Note: This post was written by an Ohio educator, who asked to remain anonymous.
"I have to study for a test," my grandson reported without enthusiasm.
"What's on the test?" I replied.
"I don't know. I think we’re in chapter 7."
"Well, do you have anything to study from? What is chapter 7 about?"
"I have no idea."
This exact conversation was repeated in my house many times over the course of my grandson's academic career. His teachers were caring, well-meaning individuals who worked hard to deliver standards-based lessons. And I am sure that those lessons were sufficiently effective with most children. However, my grandson is not like most kids. He has had more than 10 surgeries on his ears in his short lifetime. His eardrums are a mass of scar tissue. The bones in his ears have eroded to the point that they are barely touching to make vibrations, which are critical to effective hearing. My grandson will never learn primarily through listening to a teacher lecture. The whole-class lecture, test, and move-on format of instruction is not helpful for him.
Being a good-natured child, my grandson was well-liked by teachers. Many teachers weighted homework and gave enough extra credit that he could avoid failing classes. But we were concerned that he wasn't learning what he needed to know; he never seemed to have a clue what he was supposed to be studying for tests.
Enter FIP into the world. When my grandson entered 8th grade, we moved him to a different district. The striking impression we had upon first visiting the school was that every single staff member seemed to care about his learning. The school day was structured so that students had a "smart" period where they could receive extra help based on formative assessment data. Students could then re-take tests. Almost universally, the teachers gave surveys on learning style so that lessons could be geared to student needs.
The change at home was dramatic. My grandson came home from school with homework that he could choose to do. It was not busy work for the purpose of raising grades—in fact, the homework didn't count in the grade at all. My grandson was able to show us the sections of the homework that he needed to practice to prepare for an assessment. He knew exactly what to study for his tests. In fact, he could study and pass his tests without help in many cases. At first, my grandson relied on re-taking assessments instead of putting his best effort into studying for tests. However, by mid-year he had learned for himself that re-taking an assessment was more work, and so he put more effort into learning and studying prior to the tests.
From a parent (or in my case, grandparent) perspective, using FIP gives the impression that teachers care and will do whatever it takes to promote student learning. I don't think the teachers in "non-FIP" schools care less or work less, but family perception is very different when we know and understand that the school schedule and teachers' activities are focused on student learning and not just giving grades.