Thursday, September 02, 2010

explicable assessment

One of the hardest courses I took in college was called "behavioral statistics" and one of the books presented as required reading was "How to Lie With Statistics", a classic valuable to anyone hoping to understand the deliberate obfuscation present in modern culture. You take a statistical framework like that devised through standardized testing and what you get is an abstracted, conglomerated view of educational reality. A friend of mine, Elliot Washor, is co-founder of the Big Picture Schools and he had been called to a school conference concerning his son. They, a team of experts, began telling him all the bad news about his son, based on their examination of his grades and test scores. After listening patiently for some time, Elliot asked, "Did you know my son is a Jazz musician and performs regularly with a group?" The experts, of course, new nothing about it. They hadn't bothered to gather any personal information that might have given a more complete view of Elliot's son.

One of the great dangers of our current standardized testing schema is that understanding it is the exclusive domain of experts, who are so detached from actual circumstances so as to push forth a complete distortion of facts regarding the students they are supposed to safeguard and educate. For that reason, I ask for what I have come to call "explicable assessment".. a means of assessment that can be clear to all regardless of training or expertise, and that considers the individuals involved and the communities in which they live. Anything less is an insult to the intelligence inherent in each community and the wisdom of each and every parent and child. Anything less is to do great harm.

And so, how do we develop explicable assessment? The arts have it. Within the arts we discover character, diligence, expertise, skill, care, attention and the opportunity to engage every other aspect of school curriculum. Even the most casual observer can see it. And creativity? That is a bonus.

There is a possibility that no one will listen to me. After all, I am just a woodworker turned shop teacher. What would I know? I am grateful to have a few friends in education and am also aware that the situation in American schools is ready for some thinking outside the box. So, let's you and I roll up our sleeves and get a few things accomplished.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:37 AM

    Elliot Washor knows the game well enough to defend his son. Most parents don't, and their children are "tracked" toward failure. How sad.