As the school year is about to get under way in the DC area, Jay Mathews offers Five Ways to Motivate Students based on a book by David A. Goslin.

Two of the items – “Make sure the homework isn’t stupid.” and “Involve the kid’s family.” – are things we should be doing already.

Others like “Stop telling them they’re smart.” and “Show some respect for learning.” will require major changes to the fundamental attitude our society takes towards education in general.

However, for me this suggestion is the core of the recommendations and is about much more than just motivating students.

Goslin suggests, among other things, well-planned teaching, more optimism about each child’s chance to learn, closer teacher-student relationships, smaller schools and grading by mastery, not the curve — meaning you tell the students what they must learn, check off each concept or skill as they master it, and don’t fret if some students take longer than others.

Don’t fret if each and every ten-year-old doesn’t score high enough on the spring standardized tests come 2014?

We can’t have that!

Such policies would remove the baseball bat used in the all-stick-no-carrot approach to school reform at the foundation of NCLB!