Our Mascots

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Children shall lead us

It seems the grown ups are willing to roll over and keep doing more and more standardized testing.   Fortunately some students are starting to "opt out" of the standardized testing.  They are simply refusing to take the tests.   In some schools in Seattle teachers are refusing to cooperate as well.
A parent recently told me that of all the professions he knows, education is the only one that can't seem to make up its mind about how to educate students.
The fact is we DO know what to do.   The basics are fairly simple.   The bad news is that educators do not take the leadership.
First of all, good teaching is measurable, but not by test scores.   Good teaching is measured by looking at student faces during a lesson.   Are they on the teacher and do they look like they are invested.  Good teaching is measured by looking at the teaching activity.  Is it hands on?   Are different students learning in different ways?  Are some kids reading?   Are some doing something with their hands?  Are others on the computer or listening to some audio input.   Is the content itself varied to meet the needs of the kids.
Secondly, learning can be measured without standardized tests and standardized tests don't measure learning.   Different students need to learn different things.   No everyone needs to go to college.   Birds do not need to learn to climb trees, they can fly to the top.  Algebra II is a good skill for those people going into science or math based careers.   The rest of us don't need it so why torture those kids with failure.  Students with mechanical ability should have the chance for learning mechanical and/or engineering skills.   Kids with language abilities should be working on foreign languages and verbal and writing skills.   We make fun of the European system where kids are sorted out into different programs at the start of high school.   They may be on to something.  Of course we need to make sure that lack of opportunity does not consign someone to a non-college program, but we also need to make sure that not all upper socio-economic kids are forced into college.  Students need to learn to problem solve so they can address the issues that are not even here yet.  Knowledge is static, becomes outdated. Problem solving is dynamic and adjusts to the situations at hand.
Thirdly, everyone needs to learn the soft skills of working.   How to respond to supervision, when to ask questions, the importance of showing up and doing a full day's work for a full day's pay.   Everyone, even college bound kids, need to know personal economics so not so many people are overwhelmingly in debt.
A better educational system does not mean more testing and more grading of kids and teachers.  A better educational system means educating students for the world of problem solving and the mundane world of keeping a job and managing one's life.