The national conversation around education outcomes is finally shifting. The standardized testing movement powered by NCLB has been around long enough to produce a significant body of longitudinal data. This data has resulted in a number of reports that are evaluating the movement’s impact (see Matt’s blog). And guess what? The common sense things teacher have known all along and have been trying to tell us are finally validated by the data.
Accountability through standardized testing doesn’t produce long-term success for students – surprise. Kids are not widgets and education should not be an assembly line.
One of my students shared his insight on this topic at a large national conference a few years ago. He explained that standardized testing just produces better test takers – it doesn’t produce critical thinking skills. He went on to explain that testing doesn’t cultivate our creativity or all the wonderful things our minds are capable of. And quite often, especially in urban schools, it produces the opposite effect. As educators we constantly hear, “Why do I need to learn this?” and “These tests are stupid.” The further school gets from real life, the more distrust it produces for the whole education process.
Our friends at Project Foundry have a wonderful slogan, “The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones: cultivate creative, confident, innovative, entrepreneurial, passionate, motivated learners.”
Isn’t that what we all want?
I’m not sure of much at 42 years old (I miss the days of being 22 and having it all figured out). However there are few things I have learned in the past 20 years. One of them is that we will never cultivate those types of learners in desks, in rows, in 45-minute chunks of time. If we want creative, innovative, passionate learners, we need our schools to be those things as well.