Sunday, October 9, 2011

We Shouldn't Label, but We Should Color Code?

Perusing EdWeek this evening, one article I selected was commentary on a policy at a high school in California: Color Coded High School ID Cards Sort Students by Test Performance

Educationally Appropriate?
Seriously? I found that I could not even read the article carefully because I was so disgusted at the thought of promoting a system that so visibly segregates based on factors that may or not really matter for individuals in 20 years. I'm not saying that test scores don't have their purpose, but there is strong debate whether or not they really measure what we need to know at this time.

I often hear people sharing that they don't like special education because it places labels on kids and those labels are usually negative. Wouldn't color coding be the same thing under a different name? 

Working in the field of learning disabilities, I tend to focus on growth rather than isolated performance. I prefer to look at multiple characteristics of a person and though I am a successful test-taker, I know many other quality individuals who are not.

To say that a system that color codes children (of any age) based on their performance on a test is at all appropriate to their educational development is ridiculous. Does such a system raise test scores? Quite possibly since without the right color card, you are not in the "right crowd". You lose out on privileges, have to stand in the long line ..... comparable to adult condoned hazing in my opinion.
Having an understanding of adolescent development, I am wary that such a program would cause students to care about assessment but I would posit that it helped them be aware that the tests are more than a one time thing that no one looks at. 

Reflection of Human Nature
As I thought more, I realized that this controversial method to motivate students for school performance is indicative of my main frustrations with the current system of education. This is not really for the students; it's to improve the lives of the adults working in the school: their evaluations are dependent now on students' test performances; color coding assists with scheduling like classes; it also assists in identifying groups of kids for appropriate supports and resources.

Perhaps color coding is a more honest system than in other high schools. Students with learning disabilities or others who are not generally considered successful as students often feel that they are not treated the same as those who perform well. Adults are well-intentioned in telling them that's not true and encouraging them to be successful. How many mean it?

Don't many adults who interact with high school age children advice them to find the right crowd... to date the kids that are successful ...... encourage students with similar interests to similar activities? Perhaps this is a more honest and up front way of saying, "yep, test scores are the ticket to all things wonderful".

What does this say to the others though?

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