Thursday, July 26, 2012

Filling The Instructional Hole in our Standards Conversation

I have been spending the last two days thinking about the impact of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) along with the New Generation Assessments (NGA). I'm leaning into the process and remaining neutral in my opinions about their impact on the system of education. There are a lot of vultures waiting to swoop in to fill the instructional needs (units, books, professional development) as these standards and the subsequent tests become the lay of the land in the entire country.

It is worrisome that educators would allow externals designers to barge into all of the educational spaces across the country when teaching professionals should be the designers of the instruction in their classrooms that meets the needs of all students in a personalized manner.

It is growing clearer that passion-based and problem-based learning sit at the core of the instruction needed to prepare our students for the new jobs and careers of the future and on a much lesser note prepare our students for the NGA. In order for schools to to truly reshape their mission around passion-based and problem-based learning, it seems essential that the following elements sit at the core of the mission. Without these elements, schools will become test score chasers and stuck in other people's definition of a successful school.

1. Engage a larger definition of success including balancing the building of scholars with the building of leaders, citizens, and stewards of their communities.

2. Allow students the opportunity to experience learning outside of the classroom. We as a nation are fighting an opportunities gap and experience gap as well as an achievement gap.

3. Be proactive about the civility of your school by building the empathy of students. Dealing with bullying is reactive and not enough for an excellent school that can achieve well.

4. Grow the interdisciplinary capacity of the building. Our 100,000 honeybees have become the source of incredible cross discipline thinking, writing and presenting for our students.

5. Promote Healthy Living. Active healthy citizens are positive contributors to the community and our classrooms. This should extend through physical education, lunch, air quality in classrooms, and the aesthetics of building in which students are learning. This could mean great focus on programs like the Green Ribbon Schools.

6. Demand excellent student work. We have to provide space and time for students to draft, receive feedback, revise, extend, and grow pride in their work that comes from perseverance

7. Focus on the arts. Students with a passion for drawing, mastering an instrument, showcasing their voice or acting talent on stage build grit and the connection of their brain allow for easier attainment of our knowledge and understanding.

8. Realize the power of student voice. There are never enough student voices in the educational process. Students should be presenting to adults on their learning. They should be the voice of the successes in the building. Students should be shaping the school that they want.

9. Unleash the power of high-level technology integration. Students using technology to build and tell stories of their learning are powerful assessments. Many of the tools of technology integration allow for authentic audience which fosters higher quality work.

10. Celebrate Risk-Taking in students and teachers. We must open the doors for innovation, and that means accepting and learning from mistakes. Schools that remove loss aversion generate incredible spaces for learning.

11.  Release the trapped wisdom. So many incredible things are happening in the classrooms and schools around the country. Teachers need time to absorb ideas, share ideas, and generate ideas. Don't allow your school to be idea poor.

12. Teach teachers to teach teachers. A professional staff is one that is growing and learning from sharing their work with other professionals.

13. Make your default setting YES.



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