I can’t read one more post or tweet about data-driven instruction today. I CANNOT.
What most people attempt as educational reform is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. You can make the round hole bigger, but the square peg will just fall through. It doesn’t fit, and neither does the system.
Today, I read a wonderful post by my friend Eric Johnson – “Fighting For Their Lives.” Does anyone actually think kids like the ones Eric describes are able to do their best on a test that measures the most narrowly defined (and least important) part of what learning actually is?
Yesterday, I read a great stand by a teacher who is first and foremost a parent. Karl Fisch posted his letter to his daughter’s high school, which is also the high school where he works. In this incredibly well written and passionate letter, Karl and his wife, Jill, explain why they are opting out of the PARCC test for their daughter.
Two weeks ago, I was on an emotional and professional high with visitors to our school exclaiming their amazement of what our kids are able to do. They were pleasantly surprised about how much and how well our students of all ages can articulate what they’re learning. They saw examples that demonstrate how much these kids are learning, and they heard Anastasis alums talk about how their learning at our school prepared them for what came after.
The best endorsement I have from the educators who attended our conference is the number of times I heard, “I want to enroll my own children in this school RIGHT NOW.”
But yet, we don’t give homework at Anastasis. We don’t give standardized tests. We don’t give grades. We don’t rely on traditional data* to inform and shape our instruction. (No standard curriculum. No standard grade levels. We don’t do anything standard here.)
So obviously, our kids aren’t really learning, right?
There is no sound bite in the world I can give you to explain what happens in our school.
There is no blog post that could ever adequately explain and describe how deeply our students think.
I know that Anastasis is not the perfect world. There is no such thing. But what I know is this…
CHILDREN ARE NOT STANDARDIZED.
CHILDREN ARE NOT MEANT TO COMPETE AGAINST EACH OTHER IN LEARNING. (I already wrote about that before.)
CHILDREN ARE NOT DATA POINTS TO BE PLOTTED ON A GRAPH. (Repeat this one over and over and over.)
If you want to truly reform education, stop trying to make kids fit into a standardized curriculum. Stop testing them over things that should never define who they are. Stop treating children as widgets the minute they walk into the door of their school. They are not packages rolling along a conveyor belt with a barcode affixed to their foreheads. You want to talk profits, inventory, and sales? Standardization is great for that… but our children do not deserve to be treated as such.
You want to reform education? Stop standardizing everything, and look at the amazingly wonderful and unique human beings who walk into your school. As Eric said in his post, for some children, school is the safest place they will encounter on any given day.
Help them feel safe.
Help them feel nourished, both physically and emotionally.
Help them feel important and valued.
Help them feel loved.
THAT is how you start to reform education.
It is about the KIDS. Anything else is a cheap, tired, and overused excuse.
And if you use the word, “accountability” when you try to debate this issue with me, you’d better be certain you can answer this question: how are you accountable to the children you serve?
Do they feel safe? Nourished? Valued? Loved?
I can answer that question at our school, because that’s how our school was started– with the children at the center of our focus.
How does this play out academically? Come visit our school. Seriously. We have visitors all the time. Or go visit Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Kids know they matter in these places.
And on that visit… don’t talk. Watch. Listen. Ask questions. Reflect.
*By “traditional data,” I mean test scores. We use data at Anastasis all the time… it just doesn’t look like most schools’ data.