t a big deal,” Scott said. Skipping grades used to be a common strategy to keep gifted or very bright children engaged in learning; it was a simple intervention that worked well when schools were smaller, more flexible and lacking enrichment programs. But today, according to a recent report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, just 1 percent of students jumps a grade level.”(more)
E-School News – Staff Writer
“States are failing to effectively communicate essential information to families, educators, and communities about how their schools are doing, a new report finds. The report, Show Me the Data: State Report Cards Must Answer Questions and Inform Action, released today by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), finds that states are not meeting basic expectations for producing report cards that are easy to access and understand for all community members.”(more)
NPR – Anya Kamenetz
“They read a book quietly under their desks, pester the teacher for extra credit, or, perhaps, they simply check out and act up. Every classroom has a few overachievers who perform above their grade level and don’t feel challenged by the status quo. A new report suggests they are surprisingly common — in some cases, nearly half of all students in a given grade. “The start of this was a little embarrassing,” says Matthew Makel, who researches academically gifted children for Duke University’s Talent Identification Program.”(more)
The Guardian – Staff Writer
“After years of teaching, I am pretty experienced when it comes to writing reports and talking to parents. But this year was different: I was attending parents’ evening as a mum, and I wasn’t looking forward to hearing what my son’s teacher had to say. My son struggled this year. He tries hard and he has made progress, but his interests and passions lie beyond the classroom. Talking to his class teacher and looking at his grades, it was clear that his test scores and predictions do not reflect who he is, or the talents that he has. It made me wonder about the reports I have sent home to families over the years. It’s impossible for me to fully record all the things a child has learned in my class – or to anticipate what will spark their interest the following day. I could never track how they have developed socially or gained confidence among their peers, for example.”(more)