Thursday, January 31, 2008

[TIPS] Stop learning science! Study for that test!

That article was mentioned in today's ASCD Brief. It talks about one school that is scrapping fully seven weeks of the usual science study to focus on reviewing for the FCAT test. How sad is that?

As the one administrator says, it's not what they WANT to do but that test is their reality. Score low on that test and it costs you money - and a WHOLE lot of time for a whole lot of people.

I mentioned this to some teachers yesterday when referring to our state's 21st Century Teaching and Learning program which is part of the Classrooms for the Future program. Bottom line - if it comes down to teaching content while honing collaboration skills, or creative expression, or authentic assessments, etc - all at the expense of NCLB considerations, then it's  no contest. The NCLB HAS to win. It IS their reality - much as we might disagree with it.

But, it ISN'T a mutually exclusive proposition. One can still teach the content while using current tools and teaching collaboration and teamwork, etc. And, I think that it might be good for us to remember the line from Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind" which says, "When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, they become less valuable." The reason is, of course, that ANYBODY with an internet connection can locate and recite those facts. What does THAT mean to anyone? Will Richardson and others have spoken about this before, too. Why teach the state capitals when the students could find those using their cell phone browsers? It's the valuable person who can make the connections between those capitals and their history and who can then tell why the state may always vote a particular way, or what role geography played in the decision to put the capital there, etc. Yet, until we find a way to test that, we'll test the student's ability to recall our facts. It's just the way it is, I suppose.

So, while we can all stand by and condemn that school for its decision to scrap the new content in favor of reviewing for the test, we all know WHY they're doing that. Let's just hope that they are also spending the time and resources to train their staff on how to COMBINE the teaching of the facts with the ability to use the tools which will get them a LOT farther along in their life's goals than the recollection of those facts will.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Gareth Long said...

Interesting post - this problem is universal from the UK to the Cayman Islands where I currently work. Each is trying to transform their education systems.

The everyday challenge that you identify has to be addressed head on - currently we are actively disadvantaging students in not developing the skills they want to develop that are relevant and needed in favour of the acqusition of somewhat dubiously relevent content.