Oct 192012
 

I had the privilege today of reading a brilliant post by 17-year-old Nikhil Goyal, a senior at Syosset High School in Woodbury, New York. The article, found at the link below, beautifully captures the essence and value of a deep, rich, meaningful learning environment:

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/10/why-learning-should-be-messy/

Many people mistakenly believe that colleges and universities aren’t engaging in this kind of modern, connected learning; but increasingly they are. Stanford is. MIT is. UVa Medical is. Johns Hopkins is. Others are too, along with a growing number of K-12 schools. Isn’t this the kind of rich education that– blended with core subject knowledge, the arts, electives and co-curricular activities– forms the kind of comprehensive education most people would want for their children?

Standardized testing isn’t capable of measuring this kind of teaching and learning. So why do elected officials, departments of education and others continue to insist on using standardized tests as THE metric for school rankings and teacher effectiveness? Perhaps they want quick ways to measure ROI on their education dollar. Maybe they are accustomed to viewing education through a competitive or comparative lens. Regardless of these views, let’s be clear: education is fundamentally about developing individual human potential, which when accomplished deeply does not happen in a linear, sequential or standardized way.

Anyone who has attempted paradigm change, especially in education, understands that it requires immense energy, sustained effort and real courage. Toss into the mix the tyrannical fear of high stakes testing and, presto, we have effectively incentivized the status quo enough to drive innovation from the classroom and rob our students of the kind of education about which Nikhil Goyal wrote.

Is this what we want? Policymakers and others say they don’t, but the conditions they have created suggest otherwise. I will chalk up such dissonance to the possibility that good intentions may have been undermined by shallow understanding. Be this as it may, the status quo is unacceptable. We know what needs to be done, but this kind of learning can only become pervasive when the conditions and policies to support courageous innovation are in place.

When will we let our voices and our expertise be heard? What might we do individually and collectively to drag into reality this kind of rich learning environment?

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