Wednesday, June 03, 2015


We had an interesting discussion at school today in our end of school meetings. It seems that school is the only place where 95% is a good grade. If I were to make a box and it only opened 95% of the time, it would be judged a 100% failure. If a bridge were to last only 90% of its planned life and was then to collapse, the engineer would be run out of business. If that engineer had gotten only 95% of his initial calculations right, the parts of the bridge would never have gone together in the first place.

I realize that not all kids will get 100% on their math tests, but when we say that 85% will do, what are we saying about the value of the content? If it was truly important to the life of the child, would we not be suggesting higher standards,  of those who are capable of them and I'm concerned that if we do not, we may be telling the child that we are only pretending material is important and necessary. Real life is not quite like that. If you were 90% right checking out goods at your local Walmart, you would be fired your first day.

Yesterday morning I went on an adventure hauling logs to a local sawmill. The journey led me into the life of a local farmer who explained that the logs won't be milled right away, because he's cutting hay and feeding cattle. Today I'll take another load of logs to another sawyer in the hopes that they'll be cut in a more timely manner.

Richard Bazeley in Australia plans to get his 7th year students making their own tinker toys as shown in the photo above. He then plans to  have them do a collaborative design project, combining all the sets to see what their imaginations come up with.  In addition to end of school staff meetings, I am getting ready for a Scandinavian box making class with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts in my Clear Spring School wood shop. And I've turned one more box as shown in the photo at top.

Make, fix and create...


  1. I think you are making a false comparison about how student evaluations work. Testing allows good teachers to know where they must refocus their efforts to fill in the weak spots in a class' methods. If every student received 100%, that is an indictment against the testmaker, not a tribute to the students' skills.
    I worked with a collaborating teachers whose general ethos was that every one of his students deserved to get an A. And his technique for insuring that every one of his charges was above average was that he taught no content. 100% perfection should never be a goal in education.

  2. Testing can be a useful tool in classroom learning, and scores can tell a teacher about the comprehension of content as you suggest. and as you suggest, absolute perfection is not a reasonable expectation. On the other hand, when students are asked to do real things (outside the abstract methodology of classroom learning), what the students are learning becomes more meaningful, and unlikely to be harnessed to abstract schemes of measurement like tests. We never ask, in making a box, what its percentage might be unless some rubric is overlaid artificially on the process.