The people who manage and critic public schools are only a few decades behind the homeschoolers. But they are definitely talking about the right issues. I’ll quote from Bill Farmer’s article in Education Week about Measuring Student Learning.
Learning is an infinitely complex process, yet as a society we seem determined to relegate learning to a single letter grade or percentage score aimed at sorting and ranking students. There can be some useful information captured by a well-written high stakes exam…Unfortunately, the elevated emphasis placed on these types of assessments, several of which are poorly constructed, oversimplifies the intricacies involved in truly documenting and understanding a student’s learning process. It is difficult to ignore the impact that this has on a student’s perception about learning.
In the high school setting where I teach, students appear to be conditioned to focus on the quantified end result. At the beginning of the year, I find myself having to counteract this tendency of students to only pay attention to the total number of points earned on an assessment…We cannot lose sight of the essential reasons why measuring student learning is so important. … but assessments also should be constructed in such a way as to provide students with the critical feedback necessary to guide their continued learning…
The original article includes comments on how he addresses this and admonishments to other teachers to try to do better. But, with education generally reduced to a process of credentialization somewhat detached from building skills necessary for understanding and success in the world, it’s hard to imagine his extortion making much impact. It’s up the families and students to understand that grades are simplistic and short-term measure and that they need to take ownership of their own learning and growth.