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Philosophical Meanderings

An Appeal.

This is a repost from my blog, Transparent Curriculum, from February.

This is an appeal.

Today the nationwide discussion is, and has been about accountability. Accountability for schools, for teachers, for students. Since the passage of NCLB, and ESEA before that – we have seen testing become the vehicle for how we assess accountability in public schools across the nation.

I am an educator in Florida, so let me give you a snapshot of how we do things (and to be honest you will not see much differ from state to state). A high school student in Florida has to pass a battery of end of course exams, FCAT tests (our state standardized test), and now the Post-Secondary Education Readiness Test (to prove college-readiness).

Can I ask a question? What happened to having faith in schools – so that at the end of thirteen years of school we knew that our students would be prepared to meet the world head on?

I am a history teacher by trade, so let’s look at the past of this great country and it’s educational trends. The World War I generation fought for peace and many also outlived the Great Depression. These men and women were lucky to have finished elementary school. World War II… only 50% of this generation held a high school diploma. Kids who attended school during World War II went on to serve in the Korean Conflict, or later the Vietnam War. These generations introduced the world to film, television, space, and the Moon. They overcame armed conflict many times, worked their way out of economic turmoil, launched a civil rights movement, and much more.

Do you know what these past generations did not face? A standardized test – at least not in the present form. They turned out doing just fine – people had faith in the schools and the education they received.

Today, we have more resources than we could imagine – but we have no faith in the system. We need to put in place a battery of tests in order to prove that a student in worthy of a high school diploma. (And let me fill you in on a little secret – the tests do not tell the measure of the contributions our students will make to this society.)

Shame on us.

In order to change the system we need to get serious about the system. Reform needs NOT be about testing and how much of it can we run a student through before they graduate. Reform needs to be about taking the profession seriously. Reform needs to be about ensuring that every school across this nation has a quality educator standing at the front of each and every classroom.

Enough is enough – it is time to take a stand. If you are a reformer, if you are an educator, if you are a parent, if you are a student – this is an appeal… start to get serious about the system. This country will be better for it.

Mike Meechin is an educator and proud product of the inner-city public education system. He blogs at Transparent Curriculum, and is the owner of Innovate Education, a grassroots professional development company.

About Michael Meechin

Michael Meechin is a high school assistant principal, educator, speaker, and writer. Michael speaks and writes on topics that include education reform, high-impact instructional strategies, grading & assessment, and instructional technology. Meechin is a proud product of the inner-city public education system. He has spent his career in at-risk schools with high needs student populations in Central Florida and Metropolitan Atlanta. Serving as a social studies teacher, AVID coordinator, data & assessment coordinator, dean of students, and assistant principal, Mike has a wide varieties of experiences which make him an asset to schools and districts looking for assistance reaching underserved student populations.


6 thoughts on “An Appeal.

  1. I agree with your last paragraph, but also think a lot about some of the writing shared on the Coop lately. I think we can often be too serious as adults and often this seriousiness comes from a place of fear and pain. I think pain and fear can be great motivatiors and are a needed stage in change work, but I think many of us here and around the country are ready to move from pain and fear. I think we are ready to “play at transforming” education and the world. ( the phase was taken from Walk out, Walk and the Warriors without weapons).

    I think we can approach our work with a playful spirit and if we do we will attract more people to this work, and get more done.

    While this might not be completely related….I am currently reading Active Hope by Joanna Macy. She has reminded me that one of the first thing we can do to help create change is to be grateful for the things in our lives that give us joy and provide brightness and light, often in troubling times. So I want to offer a few things I am grateful for, as a way to play at transforming education and to play off of your appeal.

    I am grateful for your appeal and your energy. I am grateful for all the people who are ready to walk out from standardized testing and walk on to more meaningful and relvant learning. I am grateful for all my fellow Co-opers and all those that read, share and join our conversation here. I am grateful that so many teachers, students, parents and community members are willing to stand up to standardized testing. I am grateful that this work can draw people together. I am grateful to all the teachers and parents trying to make the testing happen over the course of the next weeks less harmful to the students taking them. I am grateful to all the staff of the schools that try to make the environment more humane and less stressful everyday of the year.

    I am grateful that we still have a strong public education system, one that provide a foundations for us to build from and transform. I am thankful to all the passionate and creative teachers who challenge those who wish to privatized and profit from our children. I am grateful for all those who create alternatives to the traditional banking model of schooling.

    I am grateful that I can spend the rest of my life learning new and amazing things, while sharing my passion for life and learning with others.

    Thank you,

    David Loitz

    Posted by dloitz | April 25, 2012, 5:29 pm
  2. Mike–thanks for your piece. What boggles me (from a historical perspective) is that the system has regressed to late 19th/early 20th century curriculum theory and design…even though pedagogy has since shed light on other important aspects of learning that are being ignored by the system. An even larger problem in my mind is that the system was designed for the mechanical age, yet we’re LIVING in the information/innovation age where anything that can be replicated/regurgitated/mechanized is now handled by machines. Our education system needs to move to a place where we help future workers learn how to learn on their own, take understanding to places we haven’t already been and do things that machines CANNOT.

    Posted by Jen Lilienstein - Founder, | April 25, 2012, 5:46 pm
  3. I’m reminded if Albert Einstein’s over-used, yet timeless statement: “We cannot solve a problem at the same level of thinking that problem was created.”

    Most education reform (and the reformers) exists on the same planes of thinking that created the problems they claim to abhor. Today I read a post from a teacher who spouted pure brilliance in regards to education, all the while demonizing and discrediting a particular blogger who disagreed with him. His intelligent solutions were rendered null and void. He perpetuated energy that is ironically, identical to the energy which created the problems he railed against… fear based and divisive.

    It is not the CONTENT of our solutions that is the key to reform… it is the character of the people who are creating the solutions.

    It is not enough to say we need to stop standardized testing, or take education seriously as a profession… this can only be a first step. Reform will only happen when the society that is charged with these recommendations, moves beyond a level of thinking that is fear-based… the level of thinking that our education problems began.

    Posted by brazenteacher | April 26, 2012, 12:27 pm
  4. Hi Michael,
    Thank you for your post. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Have you heard about the national resolution on high stakes testing? Go to this site to sign the resolution

    Posted by Elisa Waingort | April 26, 2012, 8:16 pm
  5. I’ve been working for six weeks on a post about standardized testing. I’m trying to argue that the problem is not with the tests – it’s with the overuse of standardized tests and the misuse of results.

    I’m in a coveted position at the moment – I teach in an international school where students take standardized tests, but they are done in a one-week period. The scores do not influence student retention, teacher performance appraisal, or school funding. The tests are one form of information.

    Parents have a right to know the extent to which their children are learning. If we give them no other measures besides standardized tests, they will judge us by our standardized test scores. The challenge is to create authentic classroom assessments that demonstrate student learning.

    Based on my parents’ recollection, the war babies didn’t have standardized tests, but they also didn’t have projects that excited them or challenged their critical thinking skills.

    We have numerous authentic assessments in the form of projects (PBL). Projects are currently sitting on my desks in need of final feedback. At least the standardized tests are graded for me :).

    Janet |

    Posted by Janet Abercrombie | April 30, 2012, 5:56 am
  6. “Today, we have more resources than we could imagine – but we have no faith in the system.”

    Exactly–and I echo your call to take a stand. Not sure I would have felt that way 15 years ago, but the last decade has been a relentless march toward privatizing one of America’s best ideas: a free education for all kids. It’s take a long time to embed the idea that schools have “failed” (using test data as “proof”) and it won’t be easy to turn it around. But the way I see it–it’s our only hope.

    Good piece.

    Posted by nflanagan | May 4, 2012, 9:26 pm

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