The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Grades just don't make the grade: Educator Alfie Kohn critical of grades, rewards

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

What’s the point of going to school, asks Alfie Kohn, is it to get good grades or is it to learn?

Kohn, a nationally-recognized opponent of grading and standardized tests, such as Michigan’s MEAP test and Ohio’s proficiency tests, discussed his ideas last week at the Adrian College convocation series.alfie_kohn

Schools without grading end up with higher intellectual standards, Kohn said, because they’re filled with students who are interested in what they’re doing.

There are exceptions, he admits. Some kids are excited about learning and they like to get good grades, but most are just hooked on grades instead of real learning.

Kohn knows the response to his statement: But grades count in the real world.

“Actually, grades and test scores count very little as an indication of success,” he said.

He’s read the research and discovered only one correlation to later life: Those who obtain the highest grades tend to be less likely to do community service.

Kohn holds his highest contempt for what’s known as grading on the curve—the process that distributes grades from high to low, with the majority spread across the middle.

“It’s the worst abomination,” he said. “It says this class is not about learning, it’s about sorting you out. It says not everybody can earn A’s here. It makes everyone else in the class an obstacle to your success.”

Support from research

Kohn’s beliefs are backed up by research about human behavior and educational techniques. Study after study has produced the same findings, he says: The more you reward someone for doing something, the more they lose interest in what they’re doing.

“And the more they like the reward, the less interest they take in doing what’s needed to get the reward,” he said.

Even in the workplace, a multitude of studies shows that people who aren’t given rewards tend to do a better job. And in the classroom, stickers, stars, pizza parties—they make no sense as a means of motivation.

“Someone who does a really good job, generally really likes what he’s doing,” Kohn said.

Studies comparing graded classrooms with ungraded ones show that three things generally happen when grades are given.

1. Students become less interested in what they’re learning. Honor rolls and dean’s lists only emphasize grades.

2. Students are inclined to pick the easiest possible task—the route leading to the highest grade.

“Students aren’t lazy, they’re rational,” Kohn said. “The point isn’t to understand ideas. It’s to avoid taking risks.”

3. When graded, students tend to look at subject matter in a different way.

“Thinking tends to become more shallow and superficial,” he said. “They don’t ask ‘What does this mean?’ Rather, they ask, ‘Is this going to be on the test?’”

But if I didn’t give grades, a college professor would counter, the kids won’t even show up for class.

“What an indictment of your teaching process,” says Kohn. “Why not create an interesting class instead?”

Breaking away

To wean away from grades, Kohn said, start with a pass/fail system. Write comments on papers. Have a conference with each student.

If grades must be given, give a B+ or an A to everyone who shows up and does the work. Or meet with the student to determine a grade.

“Grades don’t predict much anyway,” he says again.

Schools are turning into test prep factories, Kohn charges, and a grassroots rebellion is needed to put an end to it.

“Teach skills in a context and for a purpose. It’s the exact opposite of the back-to-basics movement.”

If anyone wants to know how to make children more self-centered, Kohn has the answer: Put them in a lot of competitive situations. It makes them less aware of others’ needs and less likely to communicate their own needs. Study after study confirms it, and rewards only enhance it.

Younger students slog through multiple choice exams (designed to trick those who know the right answer), worksheets and mindless mimicry, then move on to college where they pay the money, take easy classes when available, receive a diploma and move on toward their desire to get rich, which only makes them more anxious and lowers the quality of their lives.

And then some day years from now, Kohn says, they wake up and ask, “What happened to my life?”

Kohn is the author of nine books, including Punished by Rewards, the case against gold stars; No Contest: the case against competition; and Education, Inc.: turning learning into a business.

    – Nov. 5, 2003 

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