Unfortunately, in the 21st century education reform has equated to measuring a school’s ability to produce good test takers. But think about it. In real life there are few if any tests to be taken. More than a decade into the 21st century and I have yet to take a test and I don’t envision any being in my future either. How did we get to a point in America where we’re measuring schools by their success in forcing students to waste their time being good at something few will ever need to do in real life? Could it be that this meaningless time waster is doing exactly what it was designed to do?
- Line the pockets of testing companies and publishers who are good at following the money, but know this does little to prepare students for success.
- Produce compliant young consumers who are good at believing, memorizing, and regurgitating what they are told without questioning authority.
For some it is hard to imagine anything different or better. There are tools however, like Personal Success Plans or Project Foundry that help schools provide a personalized, learner-centered approach that tracks performance-based assessment and values real world skills. There are also tools like OurLearningfolio that help home learners and their families do this. What these tools do is help learners identify their passions and interests and help them engage in real-world, authentic activities to develop them while also providing a framework for measuring success. Completion of an activity doesn’t simply result in a letter grade. Instead it becomes part of an authentic online portfolio that can be used to attain academic or career goals.
Rather than demanding schools produce good test takers, parents and their children should support schools in moving from being memorization and regurgitation machines and moving toward customizing learning in meaningful ways that produces personalized results that are valuable to individual learners.
Fortunately, there are schools that are moving in this direction. Here are some of them:
- The ‘Coolest school in America’
- High Tech High Chula Vista
- Northwest Passage High School
- Maine Virtual PBL School
- Wildlands School
- The Sustainable Workshop School (founded by Simon Hauger)
- EdVisions Off-campus (Director Gigi Dobosenski interviewed by Brian Williams during the 2011 Education Nation Forum part 2 at approx. 30 mins.)
- West Hawaii Exploration Academy
Providing students with a say in how and what they are learning should be a right, not a privilege. While the video shows a model that is a vast improvement over traditional school, I’d like to see more authenticity. Rather than present to a class, present to the real audience. Rather than having the teacher provide assessment, have a real-world expert do so. I’d also suggest the student website be created outside the school learning management system. This should be owned by the student created on a platform of their choosing that can stay with them for life.
How are you helping your school move from an environment of preparing students for life long success rather than long bubble tests? Project Foundry, Personal Success Plans, and authentic portfolios are the type of tools that can help schools move in the right direction.