Saturday, September 08, 2012


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I've been thinking a lot about challenge lately.  The Common Core Standards place a premium on students struggling with challenging content.  Some of the Common Core Apostles have disparaging things to say about scaffolding and providing background knowledge for close reading of texts because students need to struggle through unfamiliar territory and persevere.

While I agree that struggle and perseverance are important, there is a danger of trying to create struggle and instead creating abject failure, frustration and surrender.  This got me thinking about some things I've said in the past in praise of failure.  You can see those here, here, and here. In reality, failure has its pitfalls.  What would be better than failure would be success - even if that means temporarily lowering standards for Not Yet Proficient  (NYP) students so they can reap the benefits of learning at their instructional level and moving up the food chain to greater successes.

This thought was confirmed when watching a video of Phil Daro of America's Choice one of the architects, of the Common Core math standards.  He stated that the standards in Singapore are not higher than those of the United States.  What is different is that there is a smaller gap between what Singapore students achieve and their standards than we have her in the US.  Therefore, our high standards, in the name of high expectations, are actually leading to lower levels of achievement.

True and lasting learning and growth in our students is best achieved by finding out where our students are currently performing, providing them instruction at that level and pushing just a little forward - indeed challenging them - a challenge that is attainable with sustained effort, practice, and expert support.

Teaching and learning will thrive in a setting where every student is facing "just right" challenges and enjoying the added motivation of meeting those challenges and moving on to the next one with enthusiasm and increased confidence.