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Sara Beth Roberts

Here are some thoughts from a teacher who has taught almost every grade: Why would a high school student graduate if he or she can't read and can't do math? (Because the system has nothing else to do with them if they are not in school...) Why does China and Japan score better on test scores? (Because after the lower grades they track their students--college track and career track--so the test scores are only from those students who WANT to be in school. In the colonial days, only students who wanted to be at school--and were highly motivated--had to be there. Imagine if the US said, once you are done with the lower grades (maybe 8th grade) you have three options: get a job, go on to a career track and learn career skills, or go onto a college track and learn advanced skills. On the college track you would take SOL's AND if you passed you would be guaranteed admittance to a State University (that way the students would get an incentive for testing and the SOL's would mean something to them too.) That means that in your classroom you would have only highly motivated students (usually backed by involved parents) and you could teach at a quicker pace--more information and less babysitting. The main reason I took a break from teaching--15 bright, motivated learners ready to go and 5 obnoxious, class clowns who took all my time and attention...seriously? How can kids learn like this?
Obviously, this is a huge soap box for me. We need smart students to drive the school, not unmotivated ones....

Sara Beth Roberts

Oh, and one more thing. I think that we should do away with grades. There should be a system that after a few months, the student would get tested--written, oral, and teacher evaluation--and if they pass they move on and if not they stay. So instead of having grades it would be more like cohorts or pods of students that move together. That way, the ones who were ready would move on, the ones who were not would stay behind. I think staying with friends would be motivation to keep up and move on. Plus, I said before that students could choose to go and get a job at any time (which they will soon find out will not work) and they can re-enter school wherever they test into. My dad is a high school principal and spends most of his day chasing students who are not at school and going to court to get kids back in school who don't want to be there...I am sure he could find a better way to send his time (like writing grants and acquiring money for new school academic programs.)


Is this whole book a must read? It sound interesting and as a mom contemplating home schooling with a lot of the same sentiments spoken here, I'm all up for great reading! I'll be following the comments...good thoughts.


I think it is a little misleading to say that people one hundred years ago were more educated. To compare the things they they knew with what we know is a bit strange. Could a person 150 years ago drive a car? operate a computer? Did they know about other countries, cultures, current events? Was their knowledge relevant to our world today?

This is not to say that I think the people graduating from our schools are well-educated. Also as a teacher, I think there are many, many ways that schools could be improved. I do also think, though, that motivated parents are the majority of the answer ("answer") to our problems. When I teach, I notice that the most motivated and well-prepared students come from the most motivated families who invest in their child's education. Granted, not all students coming from such families do well, but they have a better chance.

I am interested in the idea of students getting to leave school when they wish. It certainly would change things. I have always been skeptical of tracking because people often do change their minds, especially people of a young age and would have to pay a heavy price for a choice they made when less logical and well-informed. However, something needs to change; that may be it.

Two changes I would make to education would be to pay teachers more - like the professionals they are - and to reexamine the number and types of tests students are given. I won't get started on standardized testing, I would just plead that a better way be chosen for accountability and assessment.

Classical Conversations

Classical education is about developing the tools to learn any subject. The great thing about this method is that it allows students to add technology, global awareness, and other topics they need to know today to the core skills and knowledge that students in colonial America learned. It doesn't have to be either/or - it can be both/and!

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