Monday, November 23, 2015

reduction of testing time...

Here in Arkansas, the change from PARCC to ACT Aspire testing programs this year is claimed to cut the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests in half according to a front page article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

What will likely not change, however, is the amount of time spent teaching to the test. If testing drives the standards, then the standards will be driving content. And student interest will fall by the wayside. I've included an interesting cartoon above that tells the story.

Some of the serial effect launched by the common core and PARCC testing, and ACT Aspire is that students have to be on computers to take the tests, and that is predicted to cost education more than 17 Billion dollars over the next 7 years.  According to an article in KQED:
Districts are scrambling to figure out how to improve, update, and add technology so students can actually take the new tests. Murfreesboro public schools in Tennessee, for example, borrowed $5.2 million to purchase laptops and iPads to prepare students for the new assessments.
If you buy a bandsaw or lathe, it will be useful to students 20 years down the road if cared for and maintained. With computers and programs for them, the investment is obsolete within three years, (whether you find sufficient and effective use for them or not) and school districts will be forced to launch a whole new dance to acquire funding for that. But what may interest readers is that the implementation of core curriculum and the testing for it, is actually forcing schools to join in the stampede to spend money on iPads and laptops. It is a vicious cycle. Students won't do well with the core testing if they are not proficient on the computer. So teaching to the test, and training in computer proficiency will dominate classroom learning.

The computer is seen by most educational policy makers as a magic silver bullet. that can be aimed at all the problems in education and child development. But screen time has long been understood by the American Council of Pediatrics at having detrimental developmental effects. The silver bullet of technology is experimental at best, but without the controls necessary to understand the outcome.

In the meantime, a few schools across the country are awakening to the importance of the hands. As is described here: How turning math into a maker workshop can bring calculations to life.

The point is that kids are inspired to learn when they are given the opportunity to do real things. As I was quoted in the first chapter of Matt Crawford's book Shop Class as Soulcraft,
In Schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged. --Wisdom of the Hands blog post of October 16, 2006
How can you make certain your students are doing something real? Get their hands engaged in it.

Make, fix, create, and inspire others to learn likewise.

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