Four to Focus: 21st Century Education Musts

Four to Focus: 21stCentury Education Musts

Education, as we know it, continues to change at a rapid pace.  Arguments for or against the Common Core continue to flood the media scene.  I was baffled this past weekend as I visited my family in Bismarck about all of the propaganda related to the Common Core State Standards.  I’ve had a few days to process all of it, and it has lead me to believe that we as a society have completely lost our focus.  The following “Four to Focus” for 21stCentury Schools is something we need to consider:

1.      Unstandardized, Standardized Tests:  Children learn in a multitude of different capacities.  A classroom of 20 could very likely portray 20 different learning styles.  Some students may be linguistic.  Others might be mathematical.  The point is, not all children learn the same.  If the research continues to show “student-centered” classrooms are the most efficient way to educate children, then why do we continue to have “fill in the bubble” or choose “A,B,C,D” tests to measure achievement?  Why not asses students via their own individual learning styles?

If schools throughout the nation continue to miss AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) maybe we should change how we test.  What if children could show mastery of content/standards within their own unique learning styles?  What if we gave the students the choice?  Relevant learning will yield prevalent results.  Let’s give choices to our students when it comes to achievement tests. Mastery can be measured in many ways and we cannot limit our students.  Square pegs don’t always fit into round holes.

2.     Teach Critical Competencies:  I’ve quoted this statistic before from the Department of Labor, but it’s worth another look, “65% of today’s grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet.”  What does college and career ready curriculum look like?  We must allow our students to be creative.  We must allow them to work together, to communicate, and to think critically.  Today’s lessons cannot be sit and get.  We must challenge our students by asking driving questions and by guiding them through the problem solving process.  Name a job either now or invent one for the future and then tell me that students will not need to be creative, communicative, critical thinkers and collaborators.  These competencies will be needed in every field.  As we teach critical content, we must not forget these critical competencies.  Project-based curriculum in a student-centered environment must be our focus.

3.      Stop Racing:  Why do we need to “Race to the Top?”  Whatever happened to a world of interdependency?  You do what you do best, and I will do what I do best, and we will benefit from each other.  I completely understand the benefits of competition, but all too often we compare ourselves to other nations of the world.  The more we focus on others, the less we focus on ourselves.  What are our needs?  What is best for our students?  These are the questions we need to ask.  If somebody is doing it better than us, let’s learn from them.  If another nation puts somebody on Mars…let’s not try to one up them and put someone on Pluto. I’m not so sure that would be a hot idea anyways.  The point being.  Let’s learn from each other.  A little competition is healthy, but let’s be the first to congratulate someone on a success, and let’s be the first to share what we find.  Racing isn’t the answer, after all, slow and steady has won a race or two.

4.      Act:  If we fail to act, we become a part of the problem.  If the majority of society feels the above to be true, then we have no choice but to act.  Our words in blogs may mean one thing, but if we don’t put words into actions we become complacent.  What is best for our kids?  We must change our focus.  We need to do what is right.  I’m in the field of education because I have a passion for helping people.  I feel that through educating young minds, I can have an impact on this world.  What is your passion?  Will you act on it?  We owe it to our students to fight for what is right.
Travis Jordan
Griggs County Central School District #18
Cooperstown, ND 58425