Posts Tagged ‘ Testing ’

The Trouble with Education (Part One)

Why do we make K-12 education a timed test? In the industrial age when we had to sort the college-bound management material from the trade schoolers, I suppose this was as good a method as any. Those that were “quick” and/or “bright” were identified and eventually sent off to college. It was assumed that those headed to manual labor did not need all that was being taught, since they were to become human machinery (typists, mechanics, plumbers, etc.). The “sort” that the timed test accomplished was about right – 15/85.

Not so today. Sorting the college-bound students from the trades is no longer necessary, nor is the proportion of the “sort” correct.  We need far less human machinery, and far more critical thinkers. (I have heard estimates of the need for college graduates as high as 70/30.) Failure to learn is now the problem, not failure to learn quickly.

When  we measure success as the ability to learn within an annual or semi-annual testing timeframe, we miss the point, All students must learn the material, if we want them to succeed. And most can, just not within our arbitrary number of school days allotted before the test.

And another thing…

(Stay tuned for Part Two)

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Creating value or reducing costs?

In a recent article in the Business Insider, Editor Henry Blodget says that business obsession with short-term profits has led to the view that employees are costs, rather than value creators. http://www.businessinsider.com/business-and-the-economy-2013-7 Many of us who have participated in the annual school district budget reduction discussions are surely guilty of the same sin. Aren’t the short-term profits in education the annual test results? Don’t we at least consider applying more of our resources to those “costs” that provide higher short-term profits (better results) in lieu of those that might provide better long-term value (student success)?

If your district vision and mission statements call for long-term success for your students (career and college readiness), shouldn’t your resources be applied to value creation and not short-term profits? How are you measuring long-term student success?

The Measurement of (Future) Success

I have just finished reading Moneyball. It is the story of how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, developed a winning team within the constraints of a minimal operating budget. He did it by re-thinking the institutionalized measurements of a player’s value and potential that had been used by major league baseball since the game was invented and a Brit named Henry Chadwick developed the record-keeping format. I believe this has implications for 21st century education.

While developing the 2014 strategic plan for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, I was amazed to find that our sole measure of the success of our schools was the scores of the state tests – basically three at elementary school and five in secondary school. Parents, educators, and elected officials used this statistic to determine which schools were “the best”.

  1. How do we know that these specific measurements lead to success for students?
  2. These measures only cover a third of the subjects. What does that imply about the other two-thirds?
  3. How is the ability to memorize facts and formulas a 21st century skill? (Common core may cure some of this one.)

If we are to measure what matters for students to be successful in the future, what is it that we need to measure and how do we make sure students receive it as part of their education?

I would be interested to hear about what in your formal and informal education has made it possible for you to be successful.