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Friday, April 13, 2007

New curriculum report shows schools strong in content and weak on thinking skills

This quote caught my eye from Scott Floyd over at the Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project:

Sure, with how we teach now kids can pass the "test" but can they make it in the real world that is devoid of standardized tests to prove mastery? If one of your students is standing over you as the doctor in the ER trying to decide which procedure to do on you to save your life, will she have to have a highlighter, peppermints, a bottle of water, and a TAKS game plan to save you?
He goes on to talk about what students need in today's world.

And then, this incredible article from USA today came across my desk entitled Schoolteachers, professors differ on what students should know. Any good educator won't be surprised with the topic:

"State learning standards may help high school teachers focus their coursework, but college faculty say they're focusing on the wrong things, says a report that finds a "significant gap" between what high school instructors teach and what college faculty think entering freshmen ought to know"

What do kids need to know? Less concepts and more thinking skills! This is based on a report from the ACT National Curriculum survey (a must read for curriculum directors).

Standardized Testing at the Coffee Shop

At the local coffee shop today, all I could hear was several parents who have kids in public school complaining about how their children have been doing CRCT review for SIX WEEKS in EVERY CLASS! Many of them are fed up but don't know where to go and have no alternative.

Not everyone can afford to send their child to private school (although our fees are about 1/3rd of most private schools -- [we are a very rural community and do a lot of fundraising -- I have strawberries and cookie dough to sell right now, if you need any!?])

And yet, it strikes me, although we do a little test review here at Westwood (more how to take the test than anything), it is rare that any of our classes fall much below the 85th percentile in any subject with most in the 90th percentile in the nation. And honestly, looking at our IQ tests, we really have the full range of intelligence levels.

So, What is the difference?

Here is what I think:

  • Relationships with students (the John Merrow podcast was about that this week -- Tim Howe principal of McNair Elementary in Ft. Bragg, NC),
  • a strong curriculum, (we have a strategy of keeping what works and fixing what doesn't)
  • research based best practices,
  • a lot of training for the teachers,
  • incredible teachers who love teaching and are there for the kids (we make about 2/3 of our public school counterparts and have no health insurance),
  • incredible administration,
  • extremely supportive parents/grandparents/alumni/friends,
  • and people who are willing to put a lot of blood sweat and tears into the education of their children.

Do we test? Yes, every test is cumulative. However, we no longer have end of semester exams but rather, projects and large genuine assessments in all subjects except math. We're not perfect, but it is a whole lot better than making kids bubble letters for the last six weeks. That is demeaning to the children and the teachers. And when it is time to bubble letters, our kid's shine!

The Master Race of Circle Coloring Kids

If we were creating kids who would have to fill in ovals, we're doing pretty well at coloring circles, I think.

What Businesses Want
When I was a businesswoman in the business world, I didn't always want someone who always agreed with me and spit back what I told them.

I wanted:
  • Problem solvers and original thinkers who pushed the envelope.
  • Forward thinking, organized, motivated, excited, people with a great work ethic and a good, solid education but who realized when they didn't know something and knew how to find out how!

OK, some of my pundits will accuse me of getting "preachy" but I have spent enough time (10 years) working with public education teachers to know that many of them are getting fed up with the "system" of trying to produce test scores instead of well educated students.

We've got to make the main thing the main thing, let the teachers teach, and help the students think.

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