Noti-Directiva September 2018
Preparing Students for the Next Level
For most of last school year, my message to parents, students and teachers was about the importance of preparing students for the next level, whether that be jumping from the Jardin to Preschool, or High School to the University.
As a part of our continuous improvement plan, we analyzed data, talked to stakeholders and delivered surveys to a wide range of community members. In the end, we discovered there are very specific things we need to work on in order to improve student achievement and prepare our students better for the next level. Increasing Academic Rigor was the most common trend we observed in all of the data collected and throughout all the stakeholder groups.
Undoubtedly, students and parents have felt a change in the academic programs this year at Colegio Granadino. While there may be some subtle complaining by students thinking this is too hard, it is important to remember that we are still in an adjustment period. I have taken great interest in the high school students this year, knowing that they are the ones the will feel the change the most. And while students have expressed some stress over the increased rigor, almost every student I have talked to recognizes these changes are important and beneficial for their future.
I recently came across an investigation that highlights the importance of the changes we are making at our school. As I have said many times, university transition is a worldwide issue, and Colegio Granadino is not alone in its pursuit to better prepare students.
Earlier this fall, hundreds of thousands of young people made the leap from high school to university. Many of them will have been ill-prepared for this transition, which involves a fundamental change in social and educational norms.
While most students understand they are going to have to manage an enormous social change as they become responsible for their own budgets, laundry, shopping and cooking, and new social circles, very few students understand that there is a different teaching and learning model at university and that this can be even more challenging than the social transition.
What are the university professors saying?
Sadly, university professors express that students come unprepared to do some of the most basic things, such as being able to compute fractions and percentages. Other professors state concern over the ability of students to write—even the most simplified of paragraphs. Critical thinking, problem solving and basic collaboration skills were also cited as traits that new college student generally lack.
Universities are seeing students who are accustomed to a curriculum driven almost entirely by an assessment model struggle when there is no formula for passing an exam. These students struggle greatly when they are expected to have more involvement in their learning.
While the universities do see a difference between students coming from public and private schools, as well as schools that offer special programs (International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement etc.), these students still struggle in the college model where there is extensive reading, research and synoptic learning and assessment. As one Ivy League Dean stated, “The world has changed substantially over the last 20 years, yet our preparatory schools have stayed the same.”
This is why it is important for K-12 schools to change. The focus of student achievement must be about progress, and not focused on a single grade. The educational system must be open and honest—a system where there are no surprises, no excuses and a focus on high expectations for students. Grades are a communication tool, and they must be seen as such, not the ultimate determination of one’s success or intelligence on their path in education.
As we go through the transition in our assessment practices this year, I look forward to hearing conversations about student progress. And while I know many parents want to see “only the grades”, I truly hope our new assessment practices not only enhance our students’ ability to problem solve, think critically and collaborate with others, but that they also communicate STUDENT PROGRESS in a timely and understandable way.