What is a “BE”?

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Yesterday, my grandson came over for dinner with his mother. With a few minutes to spare before eating, they decided to complete his Kindergarten homework for the night. Yes, that’s right, he had homework!!!! Despite his claim that he “didn’t like homework,” his mom persevered and it was completed – two sheets of handwriting practice (He had trouble with “baby m’s”) and several pages of sight words, to which I heard over and over the refrain, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” I wondered what was being done so that he would now them?????

At one point Jonas remarked that he wanted his letters to be perfect because he did not wish to receive a “BE.” His mom replied, “You want to get an OT, right?” I was thoroughly confused at this point. Well…. upon further examination of system documents, an “OT” is “on target” and a “BE’ is “below expectations.” There is also the chance of receiving an “AE” “approaching expectations.” This is part of standards-based grading that is the format of the primary report card in our school system.

I supposed the idea is that these terms help to clarify the expectations of each objective or as we call them “clear targets.” But despite the fancy new language, the implication is that an “OT” is the goal = “A” and a “BE” means not succeeding = “F.” Do we really need Kindergarteners to experience the stress of success that early????

I teach 8th grade students and an overwhelming concern is student apathy. Could this be a clue? How long does it take to expect students to perform at some human made standard until they tire of it and give up?

Coincidentally a colleague shared concerns over the multiple-choice common assessments required of our ELA students. Specifically how we are asking students to choose the BEST response as decided by central office staff. Their ideas do not always correlate with ours. My peer wondered how this prepares students for the real world when they will have to reason and write out their ideas versus taking a test.

Despite my musings, Jonas will still have to try to get those “baby m’s” and sight words to an “OT” level and I will have to continue to work at getting my students to proficiency (80% or above) on common assessments. Good luck real world problems!!!

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