Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What if?

This interview with Finnish Education Guru, Pasi Sahlberg, is very enlightening and started me asking what if...

Imagine an education system that is not driven by 'high stakes assessment' yet scores at the top of any 'national assessment'...

In Finland, the word accountability does not exist - yet they are very accountable to their students, parents, and country. Instead, they use the word 'responsible' - he explains that each educator is responsible for giving all students equal access to a high quality education. They value discovery, play, and the arts.

I wonder what education in NJ would look like if we did not have the NJASK or HSPA...if we were free to determine what the truly important learning experiences are for our students, and we were free to determine how we will measure success...if we could focus on allowing students more freedom to study topics they find interesting within a given subject, if we focused on asking big questions, if instead of a multiple choice or open response test - students could connect their own passions and interests to efforts to change local and global communities for the better, students could do real work for real audiences for real purposes, if we allowed technology in (and gave all students access), if we valued the connections that can be made through social media outlets and actually taught students how to use these tools for good, what if we valued innovation more than memorization...

What if...we simply could begin a conversation that outlines what we feel is truly important for students to learn rather than simply accepting the Common Core as the answer. Our students' needs and values are changing whether we want to admit it or not. In order to meet these needs, we need to ask big questions like "What is the purpose of schools in an era of abundance?"

I speak with teachers all the time and they would love to explore questions about the future but the overwhelming mandates from the DOE - new evaluation systems, new assessments, common core...extinguishes their excitement. What if we didn't let that happen? What if parents, students, and educators joined together to voice our concerns to the policy making machine? What if we were so loud they had to listen? I read today, that the Texas Legislature voted 145-2 to reduce high stakes testing. TEXAS

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