Earlier today I wrote a comment to a post by Diane Ravtich that read:
I think the opt out movement needs to focus on developing viable alternatives to standardized testing. Otherwise they will be characterized as “anti-accountabilty”. And they COULD use the CCSS and “big data” to help them.
The post included a link to one of my posts from earlier today, and my post, in turn, elicited this comment from Dwayne Swicker:
“And they COULD use the CCSS and “big data” to help them”
Please explain how.
This gave me a chance to reduce some of my recent thinking to writing… and reminded me that I really need to spend some time in the coming weeks getting my thoughts on technology applications down on paper. Here’s what I wrote in reply to Mr Swicker’s query:
If we want public school diplomas in ALL districts in ALL states to serve as proof that students mastered skills we agree are essential, we need something like the CCSS… otherwise kids in TX will believe dinosaurs and men lived on earth at the same time and kids in some districts or some states will get a diploma that is worthless… We COULD use the existing CCSS— which, “reformers” protests notwithstanding is a de facto national curriculum— as a framework for teachers to build on to develop an organic “wiki-curriculum” that would be the basis for defining what EDUCATORS expect students to know and be able to do in order to earn a diploma.
The possible uses of “big data” require more space than is available here (and more knowledge of algorithms than I possess)… but if Pandora can identify with fairly eerie consistency what kind of music I like I think it is possible that some kind of learning program could be designed to format lessons in a fashion that match the learning styles of individual students… We’ve unwittingly made a deal to trade our personal preferences in order to gain access to the “free” internet and those preferences result in marketers developing personal profiles on each of us who take advantage of the resource… This kind of “profiling” could be used to help us engage students.
I believe we’re missing the boat on curriculum development and technology applications. We’re using the CCSS and technology to prepare kids for standardized tests that reinforce the early 20th century model for schooling that batches and compares students in age-based cohorts. We COULD be using those same tools to individualize instruction to ensure that each student given sufficient time can meet the expectations educators set so that when they leave school they can find their way in the world. We have the capacity to have time be a variable and learning be the constant instead of the other way around.
At some point I’ll elaborate more on the these topics.
Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss reported last week on the recently formed alliance of three dozen opt-out groups, describing them as “…an alliance to expand efforts to bring sanity to education policy.” Here’s her description of the group’s intentions, with emphasis added to one phrase:
The alliance, which is called Testing Resistance and Reform Spring, will support a range of public education and mobilizing tactics — including boycotts, opt-out campaigns, rallies and legislation — in its effort to stop the high-stakes use of standardized tests, to reduce the number of standardized exams, and to replace multiple-choice tests with performance-based assessments and school work. The alliance will help activists in different parts of the country connect through a new Web site that offers resources for activists, including fact sheets and guides on how to hold events to get out their message.
The notion of replacing multiple choice tests with performance based assessments and school work would have been impossible a decade ago because there would be no way to ensure that the basis for evaluating such assessments would be consistent from state-to-state and no way of knowing whether the school work was completed on worthwhile goals. Ironically, the combination of the Common Core standards and “big data”, both of which underpin the standardized testing movement, could serve as a means of implementing a uniform basis for assessing individual student performance and school work… and absent SOME degree of uniformity in curriculum there is no assurance that students in TX would learn about evolution…. and absent some degree of uniformity in expectations there is no assurance that students in MS would be expected to achieve the same outcomes to earn a diploma as students in MA. I fear the opt out movement’s reflexive opposition to the CCSS and “big data” will work against it’s ultimate goal because absent a viable replacement to standardized achievement tests the opt out groups will be painted as “anti-accountability” reactionaries who are echoing the “union line”.
At this juncture, the length of the list of members of the opt out movement is long, but the money underwriting the movement is a pittance compared to the money behind the testing movement… to win this battle against these wealthy behemoths the grassroots groups need to come up with some kind of viable alternative to testing… and IF that alternative used the CCSS and the available technological tools to its advantage it would use the tools of the behemoths to provide a viable option to their straightjacket standardized tests.
Diane Ravitch’s column today describes the concept of wiki-standards… which led me to offer this comment:
Crowd-sourced Wiki standards and assessments make a lot of sense… they would be free and could be amended in the same way wikipedia is… the crowd-sourced assessments wouldn’t need to be devised for comparative purposes: they would be mastery assessments reflecting the collective wisdom of many teachers and vetted by people with knowledge and understanding of psychometrics… students could navigate their way through the sequenced wiki-assessments with guidance and support provided by teacher/coaches… Pearson wouldn’t make a dime, neither would ETS… we’d be out of the mindless benchmarking based on bell curves… kids could proceed at their own pace… the factory school would close… the network school would begin…
I am pressed for time now, but I formulated a concept like this when I was drafting a RTTT grant that did not get beyond the first round. In the coming days I intend to find it in my archives and elaborate on it… The best way to change the current factory paradigm is to offer a better one… and I think the crowd-sourcing model using the expertise of teachers is far better than the hierarchical model inherent in the CCSS.