Click here and you will navigate to my weekly Scoop.it gazette on modern learning. Although I try to preserve the best stories of the week for the Sunday night edition to give educators and learners some food for thought on Monday mornings (It’s even the beginning of the semester for my school tomorrow–once more to the breach!), visitors can always find what I am curating these days through the menu link at the top of the blog. Click “Process of Living–Curated” and you will find out if I am keeping up with my homework.
–Pat Hunter, Principal of Maple Elementary, Seattle
This week the topics that struck me as worthy of sharing include the design of a classroomless Swedish school, explanations of Jacob Kounin‘s concept of teacher “withitness” (which I consider the essential classroom management strategy in the hybrid modern learning/traditional classroom environment many of us find ourselves in), some great 21st Century Learning infographics and a great article on “digital hygiene” by Douglas Rushkoff via Edutopia. But the issue that drew my keenest attention is the ongoing stalemate between Garfield High School teachers in Seattle and their superiors. The cause? The Garfield teachers have boycotted the MAP standardized tests mandated by the state of Washington. Teacher protests of standardized testing are relatively common, what makes this current protest different, however, is the wide-ranging support the teachers have received–including the local PTSA, the Seattle Student Senate and the usual suspects like Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol. This makes the protest precedent setting because it explodes the myth of disunity between parents, teachers, students and education activists and demonstrates that all stakeholders realize that the standardized testing craze, no matter the best of intentions, does not advance student learning.
And the boycott is spreading.
“We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress. We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom. Some of my colleagues would propose replacing the MAP with a test that is aligned to our curriculum.”
In a recent op-ed piece, Jesse Hagopian, the award-winning teacher, graduate of Garfield High and spokesperson for the boycott echoed the sentiment of professional teachers throughout all the parallel educational systems: None of us is against accountability or rigor, we just want assessments that reflect what we teach in the classroom and that mold our students into successful participants in our various communities. Hagopian’s and his peers stance also provides a rebuttal to a meme I encountered at the Innovate 2013 educator’s conference in São Paulo last week. The keynote speakers–largely from the business world–were convinced that only market pressures would lead to education reform. It’s redeeming to see that the common sense of the stakeholders under pressure still provides another source of momentum for transformation and for placing the pressure where it really belongs.
I shared Hagopian’s op-ed with the students in my International Studies course (tellingly, the class in which we focus on human rights…) and two quotes jumped out at them, garnering “likes” on Facebook:
“Our kids will need both traditional academic abilities and innovative critical-thinking skills to solve these real problems. If we inundate our students with standardized testing year-round, these larger lessons are lost.”
“Many others, myself included, believe that portfolios, which collect student work and demonstrate yearlong student growth, would be a good replacement for the MAP. Such assessments would be directly tied to our curriculum and would demonstrate improvement over time rather than a random snapshot of a student on one particular day.”
Our students are aware of what is best for them–and they are willing to buy in to our demands of them when they know their efforts and activities are in sync with preparing them for a future that will have very very little to do with the bulk of the testing to which they are subjected.
It’s a matter for reflection at the beginning of the week, the beginning of the semester or the beginning of the day that marks the start of the rest of your life. If so many of us realize that the iceberg is dead-ahead, that we don’t have enough lifeboats for the crew and the passengers and that the water is a hypothermia bath, why aren’t more of us rushing the wheelhouse to steer in a different direction? Why did we even board? Embark?
Boycott Image Credit: Seattle Education on WordPress