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The Power of Story Chapter Four

The Power of Story Chapter Four

July 20, 2017

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

Here we go with a glimpse into chapter four, High-Stakes Stories.  Remember all of those feel-good stories of the first three chapters? In this chapter, I’m going to tell you what doesn’t feel good, a punishing approach to mandated testing.

In this image from Katie Knox, you can see how this student is feeling.

Here is the story mapping (thanks, Deb Schneider) which Missy Urbaniak created.

The most difficult part of sharing a story from each chapter is deciding which story to share.  Here goes, and this one is cut/paste from a pre-copy edit version.  Just faster for me to use this one.

            At the beginning of this section, I promised that I would share my thoughts about the testing that is driving education today. Borrowing from an old spaghetti western movie (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, 1966) and morphing it with a favorite children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst (1987), I will tell you a story, and soon you will know exactly how I feel.

The Good; The Bad; and The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad News

            I have good news; bad news; and terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news. My question: Why do “reformers” think that we need to “standardize” kids? The kids and grandkids in our family are not the least bit standardized; they are each very unique individuals. I’ll bet your family is the same.

            The good news is that most of the public now realizes that standardized tests might not be all that they were cracked up to be, as NCLB and RTTT (Race to the Top) tried to make us believe. In fact, those tests were really about one publisher making a lot of money off the backs of districts struggling with fewer dollars, not to mention off the backs of struggling students, who often begin to believe that they are stupid.

            Let’s be clear: The tests are stupid; the kids are smart.

            The bad/good news is that these tests are no longer going to be mandated by the feds, and the responsibility will shift to each state. One would think that I am a champion of this process, but the truth is that most state leaders have bought into the existing ideology that all kids need to be tested on all subjects, all of the time. So, the very same testing continues, even though it often now has unique state titles. Sadly, the assumption of the myth that standardized tests are good continues. So, in many places as the mandated tests continue, the dollars keep rolling in to the publisher.

 

What Is Personalized Learning?

            In addition, we have even bigger bad news: Even if standardized tests go away, they will be replaced by a new myth, “personalized learning.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Do not be fooled, even if it comes cloaked in social–emotional learning. Hear me out. I am always for authentic personalized learning by kids who are emotionally healthy and are surrounded with a loving and supportive social network. However, this new approach to “personalized learning” is nothing more than a new superhighway to standardizing kids through mandated modules and daily testing; it will also be called competency-based education—just to keep us confused. Our new national education policy (ESSA) supports this approach to testing, as does the National Governors Association, even though there is no evidence supporting this major shift. I have even heard teachers refer to the new personalized learning as the “no-teacher” approach.

            Computer companies and publishers win again; kids, families, and districts lose again. Did I mention that, in this case, a synonym for “personalized” is competency-based education, with its own acronym, CBE? And after all of this money is spent on personalized learning/CBE, I guarantee that my kids and grandkids will still not be standardized. “Personalized” feels like something I would really like, right? As Picasso said, the meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away, which feels right to me (Krashen 2016, April). However, it turns out that “personalized” now has two meanings. The first is the meaning you have always understood: Find your own path; discover your own gifts; share. However, the second meaning of “personalized” is to set kids in front of a monitor and make them complete modules of instruction; take a test; open the next model. This second meaning gives a whole new meaning to “semantically altered.” To the corporate reformers, business-centric computer software sellers, and computer companies, you can readily see that teachers will be further marginalized and deprofessionalized, as anyone could run the software for the programs of “personalized” learning.

And, now for the really terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad news: The corporate take-over of public education is not only in the U.S. but is really a world-wide plan to take over education (https://dianeravitch.net/2016/04/20/anya-kamenetz-pearson-is-creating-a-worldwide-for-profit-educational-empire/).

            As an anecdote to what can feel like overwhelmingly discouraging information, remember the 100 Years in a 100 Words? Remember that we are not the first group of people to struggle to save public education. Our work is not finished. One suggestion right now is to find your local school and run, don’t walk, to the front office and ask to read stories to and with children. Perhaps, you can begin with, Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. This is how you make a difference in the life of another. True personalized learning.

 

 

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