a) I agree and disagree with this statement. At first I was a little confused because i was thinking that if the authors wanted higher standards at their school they could just set them higher. Then I thought about it a little more and came to the conclusion that they mean they want to set higher standards for their students and believe by creating more authentic assessments students will perform at a higher level thereby pushing the standard ceiling higher and higher as they strive to and do achieve more. I know many schools have things like senior projects where students have to do research on a potential career choice, write a paper, then do a presentation for a group of teachers. That is similar to what the authors propose. But these students are also taking the standardized tests. I know of another school that used to have a four year long project starting in the freshman year in which students had to do a comprehensive research type of things where they found a charity to get involved in, volunteered with them, did community service, raised money, then did a presentation on it during their senior year, which also seems to be similar to what the authors suggest. I don’t know how successful this was, i only know what some students told me about it. I know some students liked the work they did with the charities because it gave them a sense of fulfillment and that they helped others, whole other students found it to be burdensome like their other school work and looked for short cuts to complete it.
One question i have is are the teachers at ESCS able to find enough adults to to participate in the roundtables and senior book discussions? This was the question i had the first time i came across this book and is really the only problem i think could present itself with such a curriculum. All in all i love how the skills the students are asked to developed are started in the middle school and built upon throughout their high school years. Less focus is on texts and more is on what are students able to accomplish and do, and what will they be able to do once they leave school and go off into doing whatever. It’s like the people at this school actually sat down and developed a district wide curriculum students would work through for several years and built on what was done the previous year. Not like so many schools where it seems the knowledge gained in one class is not used again ever.
I have not been in a position to propose doing new things like Lesley has and had to face down skeptical administrators who were;t sure about this new thing being proposed, but as far as using the assessments the authors propose I can’t really see any resistance unless the school already has a curriculum guide set down and this would interfere with it. If students of that grade have to do these four things already (write an essay, give a speech, etc) and a teacher wanted to use one of these assessments this may be looked at as merely increasing the burden on students and taking their focus away from those few things already deemed as the most important things they will do this year. For my Tom Sawyer I had students did a little creative writing thing and my co-op thought this might burn students out as they had a character essay to write for this book. They were writing this essay no matter what else i had them do. But this was a creative writing project that was only to be two pages long and was meant as a way to have fun and decompress from having just read a novel and it ended up working out ok. As long as these alternative assessments were compensatory and additive i don’t think it be a problem.
b) I honestly don’t know what to do. I think i would first ask my colleagues in the reading and special ed departments for their advice. Maybe these students would benefit from tutoring with a reading specialist. Otherwise I would create differentiated lessons and assignments for these students. I am assuming these students have to have the book finished as the same time as their classmates so that takes away giving them extra time for reading. The authors put their students through a series of reading tests to determine their individual reading level. Maybe i could do the same. It could be that these students have somehow gotten pushed further ahead than they should have been and belong in a different class. I’ve seen these booklets that contain shortened versions of classical literature used in one school. I would try to get those and have students read them in place of the actual book. When i taught The Diary of Anne Frank I only used the actual diary in my advanced class, the other students read a play based upon the diary. That is another idea. Audio books if the text has one for it.