1. Quality education should . . .
A. Fill a bucket.
B. Light a fire.
C. Prepare students for performing on multiple choice tests.
D. Provide leverage for political agendas.
We live during an exciting period in American education. People are calling for quality schools. Parents imagine their children maintaining a sense of wonder and curiosity, enthusiastic to read and learn. They picture teachers appreciating and cultivating the unique qualities and strengths of their children. They want schools that challenge and prepare their kids, as well as reliable methods for ensuring that schools maximize student potential.
How have some politicians responded? “Vouchers! Rewards! Failing schools! A+! No Child Left Behind! FCAT!” They pepper their speeches with terms like standards, accountability, mastery, and reform but what do they deliver? A singular high stakes test, threats of lost funds, demoralized teachers, and children left behind . . .
Teachers and administrators became educators because they want to make a difference. In college they learned the theory of multiple intelligences (different people with different talents learn differently). They learned that lessons should tap into student interests and that a differentiated curriculum enables an educator to reach the most students. They know that the most effective teaching methods, for all ability levels, are both engaging and enriching. They recognize that these practices, woven throughout the year, deepen student critical thinking and reasoning skills.
But they also know that with tight budgets, packed classrooms, mandatory textbooks, and one-size-should-fit-all FCATs, their hands are tied. They want to know, “Can we hold officials accountable for not developing ‘accountability’ batteries that reflect the complexity of our responsibilities? Should we also use just one lens to judge the excellence of our lawmakers? If so, where are our voter mandated smaller class sizes?”
In the end, I think teachers, parents and administrators want the same thing: graduates who can think in multifaceted and independent ways, whose education backgrounds include experiences in real problem solving, and who are not only able to read, but who want to read. The question is how do we get there?
Diversity strengthens –in stock portfolios, ecosystems, woven fabrics, thought patterns, social groups, and methods of assessment. If we intend to take advantage of this momentum for education reform, we need to diversify how we teach, how we evaluate students, and especially in how we hold teachers accountable.
A home of distinction is not constructed with a hammer alone, nor is excellence in education.
2. The best learning environments. . .
A. Build on student interests.
B. Encourage diversity of thought.
C. Have low teacher to student ratio.
D. Create meaningful challenges for all ability groups.
E. All of the above.
(This post was origionally published as an Op-ed piece in May 2006 in the Tallahassee Democrat)