Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools
Posted on 08 October 2013 - The Report Card
(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Our friend Diane Ravitch informs us that a charter school in Idaho actually outsourced essay reading and grading to India. Now we admit that India was under the British Raj for 300 years and many in India speak English. However good writing needs nurturing not “outsourcing.” Good writing and high educational standards are the job of the student under the close scrutiny of a good teacher, not a provider on the Internet. Will Fitzhugh, Publisher of the Concord Review knows good writing, and how to get students to rise to the challenge. He will share the secret at our “Dare to Think” Conference on November 4th & 5th. Click on The Report Card home page for more information and reservations).
The Idaho Virtual Charter Academy outsourced the scoring of student essays to India, according to local reports. The company involved, K12, has been criticized for its business practices and its poor academic results; its bottom line is cost-cutting, not academic quality. Its virtual schools typically have high student turnover, low test scores, and low graduation rates, yet the corporation is profitable because it continues to lure students with a promise of a “customized,” “individualized,” “personalized” education.
One of the most important responsibilities of teachers is to give tests and grade them, to know what their students know and don’t know, and to help students who need extra help. Having the essays scored in India removes that function from teachers and places it in the hands of readers who may not understand American idioms or cultural references.
Jonathan Reider, Ph.D.Director of College Counseling San Francisco University High School writes about The Concord Review’s influence on excellent writing:
“…In the humanities the pickings are quite thin. But we are encouraged by two programs: The Concord Review and the National Writing Board. The Concord Review [founded in 1987] has published 1,077 high school research papers in history [from 46 states and 38 other countries] in 94 issues, on a quarterly basis. The papers are 16-24 pages long [average 6,000 words, with endnotes and bibliography] and they demonstrate extensive research and writing skills. They are chosen rigorously, following high academic standards. Even submitting an essay, to say nothing of having one published, is evidence of serious scholarly achievement.
The National Writing Board [founded in 1998] provides a unique independent assessment of serious student research papers, and submits its three-page reports to colleges at the request of the author. Thirty-nine colleges, both research universities and liberal arts colleges, have stated their willingness to accept these evaluations. This is an excellent tool for colleges to add to their array of evaluative techniques. While some colleges ask for a graded paper of the student’s work, few have the time or the expertise to evaluate these systematically as part of an application for admission. It is more efficient if these are evaluated by an independent and reliable source.
Both of these services evaluate serious academic work undertaken as a part of the student’s high school curriculum. It is comparable to the kinds of tasks college faculty set for their own students. Thus there is greater “fit” between the material being evaluated and the future education of these students than exists for the other conventional measures. If we can encourage colleges and students to use these programs more widely, perhaps we can balance the frenzy of noneducational (or even anti-educational) activity by high school students with more substantial intellectual work in the humanities.” [www.tcr.org/blog]