I've been reading a blog called "learning is messy" which is profound in what it communicates about how real student learning takes place. Brian Crosby has been a speaker at TEDxDenver who has been doing amazing work with his students. "Hard to imagine what could be if you don't get to know anything about what is" is something he leads off with....the effects of this narrowed curriculum on his 4th grade students who have never been in school where it is all about high stakes testing and test prep. Heartbreaking. Take time and watch this video clip...it's well worth your time and gives a powerful set of reasons why we must change (or maybe throw the existing Blueprint for Education).
He just posted his ideas about how ineffective the Race to the Top will be in helping to bring about innovations. He sees cracks in the wall of non-responsiveness from Department of Education and hopes that somehow DOE will start listening to teachers who really know how to make a difference in the lives of students and huge impacts in their learning. Mr. Crosby ably points out that charter school organization is not the answer to America's school woes...it's finding ways to draw students into thinking about ideas and how to test out those ideas.
To me...if we could take these kinds of ideas and re-write the Blueprint we could achieve the reforms that this administration needs to become passionate about. I believe we don't need more sophisticated assessment software that pours out dump trucks full of data....we need the belief that assessments that are tied into making kids think and stretch in what they know about how the world works. Go back to thinking about Brian Crosby's classroom.....would you rather have your child in his classroom or one that is works towards high scores on their state assessments? I'll bet that most parents would be willing to trade high scores for high learning.
The thing is....this isn't a win or lose situation. I'll bet $$$ that if you "tested" these 4th graders they would do well on the multiple choice tests. This is something that I don't think Washington DC folks get....you teach thru engaging and inquiry projects and they can still do well. I also believe that these are the students that will go onto becoming scientists, engineers and thinkers.