Sunday, January 23, 2011

Coffee For The Brain Book Tournament - Book Review and Discussion Points

Title: the Report Card
Author: Andrew Clements
Pages: 173

The Report Card
Cover illustration by Brian Selznick
Published, 2004, Simon and Schuster.
ISBN 0689845154 (hc)
Nora Rowley is a genius. The thing is, nobody but Nora knows that. Being so smart, Nora noticed early on, makes you stand out, and standing out was not something she wanted. Instead, Nora always tried to be exactly average. But now Nora has a new plan, and when she comes home with a bad report card, her parents and the school launch a massive effort to find out what's wrong. But that is exactly what Nora wants. All the attention is the perfect chance to prove how arbitrary grades are and that they don't matter nearly as much as everyone at Philbrook Elementary thinks.

I read this book to help cover for a judge that dropped out. I will admit that I was not too excited to read this book. There are far too many other great books in the tournament and being released each week that I need to read. However, I sucked it up, placed my frustrations aside and read this book.

I was pleasantly surprised. I really liked this book. Actually, it was thought provoking to me on several parts in the story. Not because it is high  level reading, but because I am teacher who deals with some of the issues mentioned.

I read this book in about an hour or so. It is a fast paced read. It is a light read for me as it is geared for upper elementary.

Yes, I recommend this book to elementary students. I enjoyed it and found it to be an engaging read for this level.

Now I will read the other book for the tournament to see which I like better.

This book raises many great points about the education. I earmarked a few passages so let me reflect upon these. Yes, these are my opinions and not of the place where I work.

"Most kids never talk about it, but a lot of the time bad grades make them feel dumb, and almost all the time it's not true. And good grades can make other kids think that they're better, and that's not true either. And then all the kids start competing and comparing. the smart kids feel smarter and better and get all stuck-up, and the regular kids feel stupid and like there's no way to ever catch up."

I think this is a problem. We are in a society where everyone strives for perfection. Parents expect their kids to earn A's in all subjects. The problem is that scoring an A has become too easy. The curriculum has been dummy downed so bad that there is no excuse to not earn an A and at the same time the grades have lost their value. I am not saying we should increase homework because I don't really like that idea either, but our expectations for grades need to change. We need to get back to the place where an C means average and not stupid and an A truly represents mastery of the content and not just a hard worker or a nice kid.

There was a reference to the Oak Elementary test where teachers were given a random list of students who were considered "bloomers" and since the expectations were raised, so did the performance of the kids. You can read more about it here

I bring this point up because I know that I work in a district with teachers who are awesome and have high expectations for all students. What is needed more than ever are more parents and the community who works with kids to raise their expectations. There are many, many fantastic families out there, but there are others who need to help push the expectations for their children.

The last one. "I see what you mean, and it's true that these tests all require students to memorize a lot of information. But knowing basic information is important. It's like the foundation."

This is an interesting point. You have to have the basics before you dig deep. The problem is that we as teachers have so much "basic" information to get in that it is tough to always dig deep. I am lucky that I get to dig deep with great kids every single day of my job. That is what I do daily. This is almost impossible to do when you have class sizes of 30 with a range of intelligence from high school to 2nd grade in a 6th grade classroom.

I post these all to get your thoughts. What do you think? Education is always a sensitive topic, but one that needs to continue to be talked about.
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