Looking Forward #4 (last in this series)

Suddenly, in the spring of 2020, everyone was home schooled. It was an experiment that included a very steep learning curve for school teachers, their students and most of all their parents. It lasted several months and ended as awkwardly as it began. Those who home school by choice had adjustments to make as well.

It was particularly strange for seniors.

Graduates in 2020 have a story to tell that is unique to them.

They completed their last few months of school totally online and without the usual school-sponsored, pomp and circumstance that typically accompanies diplomas. In spite of the challenges, schools made valiant efforts to celebrate graduating seniors while still maintaining guidelines for social distancing.

In the midst of a most unique school year, valuable lessons and experiences evolved as did our ways of thinking about schooling, equity, access, and how one learns best.  Those important discussions continue as the nation faces ongoing pandemic awareness while planning for another school year.

A few lessons are worth noting especially since they have always been problematic.

These include a heavy emphasis on grading, testing, unreliable data gathering and reporting student mastery. They also include bias in high stakes tests like the SAT’s and other standardized measures. We took a deeper look at all of these topics during this three month, online experiment. In many cases, they became a secondary focus or not as necessary as we thought they were.

This is a monumental and long overdue discovery and it took a pandemic to shed light on the need to rethink our practices. Over the school shutdowns, teachers and students learned that supportive encouragement, personal interaction and less emphasis on getting grades, promotes learning in a way far greater than constant evaluation ever will. They knew this before the online only version of schooling. They know it better now.

Changes are on the horizon and it couldn’t be soon enough.

Many universities will go fully test-optional in the fall of 2020. Some have waived the SAT and ACT requirements altogether in 2021.  The goal of colleges is to admit students who they think are going to do great and these tests are suppose to provide that data.

The push back to drop these measures is not new. However, the testing companies create an illusion of necessity to the universities, colleges and general public. They also promote this false dependence to elementary schools. Parents want their children in the college-bound pipeline as early as possible.

These tests are not for students or their teachers.

The data analysis is not correlated to what students know or can do. The feedback is not timely or designed to help students do better. It’s designed to weed out and select those who learn the way the test is constructed.

Along with the ability to choose where and how one learns best, high stakes testing is inequitable, biased and unfair.

What will next school year look like? What lessons did we learn? How can we think differently about getting an education, one that is inclusive of the multiple ways of learning and knowing.

Can we better appreciate and understand why more families may permanently choose homeschooling moving forward? Could we please not stereotype these families or any families who chose public or private school options?

As I have frequently said in many blogs over the past several years, there is not one right way to become educated.

For those of you who read to better understand others, here is a great article.

5 Things I learned…

Happy Summer! Stay well! Stay informed!



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