Greece, retention, and the drone life of testing…

Pictured is a friendship bracelet, with the evil eye, from a beloved friend of mine, who I recently stayed with on the island of (take a moment when you click this link to view the photos they capture the island of Methana well) Methana, Greece.  My friend lived in Greece for many years, her husband grew up there.  Her children enjoy visits there and their heritage.

I learned that students in Greece do not progress to the next grade, unless they pass their current grade, and yes, there is a test for that.

I am disgusted by the idea of repeating a grade in order to gain academic knowledge or maturity, or anything for that matter.  Picture yourself, as your younger self, or now, your teacher, boss, or supervisor tells you that you will be repeating the entire year of work, that you’ve just completed because you didn’t meet the standard.  Are you serious?  What is your first thought?  My first thought, no way, that sucks, are you explicative kidding me?  Then, I think more about it, how inclined would I be to tackle the same year all over again – sure, dress it up, a new teacher, new classmates, possibly new routines, but essentially the same work. Is the same work the solution to a “failed” year? And, who is truly determining the “failing”?  A subjective, biased teacher?  A standardized test?  How is knowledge or skill truly measured?

I attended my graduate program in a time when portfolios and holistic assessment was integral to knowing about a student’s academic gains.  The portfolios would include work from the student at varying times in the year, usually beginning, middle, and end, with pieces incorporated that the student was most proud of, their excellent work, the work that highlighted them knocking it out of the park.  Families were the recipients of the work products that opened the door for conversation.  The pieces of work shined in a conference.  These works offer the growth, gains, and great results of effort by that individual student.  Another outcome of portfolios, was that the teacher was focused on what students could do and showed that growth was taking place in a real way, in that one particular student’s way, rather than comparing them in spread sheet to their peers in class and across the nation. Einstein is quoted, “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life thinking that it is stupid.”  Isn’t that what standardized testing does to students?  I believe all students have their abilities, schools may not highlight or allow for those abilities because the focus is incongruent with recognizing individuals yet wonderfully designed for the masses and herding groups.


Have you had enough yet?  Where is the fire on behalf of the students you know are successful, intelligent, gifted with their own knowledge and more?  Or have you succumbed to the drone life of data?



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