All Aboard the Standards Express! Marion Brady Note: Frame animation is complete when the blue arrow appears. Left-click the mouse (point anywhere) to advance to the next frame. Education Reform
Most people assume that content should be standardized. Long before there were state standards for school subjects, content was so standardized the same textbooks and corporately-produced tests could be sold nationwide. “ Content ” is education-speak for “what’s taught.”
For reasons not clear, the business leaders, politicians, and wealthy philanthropists now running the education show aren’t satisfied with the old level of standardization. They want every kid in America to study exactly the same content.
That extreme degree of standardization creates serious problems. To that end, they’re pressuring states to adopt “national standards.”
First problem: We’re in an information explosion. There’s only time to teach, maybe, about 0.00000001% of all there is to know. Who’s qualified to say what that 0.00000001% should be?
Second Problem: Every kid is different— … has different interests, abilities, potential, experience, assets, liabilities, needs. Forcing standard content on un-standardized, un-standardizable kids wastes intellectual potential and learner enthusiasm. Can America afford this loss?
2011 2012 2015 2020 2030 2060 … a future unlike the present and the past. Third Problem: The young will do their living in the future,… Who knows which content they’ll need in order to survive in that future? 2013
These three problems are being ignored. Standards and tests are being cranked out for the content of school subjects as if— <ul><li>Knowledge is static, </li></ul><ul><li>Kids identical, </li></ul><ul><li>The future predictable. </li></ul>2060
Because today’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems, the young will need content that’s not in any textbook (or anywhere else). They’ll have to generate it themselves. Big mistake. Very big mistake.
create, innovate, imagine alternatives . Your children’s and grandchildren’s survival will depend on their ability to
Creating new knowledge (content) is a basic skill, and traditional schooling isn’t developing it. Inescapable, hard conclusion: The young aren’t being equipped to survive.
To create new content, learners must examine, explore, inspect, investigate … … real-world experience.
… real world experience, e.g.: What waste does this school generate? Where does it go? Where will it be when you’re 60 years old?
… real world experience, e.g.: Make a map that shows (or describe in words) the main ways your neighbor-hood has changed in the last 50 years. What changes are likely in the next 20 years? Will your neighborhood be better or worse? Why? (Defend your conclusion.) Explain why the changes happened.
… real world experience, e.g.: Figure out how much it costs to get everyone to your school on an average day.
To deal with content-creating tasks, kids have to do more that just remember something taught. They have to THINK FOR THEMSELVES – infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, synthesize, make value judgments, and so on.
Think for themselves? That creates a problem. The present “standards and accountability” education reform effort is “data-driven.” The data comes from standardized test scores. But nobody knows how to write standardized, machine-scored test questions that measure the quality of original content!
Think about that. To keep their jobs, teachers have to teach to tests of EXISTING content. How likely, then, are they to assign work that requires learners to create NEW content?
Given the money and power of the fans of the “standards and accountability” fad, the reform train they’ve set in motion is too big, has gone too far, and is moving too fast, to derail.
But if America is to reach the 22 nd century in anything like recognizable form, that train isn’t going where America must go.
We ignore those problems… Exploding information Individual differences Unknown future … at our peril.
For those curious about tools to stimulate original, content-creating thought, we have an instructional program: Connections: Investigating Reality . It’s designed primarily for adolescents and older learners. Its free .
<ul><li>Because Connections ’ main instructional resource is the first-hand experience of those who use it,… </li></ul><ul><li>conceptual concreteness, </li></ul><ul><li>relevance, </li></ul><ul><li>intrinsic motivation, and </li></ul><ul><li>complex thought </li></ul><ul><li>… are inherent. </li></ul>
Connections: Investigating Reality is just a start – a rough draft of a “comprehensive scope and sequence” (education-speak for what to teach, in what order). For this reason, it’s accompanied by a tool allowing users to communicate and collaborate to improve it continuously.