Saturday, February 4, 2012

School Creativity Indices: Measurement Folly or Overdue Response to Test-Based Accountability?

Daniel T. Hickey
A February 2 article in Education Week surveyed efforts in California, Oklahoma, and other states to gauge the opportunities for creative and innovative work. One of our main targets here at Remediating Assessment is pointing out the folly of efforts to standardize and measure “21st Century Skills.” So of course this caught our attention.
What might come of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Smith’s search for a “public measurement of the opportunities for our students to engage in innovative work” or California’s proposed Creativity and Innovative Education index?
Mercifully, they don’t appear to be pushing the inclusion of standardized measures of creativity within high stakes tests. Promisingly, proponents argue for a focus on “inputs” such as arts education, science fair, and film clubs, rather than “outputs” like test scores, and the need for voluntary frameworks instead of punitive indexes. Indeed, many of these efforts are described as a necessary response to the crush of high stakes testing. Given the looming train-wreck of “value-added” merit pay under Race to the Top, we predict that these efforts are not going to get very far. We will watch them closely and hope some good come from them. 
What is most discouraging is what the article never mentioned. The words “digital,” “network,” or “writing” don’t appear in the articles, and no consideration of the need to look at the contexts in which creativity is fostered is present. Schools continue to filter any website with user-generated content, and obstruct the pioneering educators who appreciate that digital knowledge networks are an easy and important context for creative and knowledgeably engagement. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Finnish Lessons: Start a Conversation

Rebecca C. Itow and Daniel T. Hickey
In the world of Education, we often talk of holding ourselves and adhering to “high standards,” and in order to ensure we are meeting these high standards, students take carefully written standardized exams at the state and national level. These tests are then used to determine the efficacy of our schools, curriculum, and teachers. Now, with more and more states tying these scores to value-added teaching, these tests are having more impact than ever. But being so tied to the standards can be a detriment to classroom learning and national educational success.
Dr. Pasi Sahlberg of Finland spoke at Indiana University on January 20, 2012 to discuss accounts of Finnish educational excellence in publications like The Atlantic and the New York Times, and promote his new book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? One of his main points was that the constant testing and accountability to which the U.S.'s students and teachers are subjected do not raise scores. He argued that frequent testing lowers scores because teachers must focus on a test that captures numerous little things, rather than delving more deeply into a smaller number of topics.