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· Is ‘fear of failure’ a bad thing for students, teachers, or schools?

By POLLY CURTIS [Guardian] – France’s decline in the international rankings has focused minds. A book by the Paris-based British academic Peter Gumbel published last year titled On achève bien les écoliers? (They shoot schoolchildren, don’t they?) sharpened attention further. In it he argued that the education system was systematically undermining children’s confidence.

“By every international comparison kids here have a low level of self-confidence and lack of self-esteem and fear of failure and no fun at school,” he says. “Even people who have done well have a nasty butterfly feeling in their stomach when they think of school.”

A disconnect between the traditional academic education system and the diverse needs of the pupils it caters for is increasingly recognised. The grading system has been reformed in primary schools to make it more diagnostic than a simple mark out of 20, although many teachers have continued the old system anyway. The government is experimenting with introducing more arts and cultural activities in schools. There are moves to give headteachers more freedom over the curriculum.

Luc Chatel, the education minister, has also acknowledged that the long schools days are outdated, saying schools “are still revolving around late 19th century lifestyles which are no longer relevant”.

But in France, as in England, education is tightly bound to political ideologies that can hamper change.

Continued at The Guardian.

…while 8 of 10 American schools are failing.

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO [AP/Huffington Post] – The [U.S.] Department of Education estimates the percentage of schools not meeting yearly targets for their students’ proficiency in in math and reading could jump from 37 to 82 percent as states raise standards in attempts to satisfy the law’s mandates…

“We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk,” Duncan said.

Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute, said some states and districts have dug themselves into a hole by expected greater gains in the final years.

“The reality is coming home that you can’t essentially demonstrate very little progress for ten years and then expect all of your progress to occur in the last two or three years,” Whitehurst said.

He said some states believed improvement would accelerate as students advanced, creating a “snowball effect,” while others put off the heavy lifting to avoid the consequences.

Continued at the Huffington Post | More Chronicle & Notices.

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