"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, December 04, 2006

Open More Windows

From the Lansing State Journal:

. . . In a standards based world, there must be a method of measuring school progress. That is the purpose of the MEAP [Michigan Education Assessment Program]. The MEAP is a school accountability instrument. It doesn't demand that schools tear apart all the data generated from the test results. However, if schools wish to improve towards meeting those standards, they need to examine every piece of data possible. Therefore, the MEAP drives instructional improvement. The No Child Left Behind Act, (NCLB) is proof of this accountability system. Each school building "earns" a letter grade that is significantly based on the MEAP scores of its students.

Is there another way? Some educators think so. Here is a short story that illustrates their viewpoint:

A renowned expert on standards and benchmarks once visited a third grade classroom where the teacher was teaching her students about light and sound. The teacher could tell the expert exactly what standard she was teaching to and exactly what benchmark she was using to gauge learning.

Suddenly a Monarch butterfly flew into the classroom from an open window. The students began talking about the butterfly and asking the teacher myriad questions. The teacher knew that to go on with her lesson was a waste of time and decided to devote the rest of the time to teaching her students about the stages of the butterfly.

At the end of the day, the teacher had a chance to talk with the expert. "I wanted to stick to the standard," she said, "but I lost the kids and I needed to make a decision. What was I suppose to do?"

The expert compassionately said, "You did the right thing in making the lesson change...next time...close the window!"

Maybe we should be opening more windows, rather than closing them.

Charles Dumas is the superintendent of the Portland Public School District.

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