21st Century Minds

21st Century Minds


In yesterday’s Indianapolis Star,  Dr. Plucker from Indiana University did an excellent job in reporting the positive assessment trends encouraging Hoosiers to feel excited about the latest ISTEP results reporting demonstrated improvement  especially with the Hispanic population and those students who advanced to a “pass plus” category. He was also authentic in reporting that the number of students taking the tests over the last few years has grown with an additional 15,000 students taking the test in 2009.


What his conversation neglected to report is a multi-faceted challenge and one we must address if we are truly to educate our students in ways where there is an emotionally invested interest in learning, transference of knowledge, and subject matter is contextualized and memorized for the long term.. not just for a couple of hours followed by another hour or two of  regurgitating the facts that the children and adolescents have been practicing and drilling for months prior to this two or three subject assessment.


The test anxiety is so high for many students and teachers that the propensity for “cheating” has been repeatedly reported across our nation. We are concerned for a day when the reports are published, but then we repeat this vicious cycle.   There is so much angst, anxiety and fear of failure experienced by many administrators’ students and teachers that this incredible testing and accountability frenzy has taken the joy and the creative and critical thinking skills and endeavors, discussions, and reflection time out of the education reform movement. If teachers are being asked to spend 40-50 % of their instructional time preparing for standardized tests, have we given them time, space and support in providing professional development generating new ideas of approaching these ongoing tests, creating projects and ways to invigorate their curriculum alongside the testing ? 


 If I am asked to give acuity testing to one of my special education students or Latino students who is struggling with the formalized and narrow scope of literary recall that will be presented on his/her next standardized assessment with little to no accommodations given that are actually relevant and proficient in providing a “way” for her to reframe and understand a problem presented, I guarantee you my goal will be to see that this child feels successful and capable in  this assessment experience, possibly qualifying my assistance as “cheating.”


Do we not understand that we have a national crisis in this time in our country, and one that is not about competing globally with assessment scores? Our crisis is that 21% of students between the ages of 8-17 years old are experiencing chronic stress, higher than any age group.  The pandemic of “bullying” is directly and intimately related to these stressors and we must begin to understand that this is the most populous and diverse time in our world’s history and the effects of economic hardships, familial breakdown, digital learning, and social media are creating new ways of relating to one another and the world. My own three teenage children tell me that I just do not understand how difficult it is to be a teenager in today’s world! They make this statement repeatedly with wide eyes and a desperate desire that I will try to know and feel my way through their social community and all that is being asked of them in this time.


 Education is about living outside the walls of school and as I travel throughout our public schools mentoring new teachers, I am once again reminded, of this living paradox inside educational reform!


Mark Akers wrote an interesting blog in today’s Indianapolis Star  about Indiana’s low rank  ( 30’s out of 50) in economic innovation as companies like Google are calling for employees to use 20% of their time to work on their own projects, ideas, even if they are not directly related to Google. The purpose? To keep employees inspired and innovative! Google is not the only company desiring creative and innovative employees. Research has reported that Fortune 500 companies are more interested in individuals who are able to collaborate, are adaptable, flexible in their  thinking and problem solve generating many ideas that equate to  possible solution(s).


Last year at the university level, we began to renovate our curriculum guided by Lumina so that we are mentoring and teaching to the higher level cognitive thinking and problem -solving skills asking students to develop, design and create projects and assessments that reflect a holistic approach to the teaching and learning process. And yet, the K-12 movement with common core standards, teacher evaluation and continual assessment of 2 out of 8 intelligences is not addressing the lifelong learning that will be required in this new era of differentiating professions as today’s students will have 7-10 career changes in their adult life time!


Dr. Dan Goleman reported several years ago that the Emotional IQ is a much better indicator predicting professional success, aptitude and overall well–being than verbal and non-verbal assessment performance. Pat Wolfe states that the “highest SAT scores cannot help students to use the information with new and unanticipated situations inside real world problems and challenges.”  Learning is about transference!


 A couple of days ago our state superintendent stated,   “Accountability works,”  “And measurement works.”   In all honestly, I would challenge Dr. Bennett on these statements. Accountability and measurement may work for short periods of time while viewing standardized test scores, but when we do not balance a curriculum with the creative, critical and emotional skills needed to energize and excite students and teachers in feeling successful and capable, we  have lost sight of the purpose and personalization of education that creates lasting changes; “mining for assets!”   



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