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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Put the student at the center of education

Photo: Theodore H. Wilson
"There is no question among any of us that education is a vastly complex system of human conditions and interactions. One needn’t spend much time observing children in a classroom to understand that the dynamics of learning go far beyond that day’s particular lesson." according to Theodore H. Wilson, III, Ph.D., is the president and executive director of the National Institute for Student-Centered Education (NISCE). Rapid advances in cognitive science allow us to recognize those dynamics and how they affect children’s learning - or lack thereof.  

While there are many examples of real success, most would agree that decades of education reform efforts – as evidenced by No Child Left Behind and Common Core state standards - have produced disappointing and mixed results. International, racial, and socio-economic achievement gaps persist. Bullying and school crime statistics are alarming. The challenges in educating our young people remain daunting.  

Massachusetts Board of Education Chairwoman, Margaret McKenna, has recently put the spotlight on the ways in which standardized testing is being practiced in the Commonwealth’s school districts by voicing her concerns that some schools are testing our students 20 to 25 days per year, including practice and pretests. She said, "We’ve got to figure out a way to make sure people are not teaching to the test."

Her comments were made before the latest MCAS ratings were released by the state. This year, a number of school districts – some of which consistently lead in student achievement – dropped from their Level 1 status in the ratings based on strict requirements to show improvement.  

McKenna and others rightly illuminate one consequence of No Child Left Behind (NCLB): the emphasis on proficiency testing, which too often results in teaching-to-the-test, rather than teaching-to-the-student. These efforts to quantify education success often leave out the most important person in the equation – the child. So is it any wonder that students are disengaged, and that high school dropout rates remain troubling indicators of that very disengagement?

A 2012 Gallup Student Poll that surveyed 500,000 students from 1,700 public schools in 37 states found that 60 percent of high school students are simply not interested in school. According to Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, "Our educational system sends students and our country’s future over the school cliff every year."

Source: Milford Daily News

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