Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ski Slope

Yesterday, during a meeting, Russ Quaglia said, "I keep telling people, 'I'm not  as concerned with where kids are from as I am with where they are going!'" Where are kids going? I'm not only asking this in the sense of what are our students aspirations, their dreams, their sense of their future. While that is the core of QISA's work--helping students discover who and what they want to become and inspiring them in the present to get there--I also mean: What are the trends for students? What is moving forward in schools?

Here are some preliminary results from one indicator in the Pearson Foundation's Million Voice Project:

I chose this indicator because as both a parent and educator I think effort is one of the most important elements in education. Carol Dweck (1986) pointed out some students attribute success in school to one of four causes:
  • internal stable (I'm smart/I'm stupid)
  • internal unstable (I work hard/I'm lazy)
  • external stable (I go to a good school/I go to a bad school)
  • external unstable (the teacher likes me/the teacher doesn't like me)
It is no surprise that those who attribute success to their own efforts (internal unstable) are more successful than those who believe their efforts have little impact. The fact of the matter is putting forth your best effort makes a mountainous difference.

Does it chill you, as it does me, that one of the slippery slopes our students are on in schools is giving less and less effort from year to year?  Nine out of ten (90%) 6th graders report that they put forth their best effort at school. From that height, students slide down hill until just two-thirds of 12th graders report that they put forth their best effort. Keep in mind this is a self-assessment. These are not kids trying to snow us with feigned effort when we can see they are not really trying. One in three students is telling us they are not putting forth their best effort. "I know I could try harder, but I don't or won't." Never mind where a kid who admits that is from; where is a kid who admits that going?

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