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

  • Front.cheers
    MACEE BEERS joins other Fayette Elementary School students for the annual Mini-Cheer performance during the half-time break at the basketball game.
  • Family.3.wide
    CHILDREN at Stair District Library’s Family Story Time toss scarves into the air during an activity. The evening program provided a mix of stories, songs, dancing, crafts and snacks Monday evening. The program is offered at 5:30 p.m. every Monday for five more weeks. The program is designed for three to five year olds and their family.
  • Front.newpaper.2
    THE INTERVIEW—Evelyn Joughin (right) records the interaction with an iPad while Jack Varga, next to her, asks questions of Morenci Elementary School principal Gail Frey. Morenci senior Sam Cool (standing) listens. Cool serves as the editor for the newspaper written by members of Mrs. Barrett’s second grade class.
  • Front.code.2
    WRITING CODE—Brock Christle (left), a Morenci fifth grade student, takes a look at the progress being made by fourth grader Anthony Lewis. Libby Rorick, a sixth grade student, is next in a line of girls trying out the coding tutorials. This year marked Morenci’s second year of participation in the Hour of Code project.
  • Front.gym.new
    REMIE RYAN (left) tries to dodge the foam wand held by Hayden Bays during physical education class at Morenci Elementary School. In the background, Lauryn Dominique and Brooklyn Williams stay clear of the tag. Second grade students were working on cardiovascular health on the first day back from vacation. For the record, Safety Tag is a very difficult sport to photograph.
  • 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.library.books
    MACK DICKSON takes a book off the “blind date” cart at the Fayette library. Patrons can choose a book without knowing what’s inside other than a general category. The books are among those designated for removal so patrons can consider them gifts. In Morenci, new books and staff favorites were chosen from the stacks and must be returned. Patrons get a piece of chocolate, too, to take on their date, but no clue about their “date.” One reader said she really enjoyed her book for a few pages, but then lost interest—so typical for a blind date.

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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