the business of school

On yesterday morning’s drive to the orthodontist, I heard an NPR report about how employee reviews are ineffective and unhelpful. Apparently, rankings and number ratings do not enhance performance or boost morale. In fact, they squelch creativity and passion. As a result, some businesses are attempting to move away from “systems driven by compliance” to “systems that are driven by meaningful conversations and with the employees’ benefit in mind.”

Right away my thoughts moved to schools. What are the parallels? If employee ratings are stupid (the interviewee’s words, not mine), then where does that leave the academic grading system?

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.28.13), the details, the quotidian (10.29.12),
under the grape arbor, and garden notes of 2009.


  • Eric Miller

    I remember being somewhere in grade school and realizing that one of the things they were trying to accomplish with schooling was to make us good machines for factory work. Buzzers, bells, lines, everything done by the group at the same time and being taught all the same way no matter what your learning style or your abilities. One of the biggest things I learned in grade school was how to goof off because there was very little challenge. By the time I got to high school, when I should have been applying myself, I enjoyed slacking too much. Your kids are lucky. While they might not learn all the little details they will acquire an ability to think for themselves that I too often see sadly lacking in some who have advanced degrees.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Those are actually my old ankle boots plus some chaps that someone gave (!) her. But she DOES have riding boots—a blog reader sent a pair!!!

  • Rebecca

    Oh! And I am absolutely going to show this picture to my son. He loves his horse and sees it, in part, as an accessory to his fantasy life. There have been lots of cowboys, knights and Civil War generals thundering across the vast plains. Or the back yard. He's been fighting the helmet because it doesn't fit the image.

  • Rebecca

    We are just everlastingly trying to get humans to function like machines. Tidy and efficient. I wonder when we'll finally give it up.

  • Margo

    I have thought for a long time that the academic grading system is stupid and unhelpful. I speak as a trained and experienced teacher, too. I used a portfolio assessment as often as I could, but I still had to translate that into a letter grade for the report cards. Our schools have become so factory minded, focused on efficiency and summing up a student or even an entire school in a number or a grade. Why do humans like these generalizations so much? And furthermore, I always talked to my students about the theory of multiple intelligences, to remind them that school grades focus on a very narrow set of skills and there is SO MUCH MORE to people.

  • Mama Pea

    Your beautiful daughter on her beautiful horse in her beautiful dress doesn't belong in the academic grading system. (The present school system is broken.) Your children are so, so fortunate being raised (and schooled) in the way you and your husband have chosen for them.

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