Teach students to care about others instead of measuring how they compare to each other

If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. ~ Atticus Finch, ( Gregory Peck) “To Kill A Mockingbird”

1901328_729114717120360_2018586821_n

Whether its hundreds of spring break bystanders watching and recording a daylight sexual assault of an unconscious woman, or middle school students using a cell phone to video the merciless verbal abuse and taunting of a 68 year old bus monitor, or even a depressed and desperate German co-pilot who decides to include a plane load of people in his suicide plans, there clearly is an empathy deficit and crisis in our world today.

Ed reformers must have experienced a serious case of buyer’s remorse after recruiting David Colemen ( the anti-Atticus Finch) to design and craft the Common Core State Standards only to hear him proclaim

“As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a s#@% about what you feel or what you think”

We are foolishly implementing national education reforms obsessed with measuring how students compare to each other at a time when schools should be doubling their efforts to maximize our students ability and inclination to care about others.

dewey

There appears to have been a data-driven hijacking of the Common Core Standards. The use of standardized tests to assess student mastery devalues the most vibrant components of the standards and abandons the “promise” of constructivist learning.

Standardized  tests measure only specialized and discrete skills called for in the Commmon Core but they are not a comprehensive ruler or appropriate metric for measuring student agency and a wide array of essential non-cognitive skills.

What if the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests were designed and developed more for teacher accountability purposes than to reliably measure students skills?

PARCC has already acknowledged that their test is not a comprehensive or reliable measure of college and career readiness.

Using junk science VAM formulas, education leaders claim they can use student scores on these unreliable assessments to reliably measure the quality and effectiveness of their teachers.

11149338_960538727311290_1139486648240372160_n

Have education reformers even considered the possibility that a “highly effective” educator who prepares and trains students to master a standardized test may not be a good teacher?

The unfortunate decision to use standardized tests to evaluate student mastery AND teacher quality means classroom instruction is focused primarily on rigorous and standardized lessons that prepare students for assessments at a time when many would be better served by vigorous and nonroutine experiences helping them learn how to properly manage their attitutes, behaviors, and emotions.

We are devoting too much class time training and testing children just so parents can be assured their 3rd graders are “on track” for college when there is no way the Common Core Standards and tests can prevent or predict which students will be “derailed” by cyberbullying, pregnancy, eating disorders, depression, drug abuse, abusive relationship, poverty, texting and driving, homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, sexual abuse, drinking and driving…

It is unwise to focus so much instructional time on students staying closely connected to text when many of them lack the ability to socially and emotionally connect with people.

Students should be spending less time in the classroom dissecting the craft and structure of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches and much more time volunteering in their communities as they honor and apply his powerful ideas about empathy, service, and justice.

When you think about all the rating, ranking, and sorting of students and teachers that is demanded by the Common Core, can’t help but wonder if so much emphasis on student proficiency, data-driven instruction, and standardized testing unintentionally suppresses academic, social, and emotional growth and actually diminishes readiness?

Education reform should be about CULTIVATING changemakers, good decision makers, and healthy risk takers rather than TRAINING text dependent thinkers and proficient multiple choice test takers.

In our efforts to ensure all students are college and career ready we must not forget the importance of preparing citizens that are courage and compassion ready.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

~ Winston Churchill

“Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.”

~ Doe Zantamata, “Measuring Up.”

doe

Schooling should help children DISCOVER their own unique talents, not “standardize” them.

Image

Grading teachers based on when their students acquire and master a specific set of skills, is like grading parents based on when their children learn to tie their shoes or ride a bike.

While, most people can learn to ride a bicycle, not everyone has the innate ability, determination, and desire to become a BMX racer.

When it comes to acquiring new skills, the level of proficiency a student achieves and the speed at which that occurs, depends on a variety of factors including; type of instruction, how often they independently practice and use the skill, parental involvement, student engagement, and most importantly, cognitive ability and disability.

The Common Core State Standards are specific “goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students need in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level.”

Every student is expected to meet these standards or “targets” on schedule, and regardless of each student’s cognitive ability or disability.

All high school students will not be able to pass a Calculus class, just as not every student will be reading on grade level at the end of each school year. Testing students repeatedly does not improve their skills or change their abilities and disabilities.

A Standardized test score does not explain why a student performed at a particular skill level and cannot predict how they will perform in the future, or even when they will acquire and master a particular skill.

The rate of speed at which each student acquires new skills will most certainly change from year to year and it is speculative at best to determine the “college readiness” of an elementary student based on a data point.

There are many factors that impact student achievement from year to year, and a standardized test score cannot predict which child will be bullied, experience divorce, a death in the family, experience depression, unemployment, become homeless, develop an eating disorder, abuse drugs, join a gang, run away from home etc.

Despite it’s constructivist “promise”, the standardized testing regime of the Common Core forces teachers and students to focus on a predetermined and narrow set of measurable skills.

Unfortunately, the Common Core is more concerned with telling students what “college readiness” skills they have yet to master at each grade level, rather than helping every student to discover his or her own unique talents and unleashing the athletic, artistic, musical, creative, emotional, inventive, social, scientific, and vocational skills they do possess.

europ