Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our system tests and grades young people turning them off of learning

There are a number of compelling points in this video. For me, there is nothing more poignant than:

Our system tests and grades young people turning them off of learning.
It's impossible to discuss education without being hit upside the head umpteen times by the word accountability. At the root of this word is a demonizing fear that there is this horde of pension-sucking, union-loving teachers who are laughing their lazy asses to the bank.

This kind of fear-based accountability has spawned a test and punish bureaucracy that is making victims of us all.

School has been bastardized so badly that it is less about learning and more about gaming the system.

Assessment is no longer about helping kids - it's about catching kids. Heck, it's even become about catching teachers. I find it incredibly disheartening that anyone would make assessment more about blaming than learning.

If we really cared about real accountability, we would first ask if kids like school, and then we would have to care how they answer. Until then, kids will continue to be victims of a system that cares more about sustaining its current self than serving students.


  1. I love this video Joe. It frames what I believe to be true about education in a way which is catchy, interesting to watch, and (I feel) hard to argue with.

    When we share these ideas with other people, they keep going back to the same argument: how will we know kids are learning?

    So I think our challenge is to come up with an answer to that argument which parents will accept without having to make too much of a radical change in their life.

    I mean, I know my son is learning because I spend a lot of time with him and I keep track of the changes I see. I know he's learning because I listen to the questions he has. I know he's learning because I catch him trying to read (he's 4). I know he's learning because I'm involved deeply in his life. I want this to always be true, although over time I also want him to really learn the skill of autonomy, so I want to be a participant in his learning, rather than the sole director of it.

    Our system of education absolves parents of the responsibility of paying attention to their kids learning needs by giving them easy numbers and letters to look at which are substitutes for the measures we already have for learning. You will know your child is learning if you are a part of the process, and pay attention.

    Our economic system requires that parents work harder than should be necessary to support themselves, often leaving them without the time to support their kids emotionally. Something is flawed with a society which devalues the relationship between parents & kids and suggests that only a stranger can best teach your child everything they need to know.

    I believe that a certain amount of conformity is necessary to keep society together, but we lose an awful lot of individuality and freedom when we try and turn every kid into the same person.

  2. Brilliant comment, David. I enjoyed it a lot. I'm going to post it as a blog post on its own.

  3. Great video!
    How do we know they are learning? If they need something measurable. Something they can put a number on. Maybe we can answer by saying .... we won't they have learned until they are a thriving contributer to society. Which may be 10 years down the road.
    Isn't that the ultimate goal anyway?
    The world does not need people who passed the chapter test. This world demands more.

  4. Thank you IDEA for this video! We need to push back against the testing companies, corporate money and Gates Foundation that funds the factory model of schooling. My district had a superintendent who forced the entire district into a tamped-up testing paradigm so he can get noticed at the national level. It worked and he got a job at a major media outlet probably making three times as much as he did as superintendent. Paulo Friere would approve.

  5. This kind of fear-based accountability has spawned a test and punish bureaucracy that is making victims of us all.


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