Sandy on Rutherford show with Roy Green

Heads up to regular readers, I will be on the David Rutherford radio talk show tomorrow at around 1:05pm EDT, for about fifteen minutes. Roy Green will be the guest host so it should be fun.

The topic will be about the Manitoba “accurate grading” policy of forbidding teachers from deducting marks for late assignments or from giving zeros for incomplete work.  Regulars here know how I feel about any kind of “no-fail” policies — no matter what terminology is used. 

Such policies do not, for example, prepare children and youth for the real world because they adversely affect their ability to learn new information and skills, as well as learn from their mistakes.

So it is good news that, unlike the Ontario McGuinty government which pushes on with their social promotion and no-work for course credit policies, the government of Manitoba is considering reversing  what Nancy Allan, the Education Minister, refers to as: “the accurate grading” policy. 

However, what is incomprehensible to me is that, while she recognizes the need for “life skills,” she doesn’t seem to realize that the same life skills are lacking when a student is promoted before they are ready.  Put simply, no-fail policies in the early years will unfortunately, for far too many students, simply mean failure later in life.   

Yet, here is what Nick Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press writes about Allan’s views about no-fail policies: “No-fail and social promotion have been getting lumped in with the ‘accurate grading issue’ of late assignments, she said: ‘They complement one another, but they’re quite different.'”

Actually Ms. Allan, they are not different. It’s all about preparing children to live and work in the real world. Employees do not get promoted simply because someone else is getting promoted. They get promoted, whatever the rationale, because they deserve to be based on what they have done right. 

Yes, I recognize there are times when some students need to move ahead, particularly if they have special needs or their age is a factor, but not as a general policy. Why not? The metaphor I like to use to explain the why not is that learning through elementary and secondary school is like building a tower of bricks.  And, each brick represent a different skills set, gained one brick at a time. Miss any skills or bricks and eventually one of two things can happen. Either the whole structure collapses or it is permanently misaligned. 

In other words, the very idea that it is more compassionate to go easy on children by eliminating the notion of mistakes or failure from their lives is clearly a misguided compassion because you are failing to teach them how to deal with reality.

Remember: Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 18th, 1:05pm ET. In Calgary AM770, CHQR.

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Update: Tuesday, May 18th 1:50pm.

Well, the interview and discussion on the Dave Rutherford show with guest host Roy Green and his listeners is over. I got the call just two minutes before air time and once the interview had begun at approximately 1:05pm ET, the time went by very fast. In fact, that is what I noticed the most. Speed. Roy even talks fast. Obviously on radio, there can be no empty spaces. So, there was little opportunity for me to feel nervous. Yet, a lot of ground was covered and I feel it was a good segment. In my opinion, Roy was fair. He stated both our positions right at the start and then things went from there — namely, that children and youth should not be rewarded with grades for incomplete or inadequate work and they should not be promoted to the next grade level if they are not ready.

Because: (1) they will not catch up the next year no matter what promises the school district may make; and (2) that is just not how the real world operates. As I said at the end, parents need to become their child’s advocate and that it was a pleasure to be invited on the show.

Visitors can check out the audio vault at this link, as long as it is within fourteen days of taping. Go to May 18th, 2010 at 11am. Wait for four to five minutes until after the news. The Roy Green portion goes for about half an hour including callers and commercials.