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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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  • Kepu Li

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    Nov 7 2013: This is a amazing idea, in this way, students will have more passion in seeking knowledge and "climb to the final stage." I mean it can be a huge motive for me! But just for noticing, there are few problems that can be happen through this grading system. Because each student has a different path of learning, it's hard for teachers to schedule classes; students might have a huge gap of stages in learning. Also, when some students finish the course earlier, it can also deal pressure on other students to doubt themselves which might cause other mental problem than only a feeling for failure. Plus, Because each student has a individualized learning path, there will be much more effort paid, in another word, this idea might met challenges while normalizing.
    • Nov 7 2013: Hello Kepu Li,
      I have run these courses and it is not so hard. I design tasks for the students to do like 'design a mouse trap vehicle that can travel as far as possible' and student learn the physics tha goes with that then design, build and report on their car. Different students work at different stages and so it is not so difficult for me. Sometimes student can do different tasks of their own design, eg 1 student did a research project on 'becomin a midwife' because she was interested in that. She learned about biology and other things, while other students were working on diferent tasks. Each task can take from 4 to 8 weeks so I can sit with different groups at different times to help them. It is a little bit hard but not impossible. Most of each class actually ends up doing much the same thing with only a few doing different things. The main point is that as long as they engage in the work, they MUST improve, so they feel succesful, and the more they try the more successful they will be. Each student is always only competing with themselves to improve their position, not competing with anyone else.

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