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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quality Not Quantity

The continued discussion of adding time to the school day finds advocates in Massachusetts. Once again we are hearing conversations, and little action, in restructuring the school day in an archaic system that still maintains a strict adherence to a 19th Century school model. Schools still function and operate as they did in the 19th Century in the 21st century. This speaks volumes about why education in America is so lackluster and second rate. Quantity alone isn't the answer. We need to add some quality and that can be done with technology. Rarely is technology part of any discussion to improve schools. Adding that precious commodity, Time, always seems to be the answer and we have learned, it really isn't the answer. Let's talk about quality and not just quantity.

Technology use is all but absent in schools. Sure we find computers in schools, but they are not being used well and not being used across the curriculum. We still hear about and read about struggling attempts to use technology in a system that is hostile to advancing forward. We are such a status quo system it is scary, especially with a collection of employees who are highly educated.

If we are to extend the school day and the school year, we must build into the schedule time, blocks of time where the students are to play, play around with the technology and subject concepts. I don't want to see more of the same stuff, test prep. I want to see students connecting ideas from all subjects, seeing the connections of what is being learned in one class applied to other disciplines. This would slowly; slowly because that is the way we move in education, slowly; allow our schools to see how interdisciplinary school days can be created and generated and then how time over a school day and school year will be productive.

The other problem is the test. We need to see students produce products that are representative of time spent on a project. The one day exam is a bad idea for so many reasons from a pedagogical point of view and yet policy makers and publishers continue to push them. We are finding evidence that these forms of assessment aren't working. If so many are failing them, we as teachers know that when our methods of assessments fail us, we don't blame the students we throw the test out and start again. We continue to blame the schools, the teachers, the students, BUT never the test. How many times have we seen bad and blatant mistakes made on the tests and by the test makers in assessment and yet they continue to dictate the terms in educational policy.

What person, let alone a young child, would want to spend more time preparing for a test that cause anxiety. I know that child would must rather spend more time on a project that demonstrates an understanding of a topic. As a teacher, employer, college professor, that project will tell me more about the person than any test score. I can look at the project and see evidence of learning that a test will never show me.

Finally, what have we sacrificed in the longer test prep days in the character and spirit of our children? Perhaps we should reexamine the tests and not simply take away quality time from another activity to do m ore test prep. What kind of citizen, person, adult, parent are we actually preparing with this kind of education anyway.

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