No Minimums

I was reminded again about one of the main things which is wrong with our educational system and with the Common Core.  Both continually stress the minimum success which we wish all students to achieve.  When we lower our expectations of student success, we lower the students’ expectations and their desires.  We take from them the desire to reach into the unknown, to fill the thrill of doing something they hadn’t thought possible.
The middle school kids have a quiz in my class today.  Since I allow them to use Quizlet to study their terms as well as to test themselves over the terms, the kids can set up the test in whatever way best suits their learning style.  Need to have the questions read to you? Fine; do so.  Need to take it in game mode, and get the fastest class time?  Fine; do so.  Love to type out long answers?  Fine; do so.  This, I think, has always allowed all kids to find their place of success while still being challenged.
One of the ways they can choose when setting up their personal test is to set the number of test questions.  In rapid succession six of the thirty students separately came up to me in the hallway to ask what was the minimum number of terms or dates they would need to know.  At first I was patient.  I explained that setting the quiz for the minimum number of terms would lessen their chances of getting a good grade.  Set the test for two terms, miss one, and you would have a 50, a failing grade I told them.  Set it for thirty terms, miss one, and you would have a 97.  Then I realized, this is the wrong answer.
I stepped into the advisory room, and asked at large, “Hey, what is the minimum number of baskets you need to make in a basketball game?”  Of course they thought that was a stupid question.  You want the most you can get, not just to beat the other team, but to have the thrill of doing something no one had done before.
That, I said, is why I would never set a minimum competency in my class.  I don’t want my students to learn the bare number of facts they might need to skim by.  I want them to go beyond “just passing” and lean instead into the risk of learning, to take the bare facts somewhere NO scholar has gone before, to make new discoveries and formulate new hypotheses.
NO MINIMUM!  When you are aiming for your personal best, you strive to beat the unknown and to break all barriers.  You’re not letting anyone else set your goal for you.

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