Saturday, September 18, 2010

testing ain't everything

Unbeknownst to many American educators and politicos, testing doesn't reach into the important areas of school and student success. One of the things that corporate execs will tell you is that they are needing and wanting "team players." An important point in my Beaufort Scale for educational excellence is whether or not a school offers all students opportunities for teamwork utilizing diverse intelligences. One important aspect of teamwork is leadership development, but another equally important one is that each student can learn his or her own strengths and learn that each has important skills, intelligence and strength to offer toward a common goal. Kids quickly learn who is good at what and to value, reward and encourage each other's specific talents and contributions. One of the best ways for teamwork potential to be activated in school is through service projects. "I'll do this, and will you do that thing you do so very well?" is the perfect preparation for real world participation.

I am not sure whether this will be the 4th item on the scale, or whether it should be broken down in steps as specific indicators on 4, 5 and 6. One level of teamwork common in schools is that of the basketball, football or soccer team... but the common athletic team involves primarily kinesthetic intelligence, and not the wide range of skills that can be expressed through other kinds of team project. Athletic teams are usually selected by adults, controlled by adults (including who plays when) and are exclusive to those students selected for participation.

This time of the year students at Clear Spring School are busy preparing for the fall camping trip. It involves every child grades 1-6. All are assigned to "patrol groups" with each group having to take turns with specific important camping community tasks. The group leader and each position within the group are selected by democratic process (vote) within the group, and there are a variety of positions, each requiring specific skills. Each child has very clear responsibilities to the group and to the student body. Do other schools have this kind of teamwork opportunity in place? Certainly not all, but teamwork opportunities are essential to the development of each child. And so, you can see a complete and total disconnect. CEOs want teamwork, but they do nothing to help schools become the kinds of places where teamwork skills can be learned and they apply pressure for standardized testing instead even though it will never give them what they really want. I could say something mocking, sarcastic and stupidly appropriate here. Maybe "Duh." Teamwork is something you can't measure on a standardized test, but will be the measure of our culture, our civilization and our economic success.

I think you will see that effective teamwork is dependent on the previous levels of the Beaufort Scale of educational assessment. Kids must feel safe to express themselves and multiple intelligences (including the arts) must be equally treasured components of the curriculum in order for children's diverse contributions to be valued by all.

And so this is not ready for prime time yet, and I present it you, my team, as a work in progress. You can be thinking about teamwork as I work somewhat noisily in my wood shop. As a member of a team, feel free to connect via the comments or by email. Go team! Go.

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