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One relatively simple and cheap change can be made to schooling to reduce opt out and drop out rates.

the majority of school systems use a model for reporting on achievement that is of the form A, B, C, D, E or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 which denotes the performance in that year of learning. Where A (or 1) is high performing and E (or 7) is low performing. This system has the effect of telling students that they are passing (good) or failing (bad). Students who are slower learners or who start school with any form of deficit are more likely to categorise themselves as failures fom an early age. When this happens too often, they opt out or disengage, then eventually drop out. A better system is to describe achievment in terms of a fixed continuum that is continuous through the grades, at least for the early stages of schooling. What this means is that we describe signposts of learning at different stages that students 'move' through as they demonstrate success. This sends a different message to all students. It says 'here is where you are in your learning and now i can help you move to the next stage'. Instead of a message of pass fail good bad, of personal quality and position in school, the message is neutral and merely descriptive. The message implies that learning is a journey to be travelled in different ways and different speeds by individuals. Each report on a student would simply be that they were say 5.5 in Science, which means they are working at level 5 and have a 50% probability of working at level 6 in the next learning stage. It helps to personalise learning because teachers know were each student is in each field of learning and can create individual learning paths from that knowledge. It helps to retain students interest in continuing their schooling and so increase their chance of future successes. It helps minimise self attribution of negatives such as 'I can't do school'; 'I suck at science'; etc. This system has been used in Australia and seen to have the social benefits descibed. It is doable and meets all demands of the system.


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    Nov 2 2013: How about taking all the numbers out of the game. Make a course map and progress through modules on a competent / non-competent method. Test out of the module to advance. This allows each student to advance at their pace and identifies areas where assistance is needed.

    Thanks Bob.
    • Nov 2 2013: Hi Robert. The numbers aren't actually critical at all. The reason I use the numbers is to meet the exoectations of educational policy makers half way. The main point I want to make is to reduce competition in school so that we reduce the unnecessary sense of failure in young students. Numbers in this form meet the needs of politicians and bureaucrats without imposing a sense of shame on students. I know there has been much talk on the need for students to experience failure so i want to clarify what I mean clearly. There are too sorts of failure, one is good and one is bad for mental health. Failure that you meet while working towards something you want is good failure, as long as you have some successes along the way. They are usually more like small setbacks that with more work you can overcome. It is good for people to develop resilience to cope with this type of failure. The bad type of failure is where a student labels themselves as a complete failure because they never or rarely have success and they decide it isn't worth trying anymore. This type of failure needs to be avoided in schools at all costs because it leafs to opting out and dropping out of school in the long run.
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        Nov 2 2013: Then my submission would work. Along with that ...... We have had the idea implanted that if you do not go to college you are a failure .... The easy solution to that would be to have dual syllabi one for college prep and one for manual/trades arts. To me that would be a win-win-win. The teachers would have students who are engaged and willing on both sides ... the kids would be where they wanted to be ... and the grade averages would soar .... everyone wins.

        See ya. Bob.
        • Nov 2 2013: Your idea can work as long as that decision is not made too early and the syllsbuses have numerous crossover points. In which case my system is useful until the decision is made so that each student get the best general education until then.

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