"Our country is the most innovative and determined on the face of this planet in a time that begs for these skills. Let's educate to our strengths instead of chasing Shanghai and South Korea on a standardized test." -- +Ted Dintersmith @TEDxFargo
I couldn't sleep last night after reading the book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. When I checked my FitBit after waking from a hovering dream about the open-air schools of Taipei with of white and green, polyester sweat-suited students with matching haircuts from a trip I took my Senior year of high school, it was 2:23 am. I spent a couple weeks over the December holidays at the dawn of 2001 in Taipei touring the wonderful country and visiting rural and urban schools (like the one in my dream) to meet and connect with students. As a senior in high school, I was still unsure of the answer to the question, "What am I going to be when I grow up?" But, my time as a teacher, tech integrationist, and now an elementary principal has certainly been influenced by my overseas travels (Taiwan being the first of many).
After the insistence of my 7-year-old daughter wanting to read just "just one more chapter" last night, I delved deeper into Most Likely to Succeed as she finished her 6th chapter of the Lego Elves Search for the Magic Key, both independently. I couldn't help but wonder as I was reading about the formation of the current ELA curriculum in K12 where she would fit. Is she Basic? Proficient? Advanced? And, more importantly, does it matter to her future?
As the principal of her school, yes, it matters to me as we set up to analyze scores for the upcoming in-service day. As her Mom, it doesn't really matter as much. At her birthday party last weekend, nobody asked how her preparation for the SBAC in 3rd grade is going, nobody. The audacity! Rather, most asked how she liked her new school, the name of her teacher, and if she was still going to be an engineer when she grows up. To which she told them that she is planning on being a dog sitter first, then be a Jackrabbit and an engineer. What can I say, I have an entrepreneur on my hands!
So, today, as I have blocked off two hours to work on my in-service plan to review the SBAC scores next week, Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner are resonating in my brain instead. How can I make this relevant? In a time when as a school administrator I supposed to be more concerned about test scores than anything else, but I would rather just suggest to my teachers that we work on real life problem solving for my students and get the basics down? That we should let our school's curriculum not be driven just by a test? No, I can't do that. Logic says no; as does the continued need for me to have a paycheck to support my family. But, in reality, even though we haven't put our students in matching uniforms with school-regulated matching haircuts, have we taken away the ability to be innovative, creative problem solvers that Ted Dintersmith claimed in his TEDxFargo talk is the greatest attribute of our country's citizenry?
I'm going to go back to data now, but with a fresh set of eyes and the optimism that I can find relevancy beyond the score.