Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kids are not crops

The New York Times had an interesting article about the rising use of technology in farming. Two sentences in the article struck me:

There is an incentive to grow single crops to maximize the effectiveness of technology by growing them at the largest possible scale.

Technology encourages farmers to move too aggressively toward easy-to-grow and easy-to-sell crops that are more easily measured by instruments, rather than keeping some diversity in the fields.

In education we love our technology.

We also love our ability to standardized our testing routines so that we can measure student growth and achievement.

I am an accountability advocate. I want to be able to demonstrate that a student is learning. When a parent sends their child to one of the schools in my district, I want to be able to show that our schools make a difference.

But, if I am not careful, the focus on being able to demonstrate that our schools make a difference, that students are growing, will lead me, like farmers, to simplify the solutions.

Instead of creating a robust and diverse curriculum, it will be tempting to narrow the curriculum - to focus instead on easy to measure, easy to assess curriculum topics.

But kids are not crops.

Students need to struggle, to be curious, to be allowed to fail, to explore, to chase a passion.

But that is hard to measure.

Students need to be able to talk and write and explain their reasoning.

But that is hard to measure.

It is tempting to maximize the effectiveness of our schools by "growing single crops," teaching only what can be measured.

It is tempting to eliminate diversity and focus on conformity because that can be measured by the instruments that we have.

But kids are not crops.

My challenge is to create a school that has a diverse and rich curriculum, that allows for exploration and failure and the pursuit of passions AND one that can demonstrate to students, parents, community members, and legislators that something good and rich and productive is happening.

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