The goal of this article is to frame a conversation around a MORATORIUM on TESTING, especially in urban communities. I have attempted to identify reasons why we need to temporarily cease this destructive practice. Written in bold letters are questions that you might want to pose with friends, church members, policy makers, social group members, community leaders. Perhaps it might inspire you to write a letter the editor of your local paper or to lawmakers. Our voices need to be heard. We must begin to ADVOCATE for our children. We must begin to RIGHT THIS WRONG.
Discovering Gifts Instead of Gaps
As we attempt to prepare all students to become participating members of a new economy, I wonder,on what potentially negative paths we are sending our students using a system that measures only “gaps” instead “gifts”, that sorts children and their teachers into winners and losers? How can we right this wrong?
Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University wrote the internationally acclaimed, Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In this groundbreaking book, he defines intelligence as the ability to solve problems and or to provide a product that is valued by a community or culture: not only linguistic or mathematic-logical intelligence but musical intelligence, spatial/artistic intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal/intrapersonal intelligence . Therefore, ALL students enter the school house with a variety of strengths (intelligences). What is our just and ethical obligation to educate, to prepare our children? Should the goal of schools be to maximize the assets, gifts that students bring to the school house or only those that serve a larger political agenda: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) saying, “No” to STE(Arts)M?
Imagine, starting in third grade students are now tested ONLY in art, athleticism, and music. Annually to demonstrate their artistic/spatial intelligence, they must create a painting or a piece of sculpture. Annually, to exhibit their athleticism, (bodily kinesthetic) students must excel at a sport or choreograph and perform a dance. Annually, to prove their musical intelligence, students must sing a variety of songs or excel using a musical instrument. Each year the tests become progressively more demanding and challenging.
By high school, too many potential L(earners) and potential taxpayers can no longer keep up; no longer desire to keep up. Students ponder why schools don’t emphasize science, math, or language arts- subjects which they enjoy and could excel, subjects that are eliminated whenever the budget is cut. Those armed with interpersonal intelligence (politicians/leaders) contemplate why schools lack a student government to provide opportunities in visioning, leading, and extemporaneous speaking. They reflect, “How do politician and community leaders get started solving the problems of the community or the greater society? Is it all on the job training? Do adults fear civil disobedience if students learn to frame and verbalize their concerns?
Drop-outs: Invisible and Impotent
Imagine a potential Barack Obama/Bill Clinton (interpersonal intelligence) a Toni Morrison/Doris Kearns (linguistic intelligence) or Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerburg (mathematical-logical intelligence) dropping out of high school because they lack the intelligence to perform satisfactorily on tests designed for a Jacob Lawrence/Andy Warhol (artistic intelligence) or Judith Jamison/Michael Phelps (bodily-kinesthetic) or YoYo Ma/Quincy Jones (musical intelligence). Defeated and demoralized, these talented young people find new avenues for their energies and their angst. Harnessing their gifts to start a gang, quieting the loneliness by becoming a parent, drifting into a life of crime, wandering onto a path of self-destruction and violent behavior Their feelings of impotence and invisibility contribute to their schools being labeled failing and billions of dollars are spent on reform/restructuring. Will our students be the next bubble?
Towards New/Different Systems of Assessments
Education is at the epicenter of both our democracy and our prosperity. I do understand that America’s survival depends on educating for STEM, to keep us from being at the mercy of foreign tyrants. However, does that mean daily learning should be confined to a limited number of subjects and that our schools should only honor a limited range of talents? I believe to do so constitutes “educational malpractice”. How do we create different reporting systems to parents? For example:
o Jabari is struggling in math but is performing well in music.
o Jabari needs to practice his dance skills more but his persuasive writing skills have improved.
o Jabari is progressing in both reading and in art.
The 21st century INVISIBLE CURRICULUM needed to prosper in a globally competitive, technology-base economy require teaching students: To court failure! To take risks! To embrace uncertainty and change! To out hustle the competition!
How do we instill AND assess this new covert curriculum?
How do we put children born into significant disadvantage on equal footing with other children so that they won’t always be subjected to an “achievement gap”? Or to the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Educating students for the industrial economy was difficult enough. Arguably, educating students in the 21st century has to be the most difficult mission in America today. I plead that until a more just/fair/impartial assessment systems are in place, we institute a moratorium on a performance-based culture that penalizes both children and teachers. We don’t want our children and teachers to be the next bubble.
A sign on the wall in Albert Einstein’s stated it best: Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.