One Size Doesn’t Fit All…..

Imagine you are going to be evaluated at work today. This evaluation is going to determine any raises, promotions, changes in your role at your employer and what types of things you may do after-wards. You were so nervous you couldn’t sleep last night and almost threw up at breakfast. You leave for work on a empty stomach on edge for the upcoming evaluation. You arrive at work and everyone is sitting in desks which are in rows and your boss is at the front of the room next to the company’s CEO. They have a large box. As you watch everyone else in the room (who also appear nervous) you see the anxiety on their faces. You are told to remove everything from your desk. The walls are blank as well as they have already removed all posters and other items from the wall. The CEO explains the evaluation is going to begin at the stroke of 8 o’clock and you must be completed by noon. You cannot talk or leave the room without permission. Raise your hand if you have to go to the rest room. The CEO then goes from desk to desk passing out what appears to be clothing. Everyone looks perplexed. As soon as the last desk has clothes deposited on it the clock strikes 8am and the CEO says, “You may begin, good luck.” You look at these clothes and wonder what is going on? What kind of evaluation is this? You raise your hand and ask quietly, “What am I supposed to do with this?” Your boss replies softly and sincerely, “I am sorry, I can’t answer that. Use what I’ve taught you and do your best.” You notice a note that states to put on these clothes. Everyone soon finds the note and the room is filled with people trying to decipher what is going on.  All wearing or trying to wear the same clothing items. Some people are drowning in the clothes, some are trying to squeeze them on, and others fit just right. You realize that you are being evaluated based on these pieces of clothing…..

This sounds insane right? Everyone being asked to wear the same size at the same time? Think of children…you are in first grade therefore you will all wear a size 7 clothing and a size 12 shoe. That isn’t how we as humans develop right? Exactly, yet we evaluate students with high stakes tests as if they all develop at the same time in the same way.

I am not blaming the teachers, I am not blaming the principals or superintendents. Heck, I am not even blaming the governor or the president. I am blaming the testing companies.  We all know there are plenty of politics involved with this. The testing companies are making profits and swimming in their millions. Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself….Check out the profitst of ACT, inc (a division of McGraw Hill, ETS (they have a for-profit arm), NCS which merged with Pearson, Riverside testing (A houghton Mifflin co), Harcourt Educational Measurement….

Testing is BIG business. As you start to look into their profits you’ll see connections between some highly influential political figures and some pieces of legislation that have changed education and those that are still in the process. Whether it’s NCLB or the new Common Core State Standards, they are all linked to testing and not far behind sit the testing companies counting their money.

SO what is the answer? I don’t think there is one right answer but I can tell you I think the assessments should be more holistic and comprehensive. Student evaluation should be determined more locally. Teachers, students and parents need to be involved in such an important issue.

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Same story, different day…

I work as the director of program and evaluation for a non-profit educational development organization, EdVisions Schools. We work with schools, communities, and other organizations in the U.S. and abroad. We have a network of just over 40 schools across the U.S. which we have helped create or transform. I have been lucky enough to teach at 2 of these schools which are absolutely amazing. (If you are interested in education, education reform or just plan quality public education you have GOT to visit one of these schools http://www.edvisionsschools.org) Anyway, we spend our days fighting for quality education for all students, quality educational options for parents and policies to allow for safe and supportive school environments which foster student engagement, grow student hope and raise student achievement. (www.hopesurvey.org). There are many days which I feel like I need a target that says, “bang head here.”

Each year 1.3 million students drop out of school. Every day there are students who don’t want to go to school because they don’t feel safe at school. They may be bullied, picked on, harassed, left out, hit, kicked….(and we don’t have to go far to see this, the YouTube video of the kids picking on the larger boy which made national news went viral) There are students who are bored, those who are so confused both of whom get frustrated and disenfranchised with the entire educational system…..

Meanwhile, we have continual budget cuts, consolidations, NCLB, National Common Core Standards, acronyms galore with for high stakes tests, teacher pink slips passed out like Pez candy…….

Even those in edreform are fighting against one another for what ‘real edreform’ looks like.

What should the U.S. Education System look like? Should we as a nation continue to strive to be #1 in education? Is it even possible to go from #22 to #1? Do we consider international comparisons, standards and assessments? Do we focus on closing the achievement gap? Do we allow for more educational options? Charters? Vouchers? CMO’s, EDO’s? Do we give schools local control? Do we leave it up to state departments of education? Do we continue to utilize a model of education which has been employ for hundreds of years? Should all schools be exactly the same? How should we fund schools? How should we evaluate teachers? What form of instruction should be use? Blended learning? 21st century learning? Differentiated instruction? Project Based Learning? Inquiry based learning? Do we address the whole child? Social emotional learning? Positive youth development?

There is certainly no shortage of questions.

This massive complex problem boils down to one word. Children.

Everyday that I struggle with the projects I am working on or hear ridiculous examples of people putting other things above the needs of the students I remember why I am here doing what I do. So that more students, families, communities can have quality educational options that meet each students individual needs. I am here to fight the fight for the students, families and communities that can’t.

Life doesn’t come with multiple choice questions and a scantron. We can’t even conceive the global challenges the youth of today will face tomorrow. We must provide them with the proper tools, skills and knowledge so that they may think for themselves to tackle those problems they have yet to face.

I believe it takes a village to raise and child and if we teach them how to fish they will fish for a lifetime.

I work each and every day to spread the word of innovative educational options that do just that.

We all need to do what is in the best interest of the children and sometimes that means giving them a voice to tell us what that might be. 🙂