Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How Do You Define "Winning"?

       Expectations play a large part in our perceptions of just about everything.  If you go shopping and expect to pay $75. for good pair of running shoes and find out that they only cost $50. you're happy because it was less than you expected.  If, instead, they cost $125. you're not happy because it was more than you expected.  But what if your expectations were not reasonable?  What if the average cost of good running shoes is $135.?  Compared to this average, it seems like a pretty good deal to get a good pair of running shoes for $125.

       How do you define "winning" when it comes to the education of your child?  What are your expectations?  To what do you compare your child's progress?  Some people look at the comparison of their child's test scores with other students in the class.  In high school, some people look at their child's class rank (which is a comparison of your child with other students in his/her grade).  Other people might look strictly at letter grades.  Are these legitimate measures of comparison?  What if your child always earns the top score in his/her class, but the class is below average when compared to the achieve of all students in the school?  Is your child really "winning" if everyone that he/she is surpassing is below average?

       This competitive nature of ours is misplaced if the goal is to win (or to appear to win) without any concern towards actual learning.  This is why education has standards.  Standards tell us--grade-by-grade--how we are doing compared to where we should be (academically speaking).  When these standards lead to a college-ready status, they tell us that our children are on the path towards being ready for the rigors of college-level work when they are still in middle and high school.

       This comparison is important because too many of our students are graduating from high school being told that they are "winners" because of some lesser standard that they've achieved only to find out that they are not prepared for college.  Less than 50% of students who enter college ever earn a college degree.  If our high school graduation rate was this low, there would be a national outcry from every corner of the country.  But, for some reason, at the college level, this figure is considered acceptable.  Why?

       Our high schools have to be willing to give our students (and their parents) the hard truth about their academic ability.  We should help them as much as we can and we should be compasionate when we give them this news.  But we have to make it clear exactly where they stand when compared to the standards.

       High standards are not an insurmountable barrier.  Most students rise to the challenge when they are pushed to think harder and do more.  If "winning" is important to us, then let's win for real.  Let's push our students to reach their potentials.  They can do it with our help.

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