As the end of the calendar year looms in front of us, I've been reflecting on Will Richardson's inquiry regarding "bold schools" back in January on his blog (Jan. 7, 2012). Will wrote,
"We need schools that are bold in their practice right now. And by “bold” I mean schools that make sure their kids pass the test and get “college ready” because, unfortunately, that’s about the only definition of “success” that people want to talk about right now, but also schools that prepare their kids for a world that the tests and the definitions of “readiness” or “achievement” haven’t caught up to yet."
I corresponded with Will on this matter, so I feel a rather strong personal connection to it. In particular, I feel the personal connection because I believe that assessment is the issue of our time. As Will mentions, "the tests and the definitions of 'readiness' and 'achievement'" haven't caught up with what the world demands of our graduates. For example, the overwhelming majority of current assessments continue to be structured in such a way that there is only one correct answer; moreover, the kinds of problems presented in these assessments tend to be lower-level tasks. They're not about high-level cognitive tasks, the kind the world demands of our students. They're not about creative problem-solving. They tend to be assessments that can be graded via scantron (you know, bubble sheets that are read by a computer). Although that method of "grading" is efficient (if nothing else), by design it eliminates complexity and creativity in thought.
So, how might "going bold" look? Following are some thoughts:
- schools that are looking to norm their students against the world, not just against other American students. After all, our kids will be competing for jobs against an international and more transient population, not so much "the kid down the block."
- schools that are looking to own their assessment structure. In other words, schools that are willing to create assessments that reflect a measurement of what they value. In all likelihood, that means a blend of some efficiently-graded instruments (on a MUCH reduced scale) and new ways to collect and measure "soft" data such as engagement and cultural competencies.
- schools that are educating parents on the lack of meaning (or any relevance at all) in the SAT. We continue to look at SAT scores as some marker of distinction, but the truth is that they don't correlate to anything that holds true meaning insofar as learning is concerned. Visit fairtest.org and dig around...you won't have to dig deeply.
- schools that are network-minded: schools that are purposeful about creating learning networks with other schools...and not just schools, but with like-minded organizations and individuals, all of whom/which are concerned about learning.
- schools that focus relentlessly on the formation of character, with an eye to having graduates be young men and women of competence whose judgment is keen: when faced with a decision in their lives, they will make a values-based decision.