This week, I have been watching online the NBC coverage of the “Education Nation” summit. It has been interesting to hear as various voices throughout the nation grapple with educational issues. Just like everybody else, I have some opinions when it comes to the state of our education in the United States. For me, I am concerned about the only measure of education being a number taken from a standardized test. I agree there should be accountability for teachers and students, but we need to find more ways to quantify learning than just relying on standardized test scores. I have three children who have a variety of abilities, personalities, and motivations for learning. I don’t reduce their educational worth to just the score on a particular test or assignment. Last week in my blog, I discussed learning styles and how this plays into teaching and learning. If we really grab a hold of this, it seems that a system based solely on numbers that are easy to obtain, limit the education of students at all levels and abilities.
I was heartened by some of the comments regarding new testing that is currently being developed that would be more than just a “fill in the bubble test.” I was also encouraged by individuals who spoke about robotics and other curriculum that will engage students with science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) curriculum. In my mind, I don’t see the connection between “teaching to the test” and the development of future scientists and engineers. I have worked for two years with an elementary Lego robotics club and standardized, scripted curriculum did not enter into the equation. I encouraged the students to explore, create and experiment as they built their robots and engaged in the missions. This last summer, I directed a math, technology and science camp that allowed the students to to do hands-on activities. The students who attended were enthusiastic and excited about learning. Many of them commented on how they missed this type of learning in their regular classrooms. I believe we have lost this enthusiasm and excitement in our current educational system and called it “reform.”
Another area that seems to be missing from the discussion was online learning. Like I said earlier, I have not listened to every single session, but I have not heard anything yet. I plan to continue to listen and I hope that parts of the “reform” revolve around providing students the ability to take classes online. These courses need to be of the highest quality by being relevant, rigorous, and accessible to all students. They need to encourage creativity and exploration. They need to address a variety of learning styles. They should not be easy and they should also be taught by well-prepared teachers. And … here it comes … student achievement in online courses should be assessed in multiple ways, not just “fill in the bubble” standardized tests.
So… I encourage you to take a moment and listen in to the ongoing conversation. I am only one voice and I would like to hear yours…