Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's not about the A, it's about the Adolescent

Parents, I know that we are in the middle of quarter number one, and grades are starting to become more apparent to you and your son or daughter. Though we don’t focus on the grades, we do use them with intention at Summit and they are helpful in guiding our decisions in teaching and learning. Grades provide critical feedback for both teachers and students, which not only ensure that teachers know who is learning, and who is not, but they ensure that all of us in the learning community of Summit are held to a high expectation. These high expectations, I feel, are one of the essential attributes of Summit and all great middle schools.

And though much of what we do appears to be results oriented, it is our belief that the deepest learning comes from a rich curriculum coupled with instructional practices that are aligned to external standards, but more importantly to our standards. Again, this isn’t about the grade, but about developing self-confidence, or self-efficacy, which we feel is a critical component of developing one's identity and sense of self. This is a major developmental task of the adolescent years, one that you can help your child build and nurture as a parent.

It is also important to note that high expectations with clear measurements to guide the child helps build resiliency. The research is clear: perhaps more than any other variable, low expectations on the part of school staff have been correlated with poor student academic outcomes and vice versa. Schools which vocalize high expectations for all youth, and then create the support needed to reach those expectations, have much higher rates of academic success than schools that set the bar low. This was recently echoed in the NY Times, by columnist Joe Nocera in “Reading, Math, and Grit.”  He profiles author/researcher Paul Tough’s book “How to Succeed." Tough argues that it can’t be only about math and reading, but about teaching non-cognitive skills such as “resilience, integrity, resourcefulness, professionalism and ambition." We set the bar high, but we know that students may not reach that height from time to time. When they fall, and they will, we are there to help, and parents can too.

So as you see your son or daughter’s grades, try to remember our intentions. As we know, it isn’t all about getting the A, it’s more about getting the adolescent.

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