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Submitted by Mohamad Sbeiti on
I have been working for two years on an education development program for a private school in lebanon. the school is located in the poor suburbs of lebanon. the project aimed to enhance the quality of education, among other non educational goals such as improving the processes and procedures of education supervision, restructuring the school organization...etc During the course of my work, I came upon a case where one parent complained about a reading and comprehension exam. she said that this exam is above the level of her kids class. We investigated her claim and found that the teacher used to rehearse her students on the answers before the exam date through hinting to them the answers. The students would then memorize the answers and reiterate them during the exam. We found that all students were not actually reading, they were merely trying the figure out during the exam where to place their pieces of memory on the answer sheet. If the teacher changes the sequence of questions or change some key words, the kids will be totally lost and score less. we also found that high perfroming kids are masters at this game. they, with the help of their parents and under their instructions, rehearse better at home. The biggest challenge facing the school is how to minimize the drop out rate of students. Students were dropping out for many reasons such as, dysfunctional families, low income and poor academic performance. As the school has no influence over the external environment, the school decided to focus on motivating poor performing students. the reading and comprehension exam episode openned the eyes to the fact that it is impossible to test kids in lower elementary for the acquired skills. skills are slow to develop and they might not appear until later stages on ones life such as the case of the Heckman's study. As a result, we changed the evaluation system for the elementary stage. we made it more flexible and more subjective to the teachers personal judgement, since the teacher is in direct contact with the students and more knowledgable about their cognitive and non-cognitive performance. regular testing methods are not very reliable; that teacher tried to outsmart the testing limitation to improve her results since the school administration and most parents care about grades. Parents use the grades to measure the return on their investment in their kids education, even in elementary school due to their limited access to money. We stressed less on exams and more on teaching in class. Also, we changed the report card to become more readable by kids themselves. the main goal of the new evaluation system is to reward effort and motivate the students to study rather than demotivate them with low grades on skills they didnt acquire yet.