Problem #1: The implementation costs will impose a staggering burden on the professional development and financial systems of Oregon’s school districts.
The time and resources that districts across the state are going to have to invest to implement this legislation is staggering. Teachers must become acquainted with what the law says, then adjust their district-wide, building-wide and classroom policies to match said legislation. The workload that American teachers face is a heavy one. Thinking through this legislation, along with the teacher evaluation program that my district is piloting, leaves me pondering just what I am not supposed to do, so that I can comply with these new requirements.
Problem #2: Traditional incentives that motivate students to attend class will be curtailed.
Our building invested tremendous amounts of time and energy last winter and spring to develop an attendance policy that would help students be in class more. You don’t have to be in the field of education to know that class attendance is paramount to student growth. In our neighboring high school this attendance policy was very effective in helping students to be in class. Unfortunately, after months of work and very high hopes from our staff, we have learned that we will be unable to implement this policy because it uses the final grade as a motivator to deter skipping, and behavior now cannot be involved in a student’s final academic grade. If I understand the behavior component of this bill correctly, our hands are being tied with respect to punitive incentives to help students come to class. This makes me incredibly nervous.
Problem #3: There are doubts as to the effectiveness of proficiency-based systems and student achievement.
Proficiency did not help my students the first time I rolled it out. I have had to modify the system I use in many ways to make it the most effective that it can be for my students. Many of the tactics that I have used in my class will now not be available to me. My first term of teaching with a proficiency-based assessment system culminated with a pile of papers over two feet tall. Most of the assignments and assessments, some of which were three months late, were of extremely poor quality. I spent countless hours the last week of the term grading subpar work. Students who submitted the papers were shocked to learn that their work was not proficient, and that they would not pass. These students were not helped by that system.
Dan Ariely, an author and professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, shares the example of a professor at MIT who conducted a social experiment in two of his classes. In one class, this professor kept his normal due dates for assignments. In a second class he allowed students to set their own due dates. The most successful was the group that had traditional due dates. The group that set their own due dates performed worse in the course for a variety of reasons. (The research is fascinating and, if you have time, I suggest you read it over for yourself. The example I cite here is found beginning on page 6.)
Problem #4: Post-secondary education and careers do not operate on similar proficiency systems.
If we teach our students to play ball in a system that does not take behavioral skills into account, we are doing our students a tremendous disservice. Academic behavior is an incredibly vital piece of educating our young people. To separate that from a final grade is unfair to the student. Students could potentially move on to college, miss a paper’s due date, and be shocked to learn that a professor will not accept the paper three weeks later. Our children may be horrified to learn that showing up to work late is unacceptable. They could graduate thinking, “If I flip the burgers correctly, why do they care what time I come in?” It is essential that we teach our students real world skills, content and behaviors.
As we conclude, I want to reiterate that I am a firm believer and practitioner of many of the tenets of proficiency. But, like any system, it is not perfect. As we wade into the school year we will see the impact this legislation will have on our students, teachers and schools. I know that both educators and legislators have students’ best interests at heart. My sincere hope is that in June we will be happy with the choice we made.
Here is a link to FAQ about HB 2220.