Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mind Set

This post piggybacks on my last, which I had hoped would have drawn more comments. We are very appreciative of the two insights we did receive. We welcome more. It also draws from other blog posts which come courtesy of Will Richardson and his blog "Weblogg-ed."
A friend and colleague of mine called my attention to the first of two Richardson posts I want to reference in this one. It was Richardson's "Quote of the Month," and it resonated with me because of my own reflections on my effectiveness as an educator. Richardson pulled the quote from Education Week's article called "Bridging Differences."
The subtitle for this letter of response is "Test Scores and Reinforcing the Wrong Connections."

The writer is Deborah Meier:
"As long as we use test scores as our primary evidence for being poorly educated we reinforce the connection—and the bad teaching to which it leads. If by some course of action we could get everyone's score the same—even by cheating—I’d be for it, so we could get on to discussing the interactions that matter in classrooms and schools: between “I, Thou, and It.” I’ve spent 45 years trying, unsuccessfully, to shift the discussion to schools as sites for learning. Such a “conversation” might not produce economic miracles, but it would over time connect schooling to the kind of learning that can protect both democracy and our economy. Because that’s where schools are (or are not) powerful."

BTW - I'm not proposing or supporting cheating. Those are Meier's words.

Richardson followed on May 6 by blogging in "Wanted: School Chief Learning Officer" that he had recently asked a school superintendent - "What percentage of the teachers at your school do a good job of preparing kids to take meet the requirements, pass the tests, and get prepared for college, and what percentage do a good job of teaching them how to learn?"
The response he received was - “I think 90 percent of my staff is really good at delivering the goods, but only about 10 percent really get student centered, inquiry driven, lifelong learning.”
I would have hoped for the inverse, but Richardson's point was, "how much more we could do in emphasizing the process of learning as well, not just for students, but for everyone in the school."

At this time of year we play the numbers game with standardized testing - the preparing for and administering of it. And I'll reiterate that accountability is necessary and ultimately good. But I fear that we sometimes miss the point of it all when we struggle so hard to get our students to "earn" that number. If we let it all end with the formal test result have we truly prepared our students to be lifelong learners, and to think critically, creatively, or cooperatively? All educators have to answer that question for themselves.

As for me, I think it's the teaching between the testing that gets our students to that point of learning how to learn. That's how it connects with what we have started at our school with this Teach21 initiative. Most, if not all of the kinds of activities we have looked at, implemented, and planned for future use requires our students to think critically, creatively, cooperatively. And I believe it has started to connect our teachers as well. What we are doing requires a certain mind set. I see my role in all this should be to support, encourage, research, and collaborate with all my colleagues. That's where I hope my career is headed. To facilitate means to make easier.

Until our measures of accountability change we will continue to prepare our students for the test as best we can. Whatever the method, I just hope we look at what it really tells us, and keep it all in perspective. Teachers - value those moments of teaching between the testing. Students - good luck with the testing!
Photo by Sidereal via Flickr

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