Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Educational yardsticks

I read an article today on the growth of online school options. I have been pondering the following quote:

Huerta worries that the report's authors have confused efficiency with quality.

The response, a couple lines later was, Mr. Reed suggests a better way to account for learning: Keep track of course material completed, not number of hours of instruction.

This is a big issue with the gifted in a structured learning environment. The gifted typically spend half their time in school waiting for the other kids to catch up. This means they spend half a day sitting in a desk while attempts are made on the part of the teacher to "keep them busy".

I'd argue that while some online schools don't have the best quality (I had an unfortunate experience with one), it is fairly straight-forward to assess what has learned by giving a student a nationally normed test or some sort of annual growth assessment.

However, for the gifted, efficiency is a big issue. Many spend years relearning topics which they already know for the sake of being kept in an age-graded classroom. Not only is this inefficient, but there is no quality present, either. For the gifted child, efficiency in topics of less interest are better spent allowing them to delve deeply into their passions where it is highly unlikely the quality of public school instruction could ever parallel the gifted student's desire for immersion. As it stands now, most gifted students' education in the public school system is neither a quality education nor is it efficiently obtained.

I would also argue that quality instruction occurs when students grasp the subject matter quickly and can then (perhaps) apply that knowledge. It could also occur when the subject matter is paced for the student's needs. Finally, it provides a depth of knowledge. I can't imagine that public schools would fare much better should a yardstick for quality be developed along these lines. Perhaps individual schools might fare well, but not public schools as a whole.

Therefore, if you can't look at quality as a factor, efficiency probably should become a yardstick for how education is assessed. If the students are doing what it takes to earn a diploma and aren't necessarily passionate about it, there is no point in wasting their time and energy in forcing mastery, gifted or not. They should be allowed to get on with their lives and not forced to sit in a seat simply because they aren't yet 18.


rg said...

I agree. Why should students sit in seats daydreaming away or creating disruptions out of boredom when they could be utilizing their time learning and moving on to other things. It's not efficient!

OverwhelmedMom said...

I agree. I imagine it's also not efficient for the teacher to be correcting behavioral problems due to boredom all the time. It makes more sense to push these kids ahead. But most schools, unfortunately, won't do that.