What report cards don’t tell us
Parents often don’t know how well their kids are doing in school.
There are two reasons for the staggering mismatch between what teachers know and what parents think. First, many report cards do not measure just achievement or what a child knows, but a basket of items including attendance, effort, homework completion, and behavior. These are critically important inputs, and research shows they impact student outcomes long-term. But they can muddy the waters in terms of what parents know about what their child has learned academically. A second grader might raise his hand a lot, work hard to complete his homework, and take part in class activities but be reading or doing math at a first-grade level.
“Report card grades mask grade-level achievements,” explains Bibb Hubbard, co-founder of Learning Heroes, which regularly surveys representative samples of parents and teachers. “If your kid is bringing home a B, you assume they are performing at the grade level.” This is often not the case.
Why it matters: Existing systems of school accountability have largely ignored one of the most important audiences for objective measures of student performance: Parents.
ChatGPT could be good for English class
Much of what English teachers have been expected to do for decades — make students write essays — is no longer useful. Goodbye and good riddance. But AI cannot tear apart what makes teaching meaningful and potentially life-changing to students: the communal experience of being in a classroom. Starting this year, the center of gravity in my classroom is not teaching writing as an “essential skill” that all students need to master; it’s teaching reading. Last year, I predicted that ChatGPT would mark the end of high-school English. Instead, we might already be witnessing its rebirth.
Why it matters: Schools often look for ways to thwart or shut out technological change and are more likely to domesticate new technologies than be transformed by them. Will this time be different?
The great untethering
School choice and remote work could drive social change:
Yet as important as both school choice and remote work have become, it is what they represent in combination — the great untethering of the average American from traditional physical constraints — which future historians will likely write about. If those in our own time do not yet appreciate this larger development, it is only because school choice is still seen almost exclusively as an academic reform, not as an escape from a needlessly costly and restrictive lifestyle.
Why it matters: Our education system has hardly begun to digest the implications of the remote work revolution, which lifts major longstanding constraints on where and how most adults spend their waking hours.
Need to know
Data on test scores may understate the harm of the Covid-19 pandemic on student learning.
More time on screens and less time outside make for an epidemic of nearsightedness.
Pennsylvania public schools systematically excluded homeless students.
Early college high schools increase students’ chances of postsecondary success.