December 20, 2006 1 min read

Is “correctness” the only way to judge whether students are learning to write and to think? Teacher Talk’s Erica Jacobs argues that it shouldn’t be. She’s been in the classroom for 30 years, and says it’s true that, in this age of text messaging and IM, students seem to care less about commas and apostrophes. But:

Because we were taught that “correctness” was the most visible signal of a good education, we continue to impose that standard. Once we give up these preconceptions, we can measure the education of our youth more accurately.

Jacobs developed this viewpoint after working with learning-disabled students, for whom “correctness” of spelling, punctuation, and other grammar points wasn’t even on the radar. But these students were equally capable as their non-LD peers, she says, of thinking critically. So while Jacobs isn’t in favor of giving up on correctness, she does think it’s time to expand what counts as correct. She suggests one measure might be how critically students can question the information they receive:

They want the reassurance that there are answers out there in the world, but are intrigued by the notion that some questions do not have answers—or at least not easy ones...It’s time for society to ask better questions in assessing learning, to give up correctness as the standard, and to concede that maybe the old measure isn’t the only measure.

Seems like a worthwhile exercise to us.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Blogboard blog.