Should Schools Be Graded?

The DOE Superintendent and HSTA have complained about the Honolulu Magazine’s annual grading of public schools. Is their request reasonable? I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think there is a legitimate need to assess schools, and I also the demand for this information is legitimate, especially for policymakers, taxpayers, and parents. On the other hand, I’m have serious doubts creating a fair and accurate evaluation of schools. How do you define what makes a successful school? How do you evaluate or measure this? These two questions are challenging by themselves, but even if one could answer them, one would have to be able to separate various factors that would go into school success–especially the students and their families and the quality of the school staff. Schools with many ambitious students, with little physical, cognitive, social, or emotional problems, will have a greater chance of succeeding, then a school with large group of students who are unmotivated and have a host of problems. In my view, a fair and accurate assessment would have to separate these factors, and, again, I have serious doubts this can be done well.

Alternative to College for High School Graduates

I think I wrote about this idea on the old v-i, but I can’t remember. Because of the high cost of college, I recently had a conversation about an alternative to going to college, something I wouldn’t mind for my children. My concept is based on the St. Johns College’s approach:

Through close engagement with the works of some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers—from Homer, Plato, and Euclid to Nietzsche, Einstein, and Woolf—students at St. John’s College grapple with fundamental questions that confront us as human beings. As they participate in lively discussions and throw themselves into the activity of translating, writing, demonstrating, conducting experiments, and analyzing musical compositions, St. John’s students learn to speak articulately, read attentively, reason effectively, and think creatively.

My understanding is that St. John’s College students basically read the Great Books and discuss them in small groups. For the math and science books, they will sometimes replicate older experiments or solve mathematical problems posed in these classic works. Essentially, the approach comes down to reading really good books and then being able to write and discuss them. Now imagine if a St. John’s College graduate (or some well-read person that was a good teacher) started a “school,” where about ten students would read the Great Books, meet to discuss them, write about them, and do occasional project (replicate experiments, solve math problems, etc.). That’s basically my alternative to sending my kids to college. If I was confident in my teaching ability, particularly of these books, I would consider doing this for my kids. Besides this obstacle, here are some other potential problems that come to mind: Continue reading “Alternative to College for High School Graduates”