Monday, July 21, 2014

The Deformer Formula for "De-Motivating" Kids

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In all the discussion of higher standards, I doubt the "reformers" have given much consideration to the complexities of motivation.

Some "reformers" seem to think that students who fail will seize the day.  They will harness their inner grit, work harder than ever and power their way to success.  Some may.  Most will not.  Many will wonder what is the purpose of trying.  Many will grow resentful.  Some will shut down their young minds.  These tests and the people who make them do a disservice to humanity.

I learned my first year on the job that a classroom test which fails nearly everybody represents a failure on the part of the teacher who created the test.  Teachers must deal in realities, meet students where they are and try to raise them up.  It is no good to aim far over students' heads to try to smugly prove one's own "smarts."  When NY State sets cut scores to fail 70% of its 2013 Common-Core test takers, the State turned a blind eye to reality and, itself, failed.

Some reformers seem to think that everything meaningful must be measured under conditions of time-pressure.  They think students will be motivated to show off their best stuff.  But, many kids can't sit for that long, let alone, for six days of testing.  They have young minds that wander and sometimes their legs need to do so, also.  Words and numbers may swim on the page.  Kids may over think some questions and tune out others.  They may grow nervous, agitated, fidgety and uncomfortable.  The classroom teacher best understands a child's academic strengths and weaknesses, not a cold, cruel and calculating standardized test.  These tests and the people who make them do a disservice to humanity.

Some "reformers" think that students will be motivated by the promise of becoming "college and career ready."  With the price of college and the lack of meaningful careers, however, the promise may prove false.  Reformers tout their own definition of success, measured primarily in terms of test points and, ultimately, salary figures.  It fails to motivate me.  I don't deal in their definitions, nor do most of the people I know.  To do so would be a disservice to humanity.
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