I wrote the blog post below today based on a conversation I overheard yesterday. I'm wondering what you think about the topic.

Student: I have a B in your class, I just need a little more time to get it up to an A
Teacher: If I gave you more time it wouldn’t be fair to the other students in the class. Rules are rules and I can’t change the due date for you because its not fair to everyone else.

I have been wrestling, rustling, brewing, and stewing over this conversation since yesterday morning. We hear things like this a lot at our online high school and it’s time for that to change. Students shouldn’t be treated “fairly” because that is inherently unfair. They are not all the same. We need to replace the mindset of ‘fairly’ with the mindset of ‘individually’.

Every student comes to us with different background experiences, a different skill set, different goals for the course, different life circumstances that are dictating their actions at this moment, different futures, and different needs. To bunch them all together under one realm is unfair. To say “rules” apply equally even though you are different is unfair. Students need to be dealt with on an individualized basis, this goes for instruction, assessment, and course platitudes.

Schools are no longer about creating workers to run our industries. They are about creating learners and thinkers. They are about relevance, and what is relevant to one student is not relevant to all students. They should be exploiting creativity, not demanding cookie-cutter-one-size-fits-all products.

Every road block we put in their way limits this ability. Everytime we fail to look at the student as a whole, complex being, rather than as another name on the roll count is a disservice to education and humanity.

Tags: education, fair, high, online, reform, school, school2.0

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I like the idea of not treating students the same. My parents always were quite open with us kids that they didn't treat us the same, they treated us how they thought we needed to treated. That might be more freedom for one kid, or more financial help for another, or a longer time spent at home for a third. As the kids we've always been fine being treated unequally, but that is because we trust our parents to help us if they can and not show favoritism to one or the other. If you are going to admit to treating kids differently, there needs to be a high level of trust between the kids/parents and you.
To me this is a teacher's preference issue. My preference is to not spend my class time negotiating with students. I openly welcome having students do a variety of ways to express what they have learned. But there are some things that should not be changed. The due date is one of them. There are obviously going to be exceptions, such as a death in the family, illness, etc.; but changing a due date because a student wants to improve their grade from a B to an A is going to create more problems than solutions.

Learners and thinkers still need jobs, and every job I have ever seen has some type of deadline. Or what about bills? Yes, we are in education, trying to improve students and help them be the best they can. We still need to prepare students to survive and succeed in the world also.

Why not encourage the student to look at what got them the B instead of the A. This encourages meta-cognition and provides a learning experience for the student. Yes, they still have the B, but is it the grade that really matters or the learning?
"is it the grade that really matters or the learning?"

This is exactly what I'm talking about. More learning would take place if they did the assignments that led to the A so why not let them learn their way to the A. Obviously meeting goals by a deadline is an important thing to learn, so I agree with you on that.

But what if they already know that, and they just had something that held them back from meeting that goal? Its about taking the whole person into account.
I won't be mind if all of my students come to me and ask more time to improve the grade. I have to make sure that they have achieveable plan and give them new due date that must be agreed by both sides. I would appreciate their intiatives and efforts to assess themselves and find out that they only need more time to make it fit with the standard.
Using rubrics will help students and teacher to assess student's works, but they have to discuss all criteria in advance before the students start. Students can use the rubrics to do self assessment and teacher can check whether the students have met all of the criteria. Teacher can use the rubrics to give students feedback related to their work.

I agree that students need to know that grade is not everything and they also have to respect agreement about the due date. But we need to see deeply into it, to feel and see genuine purpose behind it. Then we can discuss with the students who might have problems behind it, such a pressure she/he gets from the parents or other specific situation.

I also agree that we have to see student as a unique person. I am personally a product of mass education that my teacher only saw me from the grades I produced, but they never saw me as a person. I don't want it to happen to my students, even though I know it will consume my energy. I just want they to learn that any decision they make will give impact.
I solidly agree that "fair" treatment is not always identical treatment.
Every student clearly needs some "base" from which to give their learning a start.

We must make sure as educators we have a clear division, for c/room principles, from the enthusiastic children... and those maybe a litle less disciplined in the classroom, whilst, at least in my opinion teaching to the top 15-20 % ability level. A good practice to challenge the more able in the class, while the teacher is working alongside all be it, methodically with other teachers and Principals. Moreover, with the idea of making sure that our students have a good understanding: of both their own responsibilities and also that children really understand that the teacher has an understanding of subject knowledge and an interest/focus on the individual (as you stated!) learner.

It will be interesting... to see in the not so distant future, with the increased and more rigorous on-line teaching, and student courses- how this will both a determine or make the teacher more defined in their role in the classroom and b. instigate a "measure" of our (the teachers) interaction in class. Will teacher-pupil interaction be more or less involved ? in the important issues of childs background, outside interests...and how administration will be affected within a less classroom supported role. How will we as teachers, create a more "idealistic" student- teacher setting, I really wonder!
I was observing an operation once when the patient's vitals suddenly plummeted. Thinking quickly, the surgeon said "You know--I can save this patient if I just have a little while longer to figure out what's wrong here". He did indeed figure out what was wrong---during the autopsy the next day. Of course treating people fairly is fair. To say otherwise is to say up is down and down is up---of course that seems to be the way a lot of people think these days!
Bertie Kingore says, "Students are individuals. In a differentiated classroom, teachers perceive the differences that make students unique, not to distinguish one as better or less than another, but to form instructional objectives that effectively match each student.

Rather than whole-class instruction dominating, small groups of students frequently work together or with the teacher on different levels of concepts and skills. By instructing in flexible groups, the teacher is able to effectively vary the level and kinds of instructional materials as well as customize learning assignments--many of which directly respond to learners' interests."

retrieved from http://www.bertiekingore.com/diffinstruct.htm
Both angles in the discussion have merit.

My grade 5 class has just completed their Exhibition in the PYP. These 10 and 11 year olds were required, in small groups, to manage three levels of research, conduct a significant survey and interview, and to present all their new learning on a non-negotiable date. It was a significant and demanding process The students' learning about self-management, I trust, will forever be of value in their personal and public lives. Student accountability is important. It's about encouraging a focus and building a work ethic. Clear expectations and rubrics will help in signalling what is expected and how to perform well.

Deadlines are also about teacher sanity. I need to get things cleaned up so I can keep track of other things. If I don't get tough with expectations those last 4 or 5 students slip through the system and they learn that it doesn’t matter if they aren’t serious about their learning.

Another issue is how we grade the kids. Rather than losing points or grades for late work, I would rather use a rubric that clearly states in what area the student did not fulfill expectations. In primary school, at least, it’s not helpful for kids to be told that they are B or C students.

At the same time we have to be free to treat students as individuals with special considerations. What allowance might we make for those students who get no support at home, who are the only stable person at home, who have learning difficulties, who have trouble keeping track of multiple tasks?

Love and Logic in the Classroom comes up with the following types of statements:
"What I do, will depend on the special person, and the special situation."
"What I do will depend on what happened and what the person is willing to do to solve the problem."

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