Grade-level standards, continuums and frying eggs

I am sitting in a workshop in Guangzhou called the “Standards-Based Assessment Summit” because I work in a school that has taken on something called AERO Standards, an international form of the Common Core Standards.

Something I am working through in my mind at the moment is why standards have to be tied to ages and grade levels. Do we, in reality, all really grow (in any sense of the word) at the same pace? Do we even want to aspire to that? If we relate this to real life, which we must surely be in the habit of doing, there are many questions that provoke further thinking about this:

Did we all learn to ride a bike or swim at the same age?

Did we all learn how to change a light bulb or use a screwdriver at the same age?

Did we all learn how to fry an egg or manage our accounts at the same age?

Did we all learn how to maintain positive relationships at the same age?

I think I can safely say we did not, and there are many reasons for this – context, readiness and so on. Imagine if, in real life, everyone was expected to learn everything at the same age. Imagine if I had to learn to fry an egg at age 12 but really struggled… then, at 13 I was supposed to move on to poaching eggs. But, of course, I hadn’t managed to fry an egg yet. Have I missed my chance… or is egg-frying still on my agenda? Would it remain on my agenda until I master it, irrelevant of my age? Will I get the support I need so I can develop my egg frying techniques? Will I be made to feel like a failure because I can’t fry an egg?

If a student doesn’t meet a particular standard for Grade 2 during her time in Grade 2, does that standard still apply to her when she is in Grade 3? Or, is she now operating in a domain that has drifted beyond her reach? Or, and I hesitate here…………. does no child get left behind?

I am trying to figure out why the recent moves away from continuum-thinking. Are standards still a continuum if they are mapped to grade levels? Are continuums still standards if they are not mapped to grade levels?

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5 comments

  1. Lara

    Thank you for putting a voice to an aspect of education that has and still does concern me. There is an opposition to what we want to do and how it is measured. You are right, not that you need to be told that. BUT it is a discussion that “education” must address. Yes accountability is vital but at what cost? Someone else’s pre determined milestone, from their perspective? No! However, while schools must be business’s first and places of humanity second, the demand for quantative data remains a priority. With this comes the sad movie of children and their learning being reduced to a number or letter. What has happened to that beautiful journey of a child being measured by how he/she feels about themselves and what they achieve? Sadly that smile can not be measured by its length or width. For me, the confusion of the wonderful big, broad statements of 21st century learners and teachers is utterly diminished while the standards based machine is gaining momentum. Keep talking and sharing as knowing there are others who wonder and consider the same thing may gain some momentum. Thank for putting a voice to what many of us think!

  2. concentricthinking

    I started to respond to this post last night using my iphone and it disappeared on me… here goes round two….
    This post got me thinking a lot to, as it should to all of us in the profession. I am now at a school which is all about academics (excellence) and leadership. These two words are the school’s vision and what we look for in the students all the way through their education with us. His Highness believes that to be a leader you need to be intelligent. This is true. While leadership does come in many forms. He wants to develop homegrown leadership in hope that it remains here in Kenya so that they become the next leaders. This vision is a 50-60 plus vision, as it should be if it is ever going to work. So why am I saying all this…. there is a connection.

    This school looks at data to determine whether a student is an appropriate fit for the school. Students sit entrance exams to see that he have what it takes to be here. They sit exams from PYP to MYP to measure if students have the academic rigor to be successful to hold true to what the ultimate vision is – homegrown leadership.

    How do you prove all this. Testing. Testing. Testing. Having a student in the PYP and then sitting an exam which they may fail and being asked to leave, well I do have a problem with that. This is a standard. While the percentage rate is low, I believe that an 11 year old should never be asked to leave a school because of one exam. That is the school failing the students.

    This then made me think about standards and frying eggs. What do I believe? I believe we need both, at different times for different reasons.

    When I plan I think of the possible things that students could show what they understand at the end of a unit of inquiry. That is setting a standard. Something I would expect them to be able to be or show as they have gone through a 6 week process of learning. Do students hit this ‘standard’? No, not all of them. Some go beyond it. Some get there. Some don’t. This is when a continua of learning now comes into play. Standards are important. They lead us to where we are going or where we think we should be going. They hold just as much weight as the other in terms of what they offer.

    Back to what I was saying before. Our vision as a school is academic excellence and leadership – this is the standard we want to set as a school. How we go about getting there is a continuum of learning. But, then it is so multi-layered too. The standard of what? The standard of the school’s vision, the standard of the PYP to MYP to DP, the standard of the year level, the standard of the school against other schools…

    What do I think about the testing and exams, well I am totally against it. If I can poach eggs in other areas of school life and my eggs are not being recognized, (the arts) then it might be time to look for another school that reflects me as a person and as a learner.

  3. Rukiya Cochu (@rukiyacochu)

    The scope of educational curricular and learning models is growing at a furious rate and keeping abreast with all the changes is a reality that schools and teachers find challenging. To me, I feel it is important to negotiate forms of measure of success – standards/continua if you like, to offer the teachers and students a kind of a net to fall on to and give them support and direction. This may sound simplistic, but the ever-increasing demands on teachers and schools to perform are potential causes for confusion, and without any reference to fall back on, it is easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. I am not quite liking how my post sounds, as it insinuates moving away from the essence of learning. But I do wonder how much service we will be doing kids especially in the primary grades if we didn’t pay any attention to standards, and then all of a sudden standards become the central tenet of their lives soon as they move to middle school. Unfortunately, I think as long as schools operate in grade, age or year levels, it is very likely that we will continue to need to use standards.

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