A while back, I subscribed to the RSS feed for the comments on 2Â¢ Worth so that I could be notified when people had added conversation to any of my blog entries. When it happens, I just click from the aggregator into the blog so that I can follow the thread from the original entry.
This morning, I had some catching up to do, so I just read through them clicking into the context of the comment only a couple of times. A couple of things formed together for me. First, someone, commenting on one of the posts — I don’t know which — suggested that what I was talking about was the purpose of education. Why do we put children in our schools? What are schools for?
Then I run across a comment that I was mostly impressed with. But the author, a network filter administrator, said,
When I go through the process of adding a new Universal Resource Locator (URL) to the filter database I actually personally evaluate the site to see which of the state standards can be illustrated or in any way taught by the content of the site. If I find that none can it is immediately blocked.
Interpreted literally, this reminds me of a comment made by a keynote speaker I recently saw at a state school boards association conference. It was a great keynote, funny, and thought provoking — in a good way. But the speaker said something that I, personally, do not agree with.
If your second grade teacher teaches a fantastic unit on dinosaurs, but dinosaurs are not on the test, then that teacher is doing harm to your children. Anything that’s taught that’s not on the test, is doing harm to your children.
Are the standards of instruction intended to be the extent of the instruction? The answer to that question may well be, “Yes.” But should the state define the limit of instruction? I don’t think so. Safety, I would suggest, should be the only limit to learning in our schools.
Added the Next Day:
I want to be completely fair to the two people I have referred to here. The keynote speaker was quite good, and right on target with most of the message. The statement about teaching to the test and the filter administrator’s strategy both come out of caring for their students. They are not at fault. The fault is an environment where AYP becomes so important, so critical to the schools and the district, that these actions make perfect sense. As much as it has done for children who were being virtually ignored before, NCLB does not enable. It constrains us from the innovation that is so desperately needed in our schools today.
Ozawa, Ryan. “Dinosaurs Alive!.” Hawaii’s Photostream. 16 Dec 2006. 31 Oct 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/hawaii/324231234/>.