Thursday, October 27, 2011

Education reform... continued

As Valerie Strauss points out in the Washington Post today (via this Steve Karp commentary), corporate school 'reform' is all about testing/grading, control, and, ultimately, money.  These reforms, to repeat myself from the previous post, are teaching the exact opposite skills our children will need to succeed in the world in which they will live.

What skills do we need to be teaching?  I've talked about that previously, HERE and HERE... here's another good skill to add to those - (from Re:Focus)

"The greatest thing any parent or teacher can give a child is the support to solve their own problems. The goal is not to force a kid who struggles to work harder at being like everyone else. The goal is help a kid who struggles to find a workaround for the specific thing that’s holding them back. The skills our children learn to overcome adversity when they are young will become their talents when they are older. And it is these talents that will invent and build the products and companies that will help and inspire the rest of us when they’re older."

So, where do we start?  How about we start with doing away with grades?

From Alfie Kohn latest piece - The Case Against Grades:

"Indeed, research suggests that the common tendency of students to focus on grades doesn’t reflect an innate predilection or a “learning style” to be accommodated; rather, it’s due to having been led for years to work for grades.  In one study (Butler, 1992), some students were encouraged to think about how well they performed at a creative task while others were just invited to be imaginative.  Each student was then taken to a room that contained a pile of pictures that other people had drawn in response to the same instructions.  It also contained some information that told them how to figure out their “creativity score.” Sure enough, the children who were told to think about their performance now wanted to know how they had done relative to their peers; those who had been allowed to become immersed in the task were more interested in seeing what their peers had done.

Grades don’t prepare children for the “real world” -- unless one has in mind a world where interest in learning and quality of thinking are unimportant.  Nor are grades a necessary part of schooling, any more than paddling or taking extended dictation could be described that way.  Still, it takes courage to do right by kids in an era when the quantitative matters more than the qualitative, when meeting (someone else’s) standards counts for more than exploring ideas, and when anything “rigorous” is automatically assumed to be valuable.  We have to be willing to challenge the conventional wisdom, which in this case means asking not how to improve grades but how to jettison them once and for all."


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