Education is rapidly changing, and as educational leaders we must model the learning mentality and growth mindset we wish to see in our students and staff. Here I will post my thoughts on the grandiose world of education and all of it's complexities.
The World’s Best Workforce bill was passed in 2013 to ensure every school district in the state is making strides to increase student performance. Each district must develop a plan that addresses the following five goals:
All children are ready for school.
All third-graders can read at grade level.
All racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed.
All students are ready for career and college.
All students graduate from high school.
This sounds like an amazing initative that the state is taking to further our students success, but what is really going on here? When you read deeper into MDE's World Best Workforce you see that "progress" is still measured by standardized measures such as MCA test scores and High School Graduation Rates. No matter what initatives we throw at schools, without a foundational change, there will not be increased "measures of progress."
To top this off we are still assessing students based on 20th Century math standards such as:
BENCHMARK: 18.104.22.168 Factor Polynomials Factor common monomial factors from polynomials, factor quadratic polynomials, and factor the difference of two squares. For example: 9x6 - x4 = (3x3 - x2)(3x3 + x2).
I do not see how this is a real life skill or applicable to all students. It is definitely relevant to students going into engineering or the maths, but how is this a relevant standard for every American high school student? When asking my brother-in-law a former lead engineer for SPAM (yes that spam) what he looks for in new hires, his response was "I look for someone with person skills and who can problem solve a novel problem." I then specifically asked "what about their degree and college education?" His response again floored me when he said "their college degree doesn't matter much, especially if they don't have the former characteristics. They can learn 99% of what they will be doing on the job."
As a Leader and Learner, I hate to feel that I am just pointing out problems and not offering solutions. So here are my thoughts on what could be done. Rather than focusing on outdated, 20th Century standards form an industrialized education model, we should truly look at what these jobs and careers are looking for. I think it is pretty obvious that they are looking for creative students who can persevere through moments where they need to learn something new (they won't learn it all in college), and approach problems from a new direction and offer up new solutions. The idea of college admissions not being accepting of such credentials is completely false. Colleges love the idea of having new students brining them more money. In addition to that, many colleges are now accepting students based on portfolios. Check out MIT's Admissions for students who have Maker Portfolios.
So instead of looking at 5 goals that schools have had for the last decade, let's look at 5 behavioral changes we can make to acheive these goals.
Being ready for school does not mean you can sit in a chair all day. Let us teach students how to be collaborative and how to learn from our failures.
Reading at grade level is confusing. Let us remember that there is an astounding amount of reasearch that points to adolescents learning and developing not in a standardized matter.
Rather that putting the pressure on minority students to achieve higher, it is our jobs as educators to remove structures that perpuate the racism in the US educational system.
College and career ready does not mean 4.0's, high ACT scores, or 5 AP classes in high school. College and career ready is not a set of content that is aquired, but rather than a skillset that is cultivated through collaboration with peers and the perpetual desire to continue learning.
Again, high school graduation depends on us changing what high schools offer. High schools need to cultivate a students strengths and passions. As educators we have to stop pushing students to fit our mold, and instead use our expertise to find the learning experience in our students own passions.