Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why School? Great question Will Richardson!

I am reading one of the best books ever - for a whopping $2.99. The book's title is Why School? by Will Richardson. I am not sure if it is the fact that he is a fellow New Jersey native or that there are so many similarities I find in common with him, ie- children who are school age and feeling responsible for fixing the broken system that I am a superintendent in. Honestly, I can't imagine how I will ever lead significant changes that are absolutely necessary and outlined in Richard's book while having the federal and state government oversight - and micro-management interfere with real change. One area I am extremely interested in is assessment. If we are to use authentic assessments to determine what students can and can't do - we will need to invest in the fact that it will be like stapling jello to a wall. Assessment is easy when we reduce it to a 'test' of narrow skills. It becomes increasingly difficult when we attempt to measure things like if students have learned to manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information. Below is an example from Why School that highlights the bizarre nature of things we assess in public education:

In the NY State Regents global history and geography test from 2011:

Which geographical feature impacted the development of the Gupta Empire?

Huh? Do any of you know what the heck the Gupta Empire even is? Without Googling. Thoughts so, but an entire generation of high school students in NY were deemed 'worthy' or not based on questions like that. Richards and I agree, we may be able to learn something from the Gupta Empire and the history - but answering that question - monsoons by the way - leaves us empty. There is simply no value in answering a question that can be answered by a quick Google search and then forgotten seconds after the test is over.

Rethink public education policy- stop using standardize test scores (from poor students) as a rallying cry for school reform. Get real, we must rethink the access we provide to all of our students and how we vision our schools.