Saturday, June 1, 2013

How do we know what children are learning?

Last month I rambled on about my distaste for standardized testing and how they seem to be the eventual outcome of any set of educational standards like the Common Core. My suggestion was a much more authentic assessment process that relied upon and trusted schools to do the heavy lifting of evaluating student learning. Chapter 9 from A Year at Mission Hill, one in a fantastic 10 part series, is a powerful glimpse inside such a process. Clearly this is not a quick and easy solution but it is one that our schools and students deserve. It will take more (and smarter) funding to allow for planning and conference time and it will require skilled teacher facilitators and leaders but the difference this kind of narrative feedback along with the opportunity to revise based on reflection is a stunning alternative to the culture created by high stakes testing. The communication and collaboration skills necessary to have this discussion won't show up on a standardized test. Neither will the data show the relationship and sense of community and a host of other vital skills our students will need to be evolving learners facing an uncertain and increasingly fast paced future. Backtracking to Chapter 8 we see students working together across disciplines and grade levels learning what adults are doing in "the real world" and learning how to ask them great questions. The excitement of the students is palpable as the bust open the box of books they helped create. This is the stuff of real teaching and learning. This is critical thinking and work that is meaningful. This is not preparing for a test and hoping to hit a benchmark in order to avoid a remediation class or worse. As mentioned toward the end of the first video (Chapter 9), this type of education is in constant danger in the current political climate so how do we advance the conversation so that all students get this kind of educational experience?