Sunday, December 28, 2008

Let students set the standards

(The following email was sent 12-28-08 to the Interact web site for Jacksonville Florida in response to the artile at http://www.jacksonville.com/interact/blog/2008-12-28/lowering_standards regarding the need for higher standards for passing in high school.)

Yes, I said let the students set the standards. This is a long term process.

I teach middle school and helped start a 10-year time-capsule and class-reunion project targeted at student retention and motivation. When students return 10-years after 8th grade they are invited to speak with then current 8th grade students about their recommendations for success. That is when they are able to set the standards. They speak about what it takes to best succeed in the world after 8th grade. Who better can set the standards than those who have lived life after school and know what it takes to succeed?

This project started 4 years ago in an inner-city Dallas public school as a focus on the future to lower dropout rates. Since starting the 9th to 10th grade attrition rate has gone down 40%. Not bad for a $2 per student investment for supplies and a photo given to each student. It is a photo of their Language Arts class posing in front of the 350-pound vault bolted to the lobby floor in the middle school lobby to function as the time-capsule. In this pose they each hold the self addressed letters they have written to themselves, that are then placed by them into the vault after the photo is taken. The letters stay there for the next decade. On the back of the photo is a label with details about the Archive Project and the planned class 10-year reunion, and their planned presentation to decade younger students at that reunion.

Who would better know the standards current students should meet than young adults who were in those same students places 10-years earlier, and therefore know what it takes to best survive the next decade?