Much has been written about the changing needs of students in the 21st century and the transformation that must take place in our schools to make it happen. Several things are clear to me as I read them. First, it is going to take a visionary administration to remake the environment in which our schools operate in order for those changes to be possible. Second, like a mile-long freight train being switched onto another track, it will take a very long time for the needed changes to work their way down to the local level.
It took several years for No Child Left Behind to shift the focus of our schools from students to test scores, but that shift happened. In the meantime, the world shifted, too. What we really need now is No School Left Behind. Schools need to become more agile, more proactive, more willing to look ten or twenty years into the future instead of one or two.
If this website is any indication of the administration to come—one that not only listens to its consitutents, but actively invites their participation in the government—it has the necessary vision and determination. But even greater than this, it just underscores how much different a world tomorrow’s citizens will inhabit. We truly need to empower our students with the skills that Robert Sternberg calls the “other three R’s”: Reasoning, Resilience, and Responsibility.
None of those are on the PSSA test. But they’re all on the real one: life.
I disagree that we need a national educational campaign for “leave no school behind.” I think the focus should properly move back to students, not test scores. As Clayton Christensen notes, disruptive technologies are playing a pivotal role in the changes we see in organizations including schools. Personalization of learning is one of the most basic disruptive benefits which new technologies offer us. I think a MAJOR part of the problem with U.S. educational policies to date is standardization. Rather than standardization, we need differentiation. There is NOT just one way to learn how to read, and it is both arrogant as well as counterproductive for a society to insist there are a limited and uniform set of standards by which learning excellence should be defined in our schools.
Thanks for the reference to Robert Sternberg’s book, I haven’t read it and have added it to my Amazon wish list. 🙂
Thanks for your comment. Your point is well taken, and I agree with your point about differentiation. As a teacher of gifted students, I see teachers wrestle every day with the nearly impossible task of differentiating within a narrowly defined curriculum.
I think what I was getting at was not so much a national campaign focusing on schools, but more a national agenda dedicated to creating an environment that would inspire schools to thrive on innovation, flexibility, and attention to individual students. In an attempt to be clever with my words, I communicated the wrong idea.
I still think, though, that NCLB has actually done the opposite of what it was intended to do. Instead of challenging schools to bring all students up to a level of proficiency, what we have now is an environment in which schools are strangled into avoiding failure. Excellence takes risk, and in the current environment, risk gets punished.