High Scores

When I log into my school board email system I am presented with a news feed that is received by all the teachers in the district.  Usually there are short stories about the accomplishments of different students/teachers in the board.  A few weeks ago I saw a “news release” that told about two students in our board who graduated high school this year with an average of 100% (based on their best 6 grade 12 courses).

100%?!?!

What kind of assessments are these students exposed to such that they are able to score 100% on EVERYTHING?!

I can see how it may be possible for a student to demonstrate all of the knowledge requirements in a course, but as teachers we are responsible for far more than knowledge-based assessments.  I can only assume that if a student can finish with 100% in all her courses, then there has definitely been an over-emphasis on traditional tests and projects.  This is disappointing to me.

As teachers in the 21st century we need to create engaging learning environments where students are challenged to be critical and creative thinkers.  We need to develop assignments that encourage students to be resourceful and self-directed.  We need to provide opportunity for students to have meaningful collaboration and teamwork.  And we need to be aware that we are preparing our students for a world where the problems that need to be solved don’t fit on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, nor will they be solved with “test taking skills.”

Over the past few years, I have been trying to make the following changes to my classroom:

  1. Students learn from each other as much as possible.  Nurturing a classroom community is very important.
  2. Developing assignments that absolutely cannot be completed by copy/paste, memorization or “cramming.”
  3. Creating some projects that are broad in scope to allow students to “make it their own” in meaningful ways.

Personally, I think that the tradition of publishing the names of the students who have achieved the highest overall average in the board is an obsolete practice.  It comes from an era in which marks were emphasized above all else and the marks were based on old-school assessment practices like traditional tests, quizzes and homework checks.

In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world, achieving high marks in high school will only be one predictor of future success – and not the best one by far!  Instead, look for students who are intrinsically motivated, who are creative thinkers, who are self-directed learners, and who are able to build and maintain personal learning networks.  These are now (and have always been) better indicators of future success than a student’s graduating average.

Image Credit:  clspeace

3 Comments

  1. Nice post! How heavily do Canadian universities weigh high school grades these days for admissions? I remember when we were going to school they were pretty big factors

    Getting into a good school here in the US seems to keep getting harder – grades and SAT scores are often base requirements, but leadership experience and extracurriculars really set students apart at the top schools.

    Reply

    1. Unfortunately, high school grades are still pretty much the only measure by which students are selected for entrance into Canadian universities. It’s hard to imagine that changing any time soon.

      The reality is that there continues to be a very large disconnect between how we educate and evaluate students in high schools and how it is done in university. I think we have to do a better job of bridging these two worlds before we will see any changes in how students are judged for entrance. I am encouraged to hear that leadership and extra-curricular activities are becoming a part of the entrance requirements at top schools.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

  2. Your assessment strategies are great. According to the assessment expectations, we need to create assessments that allow them to get perfect occasionally.

    Frankly, I feel that if they can get perfect, then they should be teaching the course and not me.

    English is like any language course and is an ongoing learning process; writing is as well.

    I would expect that the same can be said for many courses. If so, how can they get 100%.

    I agree with you Graham. (I also think there might have been some colleague pressure to allow these students to excel to the same level. I will bet money, they didn’t get 100% in English.
    (I’m just sayin’/)

    Reply

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