What do we really want for our kids? What do they really need? According to some arguably brilliant people (Tony Wagner, for instance, or Yong Zhao … just to name a couple), our students need to become autonomous, imaginative, confident, articulate, creative, passionate, collaborative, innovative, critical-thinking, problem-solving individuals who participate fully as effective, productive, happy, fulfilled, global citizens.
Sure, our students need to learn the hard skills of Literacy and Mathematics, and they need to understand certain Social and Scientific concepts – these are often prerequisites to all of the above. But to get at the OUTCOMES we really want, ask why a student needs to “learn and be able to do” any of the standards (either Maine Learning Results OR Common Core Standards)… Seriously – choose a standard … any one of them – in any content area … and then ask WHY the students need to know or be able to do this. The answer is going to lead you directly to the ultimate outcomes we’re hoping to achieve – that our students will become responsible, involved citizens; effective communicators; creative problem-solvers; critical thinkers; collaborative, compelling, curious, innovative folks who care for others and who receive care in return. (These are not frivolous, soft aspirations for our students, by the way – these are necessary capacities for competing successfully in a global and swiftly-changing economy).
Some wonderful standardized test-takers have gone on to become fairly ineffective citizens. And some of the most astounding innovations, the most profound acts of kindness, the most heroic sacrifices, the sweetest victories, the best music, the finest art, and so many other superlative feats have been accomplished by unremarkable standardized test-takers.
We might want to rethink a system wherein schools are forced to squander considerable fiscal resources, time, and energy on standardized testing (and on teaching to those tests).
What matters most cannot always be quantified.
Think about the child you love most in your life – what do you want for that kid? How should this be measured?
At lunch yesterday, I was encouraging our students to attend the upcoming public forum for recommending different ways to assess students, teachers, administrators, schools … one of the students, who participates in our culinary arts / local lunch service project came up with this observation:
“I’m a cook. The world needs people who know how to make good soup from local ingredients … the world doesn’t really need great test-takers.”