In response to a prior recommendation to read, “The Global Achievement Gap,” by Tony Wagner, another reader adds:
“The comment on the example of “not so good situations” mentioned in The Global Achievement Gap is a valid one. The book does address many good points. For example, Wagner discusses the idea that education must crawl out of the mundane, 50-year-old hole it has been drowning in and start preparing our students to meet the challenges of interacting successfully in a culturally diverse and globally connected world. Wagner’s book reinforces the fact that many educational institutions are producing learners that are unable to creatively problem solve, collaboratively interact in teams and with other cultures, be flexible and adaptive to change, become entrepreneurs, communicate effectively, and analyze information in order to make effective changes.
In many cases, educators spend exorbitant amounts of time with teaching in order to pass a high-stakes test instead of teaching the students to think and prepare them for the future. I look forward to changes in the ways that we assess our students’ knowledge to reflect application levels in solving real life problems.”
I want to respond to the slippery slope that the reader comments on in the last paragraph. Yes, we spend a lot of time focusing of high stakes tests, sometimes to the detriment of our students (mostly the poor and minority students). But that fact is more the fault of the teachers working in silos, than it is the fault of the test. High stakes tests should be viewed as program reviews. Did we teach the critical components of the curriculum, or not?
Now, if individual teachers are expected to decide what they should teach, when they should teach it, and how they should teach it; they have been assigned an impossible task. There is not enough time in the day to be an expert in all three of those instructional components (if you think you are, I’ll blind draw any four teachers, teach them how to work as a team, and in less than one semester, we’ll beat you so bad that you will either cry or quit).
If, on the other hand, teachers are provided with an evolving and aligned scope and sequence, short term data that reflects the quality of their craft, and the time and expectation that they work as a team; they can escape the endless remediation cycle. With tools, teams, coaching and leadership, teachers can teach huge numbers of students how to think critically and cover the significant curriculum requirements to the point where state tests just reaffirm that the campus is operating on all cylinders.
One final note, if your test scores are OK, and you aren’t using a common scope and sequence, short term data, and teacher teaming; there is a reason for your success. Nine times out of ten, you have a very small campus or serve an affluent zip code.
Think. Work. Achieve.