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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 1 2013: This kind of arrangement isore like the student learning in at least the college or graduate school. The teachers simply could not manage each and every student according to their micrological difference in the so-called fractional levels of many students, UNLESS STUDENT LEARNING ARE ALL MORE OR LESS IN SELF_LEARNING TRACK. If you still have to group students, say, with 5.6 to 5.9 into a separate group, then this will still be the old system with 0-100 average grades. Even in graduate schools, the tendency is to use S (satisfactory) or U (unsatisfactory) instead of the micromanagement by fractional levels. If you do decide to use mostly self-guidance by the students, it is still not very useful to test/examine every individual student to see whether the student advances from the level of 5.5 to 5.6. in every couple of weeks.
    In other words, if most student learning are self guided, then there is not much value to examine too frequently to evaluate their level of qualification, otherwise, it's a little too much to waste their time of study in the level-certification of their effort.
    • Nov 2 2013: Bart, I have instituted this form of teaching and grading for a few years until politicians told me I had to stop. It can be done and you are cirrect that it becomes more like self guided learning. In practice what happens is that those who are very motivated drive their own learning quite well. Those who are not particularly motivated allow me to negotiate their learning based on their existing level (level 3, 4 etc). The main point is that some become very motivated, some progress more slowly but almost no-one opts out of the learning. In the system I used previously, a reasonably large proportion of students were opting out by 15 years of age. As far as testing goes, I was not testing much at all. I could make reasonable judgements based on the work they were doing for learning. An example of this would be to design and report on a vehicle powered by a mousetrap that could travel as far as possible. The learning was about physics, and their succes was judged by the discussions, the vehicle and the understandings shown in the report

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