High School Graduation and the Use of Waivers

After reading the article on the number of state and district waivers allocated over the past couple of years, I have a few thoughts, like so many other people. My first thought/question is: where is the “balance of distribution” as we view these stats and explore what this information is saying to our community and educators? I believe waivers should not be looked upon as negative, but as an alternative form of expressive proficiency for those students who are unable to demonstrate acquired knowledge with a paper, pencil and standardized form of assessment. Yes, there could be assessment bias, there could be test anxiety, and there is a great probability that many students who were given waivers could have demonstrated proficiency if the subject matter of English 10 and Algebra 1 standards were tied to experiences, cultural concepts, and/or subject matter that felt meaningful and purposeful… how interesting that we are still teaching with “conformity” in mind rather than teaching to the specific and unique student. Research is and has been demonstrating that when a child’s brain is emotionally engaged, the learning is limitless and when content is placed inside a contextual framework that pulls on a student’s prior knowledge and expertise, there is an investment in learning! Are we able to give choices, just two or three, projects/scenarios that provide for students who have struggled with standardized assessments; ways to demonstrate their understanding of the major concepts in these two subject areas? English 10 calls for students to implement language development, using literary response and analysis, showing narration, persuasion and description. Are we able to give our students two or three topics to write about that are meaningful to their lives personalizing the learning process. Job markets for young adults, school lunches and uniforms, racial bias, war, etc. could be possible topics. When the writing is purposeful, there is a neurobiological investment in the process. Rather than writing our formulas and equations for Algebra proficiencies… could students be given a choice with three or four concepts implemented inside a start-up business with costs, margins, benefits growth, etc. Students could create power points showing their knowledge and teaching to others. Research shows that when we teach what we need to learn, the retention over a 24 hour period is over 90% and the learning moves to the long term memory. If education is truly and authentically about learning to live outside the walls of schools, and we are seriously understanding that our national drop-out rate is 40 percent, then we cannot afford to talk for long, arguing about the ethics of waivers, and pointing fingers of blame as to how we reached this point. It doesn’t matter, as we are slowly forfeiting the purpose of education ; “mining for assets!” Our world is changing and old ways of instruction and assessment inside our schools does not reach every student! Social media, technology and living inside the most populous and diverse time in our world’s history directly and intimately affect how we educate and graduate our young adults! The specific assessments of brain compatible learning complementing ECA’s and standardized assessments is a discussion and alternative we cannot afford to overlook.

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