Education Isn't About Mastery, But About Learning


I have a very liberal view of education. I know many kids who have done
very well being home schooled, attending private schools, charter
schools, and public school. No two children learn the same way. so it's
wonderful that there are so many types of education available to find a
good match for our kids. As long as a parents do their homework and
keep the process child-focused, kids can do very well in non-public
school settings.

Where I start to scratch my head is when people
who are not educators begin schools of their own because they are
skeptics or because they have money. Some celebrities fall into this
category. When I read that Jada Pinkett Smith had started a school of
her own for prek to 6th grade after home schooling her children,
initially it wasn't something that seemed to misguided. Many
celebrities have to tutor or find alternative ways to teach their kids
due to scheduling and travel issues.

I was open minded, however, until I read this on the Huffington Post:

Smith said the school stresses "100 percent mastery," encouraging
students to retake exams until they score 100 percent...."

mastery for elementary school students? Had Pinkett Smith done her
homework and consulted educators in the public and private sector, she
would have learned that her school's approach is, well, so yesterday.
Today's view is that test scores don't give a full picture of a child.
Today's view is that we don't want a child to every define him or her
self by a grade or a test score. Why? Because kids have many, many
different learning styles with different strengths and weaknesses, with
test taking skills being a skill mastered by some but not by all.

Recently, the Augusta Chronicle published a letter to the editor from a language arts teacher that embodies what education really should be for our kids:

Governor's Office of Student Achievement is concerned that scores from
the end-of-course tests are not commensurate with students' grades at
school. For many who work with students, that finding is not

Those of us who have had experience with children
as parents teachers or counselors know that students are much more than
the sum of their tests. In a typical class, student assessments consist
of a variety of projects, essays, speeches and discussions, as well as
the traditional paper-and-pen tests. Effective teachers work with
students in a multitude of ways to ensure their success in the
classroom. To determine a child's overall competence in a class based
solely on test scores would be ludicrous and inaccurate."

author goes on to blame the "No Child Left Behind Act" for schools over
emphasizing standardized testing at the expense of how the education
system should really function for students and teachers. I completely
agree and have seen this first hand in my kids' school. But, I've also
seen savvy teachers work hard to remind all of us that the
standardized, State-mandated test scores are not the litmus for success
in our children. Neither the schools nor the parents in our town feel
those tests tell us much about our kids. Scores and grades don't define
a child. Their achievements in every other way do.

If Pinkett
Smith really wants to give her kids an education worth the top dollar
we all know she is paying, she'd be wise to consult a few more
educators and do away with the philosophy of mastery which sets a bar
so high that it is unachievable for even the most savvy and adept of
students. That's an unfair goal for grownups, let alone developing


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