Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rigor Redefined...

The blogosphere has been abuzz responding to Tony Wagner's article in ASCD's October Issue. The title of the Wagner's research is, "Rigor Redefined." Two of the best blog responses I encountered came from Vicki Davis (on her CoolCatTeacher Blog) and VYonkers (as a response to Vicki's post).

Wow! Incredible articulation on impeccable research. In his article, Wagner compares the "education students need" v. "the education that students get." Through Wagner's research he realizes that these two are in conflict with one another. What students need to "build successful careers" and "become good citizens" currently do not match the education they actually receive in school.

According to industry leaders, what students need to learn are attributes that include Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Collaboration and Leadership, Agility and Adaptability, Initiative and Entrepreneurialism, Effective Oral and Written Communication, Accessing and Analyzing Information, and Curiosity and Imagination.

So what are students learning? In short, test prep for standardized tests. Tony Wagner concludes:
Across the United States, I see schools that are succeeding at making adequate early progress but failing our students. Increasingly, there is only one curriculum: test prep. Of the hundreds of classes that I've observed in recent years, fewer than 1 in 20 were engaged in instruction designed to teach students to think instead of merely drilling for the test.

What? You've got to be kidding me? What's it going to take to stem the tide? I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I believe that it's time for those in charge of our educational system here in the U.S. to pull their heads out of the sand and listen to what our industry leaders are telling us. Scoring high on an AP exam, an SAT, or any standardized state test (like the TAKS here in Texas) is no indicator of success in college and career.

When hiring for a position, managers are looking for creative self-starters. People who take ownership in their positions and are avid team players, leaders, and critical thinkers...risk takers who tackle issues and look for creative solutions to problems and challenges.

I frequently have students get frustrated with me because I require them to work in teams, make them accountable for assignments, and look for creative solutions to challenges. I admit that I rarely cover as much 'content' as some of my colleagues, but I am passionate about teaching and about preparing my students for what lies ahead of them. I can do more, but by requiring them to team play, take some risks, and problem-solve to find creative solutions, I think I'm on my way to doing my part...I look forward to the day when the "fewer than 1 in 20 engaged classrooms" becomes "20 in 20 engaged classrooms."

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