Saturday, December 17, 2011

Remaking Education?

An article is below that captures the thoughts of the Ohio Superintendent For Public Instruction on college and career readiness.

My major concern is that while on the surface he talks about 21st century learning, students going deeper with the curriculum, improved rigor, etc., his remedy for our educational 'woes' will not measure these 'solution' skills.

In Ohio, not only are we going with PARCC to assess (in a standardized way) the common core, but there is also a push for standardized end of course exams and standardized assessments at two points in time for all courses in order to measure teacher effectiveness.

Isn't this over-reliance on standardized tests and the narrowing of the curriculum what the common core and the focus on 21st Century skills were supposed to get away from?

From my vantage point, it looks like we are heading for a huge spike in standardize tests, not less.

And, if you think that teachers will embrace the types of creative reforms meant to produce flexible, creative, authentic thinkers (the kind that can't be outsourced by a computer if you are a Dan Pink fan) given this new onslaught of testing, I'd think again.

In Ohio current law mandates that 50% of a teacher's evaluation be tied to measures of student growth by the 2013 - 2014 school year. In this economy, if your job is on the line, what do you think is going to happen? More teaching to the test, more top down instruction, less creativity, fewer opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery in unique and creative ways (21st Century), more student disengagement than ever.

At some point this tension between the authentic, immersive, engaged world that students live in outside of school and the authoritarian, standards driven, narrow approach that schools take in the name of proving mastery is going to have to come to a head.

We can not continue to talk about promoting digitally proficient, flexible, creative students while measuring them in ways that do not promote these values.

If traditional brick and mortar institutions continue to keep the current head in the sand approach, competition from electronic providers who understand how to leverage the world of our digitally native students will threaten to overwhelm the traditional system.

A middle of the road solution would be to require a portable electronic portfolio, tied to the common core, that would contain specific requirements (with flexible options) to demonstrate mastery of content at each grade level. By the time students reach 12th grade, this portfolio would serve as a rich senior capstone experience that demonstrates growth over time and authentically measures students strengths. While there would expenses on the front end in terms of planning and implementation, this would allow teachers to embrace the types of authentic, non-linear practices that our students need to thrive in an age where "learn-unlearn-relearn" must be the focus in our hyper-speed global economy.

None of the above can happen if standardization is the only focus.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate that you point this out: "We can not continue to talk about promoting digitally proficient, flexible, creative students while measuring them in ways that do not promote these values."

    We want our students to go beyond the problems we set in front of them, but we set the problems and want them solved. We want them to think critically, but we give them few options to do so. When our assessments don't align with our expectations, we aren't assessing the right things.

    I feel somewhat optimistic about the direction of education, though, in that I have to believe the Age of Standardized Assessments will eventually end because it's a politician (not educator) driven method of accountability. It's not educationally sound practice. But what is educationally sound is the move toward looking at students as individuals in the classroom. As a result of heightened accountability, I feel as though educators are becoming more aware of students as individuals with individual needs. That, to me, is a positive outcome of what is happening right now in education. However, seeing them as individuals and testing them as groups is counterproductive.