#Oklaed: We Have To Stop Pretending

Make Schools Different

What fun is having an education blog without a few gauntlets being thrown around?

Dr. Scott McLeod, Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency in Iowa and blogger at Dangerously Irrelevant, started a social media meme yesterday morning with the hashtag #makeschoolsdifferent, in which he asked education thought-leaders to discuss what schools ought to stop pretending.

I have had a few thoughts on this subject rolling around in my head, but had no intention of jumping into the middle of this until Dr. Wesley Fryer, elementary STEM teacher in Yukon Public Schools, author and blogger at Moving at the Speed of Creativity, tagged me last night on Twitter:

I didn't have the energy to organize my brain cells enough to formulate a coherent answer last night, so I decided to sleep on this one. We're getting started with testing this week, and my students are already ready to be done. I feel their pain.

In Oklahoma schools, we need to stop pretending that:

  1. High Stakes Testing scores mean anything more than how much effort a student put into taking one test on one day. We know that the most important things students learn are not even tested, yet teachers across the state are still being told to track scores, display data walls, and herd students through computer labs for a month.
  2. Schools are failingNOT! Schools, particularly in poverty-stricken areas, are the last bastion holding together communities that have been devastated by drugs, crime, damaged families. Labeling schools — and ultimately students — as failures is doing more irreparable damage than we can possible know in just this generation. We'll see the true effects of this false narrative when our grandchildren, and their children are in school — or not.
  3. Holding communities, schools, administrators, and teachers responsible for student performance will result in giant school improvements. This is a classic case of misplaced accountability, and has resulted in wide-spread scandals. Only students can be truly responsible for the quality of their class work and the scores on their tests, and their teachers only responsible for the pedagogy and professionalism they have put forth in the classroom. Teachers should be evaluated on a qualitative basis as well as students. Students are not going to see the importance of school until they are directly impacted by their choices.
  4. Students see the value in the assessments, courses, and assignments we set before them. Until we can offer students course selections that align with their interests (instead of herding un-engaged students into electives they have no interest in), those students will continue to languish in school, and in many cases, learn to believe that they are not talented, unintelligent, and have nothing to offer. This is NOT true!
  5. That twice weekly grades mean anything more than how much effort a student puts into a particular assignment on that particular day. What a student doesn't understand on Monday may become crystal clear three weeks later when that particular teaching connects with something else. Should he still be docked for that previous assignment? Not to mention, are students putting any stock in the grades themselves, or are they doing just enough to get whatever letter grade their families will accept? Or, in some cases, students have already decided grades are meaningless and are doing nothing. School should be about the “engagement in the learning process and the artifacts of learning.”
  6. That students can (or even should) all be molded into a one-size-fits-all standardized box, stuffed into a classroom of 20-30 kids and forced to learn something on a rigid time-table. We should consider the Finnish model of education that provides more breaks for our students — and their teachers.

I'd like pass the gauntlet on to the following #oklaed leaders:

 

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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