Minnesota school changes are partially right, mostly wrong

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Coon Rapids High School via anoka.k12.mn.us

According to this Star Tribune story, a Minnesota high school is closing the achievement gap by changing its methods. Let me be the first to applaud school leaders who are willing to attempt major change.

Coon Rapids High is getting some key elements of education reform right. The school is embracing a more student-centered classroom, with more talking from students and less from teachers, and strict requirements to qualify for advanced classes have been eliminated. Kudos here.

What Coon Rapids got wrong

What Coon Rapids gets wrong, unfortunately, far outweighs what it gets right. The problems began when, like many schools, Coon Rapids leaders used test scores and so-called achievement gaps as their top measurement of learning (something which should never be measured by numbers, percentages and letters, to begin with).

In a horribly misguided attempt to raise scores and close gaps, the principal called for more emphasis on testing. Annette Ziegler wants class exams to count for 70-85 percent of the final grade. (Don’t get me started on the whole problem with grades, in general.) Ziegler even told the Star Tribune that the students “are so extremely motivated by that grade.” What a shame. Shouldn’t they be motivated by learning?

What plays as marvelous publicity for the school is, in reality, a gigantic setback, in terms of legitimate learning. There is less emphasis on choice and production of quality work and more on filling in bubbles on tests.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s not much use for bubble tests in the world these days.

Mark Barnes is an education author and consultant and the publisher of Brilliant or Insane. Learn more about Mark on our Team page. Follow him on Twitter here.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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