Time for Spring Cleaning

The opinion section of yesterday’s Post featured their annual spring cleaning column*, a selection of ten essays on things each writer believes we’d be better off without.

Interesting that two are education related, although one of those pieces largely hits the mark, while the other misses completely.

In the first category is Let’s get rid of grades, written by a college professor. Her reasoning includes the misguided student motivation that comes from most grading systems, as well as the fact that “grades are not very good predictors of accomplishment, curiosity, happiness or success”.

All good points, but this is probably the best reason for dumping grades:

Without grades, we would be forced to offer detailed, critical assessments of our students’ strengths and weaknesses, both to them and to future schools and employers. We would need to pay closer attention to their process and their progress rather than just their final products.

The other essay about school, Get rid of the 3 p.m. school day, is by a vice president at CitiBank and former director of the Office of Management and Budget. In other words, an education “expert”.

His logic follows the usual political reform line that more time spent in school, without changing any other aspect of the experience (except maybe adding some “intensive” tutoring), will automatically lead to improved student achievement. As measured by those international standardized tests, of course.

How does he know this will work? Because “a longer day is a key aspect of high-performing charter schools”. We all know that charter schools are universally successful, and whatever they do should be applied everywhere.

I completely agree that we need to make some major changes to the way we use time in school – starting with dropping the reliance on a 1930′s agrarian calendar.

But, as with many other instructional factors, the same schedule may not be appropriate for every student in every school and we have to stop pretending that it will.


*Warning: the Post puts each essay on a different page and may require you to register with them to read them. I think registration is still free but, since I actually pay to have them deliver the analog version (aka a subscriber), I can’t be sure.