When are our leaders going to realize that the traditional, “tried and true” methods of instruction are not adequate to prepare students for the 21st century workforce environment and for success as a global citizens in a network economy? According to the July 5th article in the Houston Chronicle, “How English is taught in Texas likely to change:”
Many on the [Texas State School] board want to replace a student-centered curriculum that calls on students to use their own attitudes and ethics to interpret texts with teacher-centered instruction that emphasizes the basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation.
I think I am going to become actively sick.
The ridiculous emphasis we saw last year in our second grade son’s classroom on spelling tests and scripted writing activities– where literally every student in the class was forced to write a “how-to” essay on “how to make a hamburger” and not permitted ANY CREATIVE CHOICE in writing topics– was a huge reason I was glad to be job hunting and looking for public school districts with more progressive and authentic approaches to literacy instruction. I was a fourth grade writing teacher, so I definitely don’t have a problem doing a sample writing activity with students on something like making a hamburger. You need to ask kids to write where they are “deep” and have some schema, and most kids know about hamburgers. But PLEASE!!! Give the kids some choices when it comes to independent writing. Invite them to connect writing with their own lives, their own lived experiences, their attitudes, their interests and their opinions. We do not need a new generation of mere fact regurgitators. This continuing trend in Texas education to further limit curricular autonomy and hamstring teachers into teaching from a narrow script is going in EXACTLY THE WRONG DIRECTION for the twenty-first century. Do we need to buy copies of Dan Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” and send it to the Texas State School Board members? Would it help? What would help? I am at a loss.
Bob Pearlman has the right pedagogical philosophy in mind in his recent Edutopia article from June, “New Schools For A New Century.” Pearlman writes:
No matter how sophisticated the tools we put in classrooms, the curriculum designed to educate students to meet the new standards is sorely inadequate to help them after they leave school. In short, learning — and schooling — must be totally transformed.
“Today’s graduates need to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, and effective communicators who are proficient in both core subjects and new, 21st-century content and skills,” according to “Results that Matter: 21st Century Skills and High School Reform,” a report issued in March by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
These include learning and thinking skills, information- and communications-technology literacy skills, and life skills.
Students of today enter an increasingly globalized world in which technology plays a vital role. They must be good communicators, as well as great collaborators. The new work environment requires responsibility and self-management, as well as interpersonal and project-management skills that demand teamwork and leadership.
Instead of the “more of the same, harder and harder” traditional educational approach many Texas educational leaders seem to be supporting, Pearlman makes a persuasive case for project-based learning. The tasks we ask students to do in school must change, and so must the assessment methods. Check out this from the article:
Current assessments don’t do the job. State testing and accountability are aimed at schools, not individual student learning, and reports are released once a year, after students have moved on to other teachers. Periodic assessments in managed curriculums mainly provide information to teachers. Students can’t improve or become managers of their own learning without constant, real-time assessment and feedback, referred to in PBL instruction as assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment for school, district, or classroom accountability.
New Tech schools, highlighted in the article and supported by the New Tech Foundation, have a simple strategy for reaching the objectives of preparing students in our schools with the skills they will need in the 21st century workforce:
To learn collaboration, work in teams.
To learn critical thinking, take on complex problems.
To learn oral communication, present.
To learn written communication, write.
To learn technology, use technology.
To develop citizenship, take on civic and global issues.
To learn about careers, do internships.
To learn content, research and do all of the above.
Will someone please tell the Texas state school board members to catch a clue?! We are in the 21st century now. The world is flat, and we need to help our kids learn to have “a whole new mind”– one that is encouraged to be creative, think out of the box, and solve problems that haven’t even been invented yet. And we need them to do these things powerfully, using the latest technology tools. Can anyone tell me with a straight face that emphasizing traditional grammar and spelling tests, and stopping kids from writing based on their own attitudes and experiences, is going to do that?! I don’t think so.
I’ve taken my own children out of Texas schools and moved to another state. We are still sticking with public schools, but can I make a stronger statement about my opinion of the current state of affairs in Texas education? Certainly there are many WONDERFUL teachers and administrators in Texas, and I have been blessed to work with many professionally– and have had several teach my own children. But the system itself is sick. We need a sea change. And we need it tomorrow, because our kids are in schools RIGHT NOW (or at least they’ll be there again soon in August) and they don’t have time for the pendulum to swing over a period of several years.
PLEASE. We need strong, visionary leaders for the twenty-first century who understand the importance of engagement and assessing real-world skills in education, not just content dipping to assess the knowledge/comprehension level of Bloom’s taxonomy. High stakes accountability is not saving our schools and our kids, it is ruining it and making many of the kids hate learning and school. For Pete’s sake, we have schools formally stopping recess at 3rd grade, so the teachers and kids can spend more time on test prep! This is an immoral crime, people! Listen to Dr. David Berliner on this subject. We need to move forward, not backward. We need to speak out in the F2F world on this, beyond the blogosphere. Apparently the Texas state school board members aren’t subscribers of Edutopia or reading reports like “Results that Matter: 21st Century Skills and High School Reform” (PDF).
They should be.
Thanks to Scott Floyd for bringing this to my attention.
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- iPhone 2.0 software update successful - at last - 2008
- Looking for a new wrapper or an entirely new sandwich? - 2007
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- Instructional Technology: PASSport II Resources for Oklahoma - 2007
- Congressional leaders forgetting the T in STEM - 2006
- Angus King on 1:1 - 2006
- Hao Wu released - 2006
- Walking amid shadows and light - 2006