Education for Innovation or More Test Prep?

Intel is hosting an education digital town hall at the Newseum that will explore new ways to “cultivate tomorrow’s thinkers and entrepreneurs to sustain economic and educational success.” (December 7 at 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 EST) Participants include Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Angel Gurria, the Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; Rob Atkinson with ITIF; and Tom Friedman of the New York Times.

Let’s see how the Duncan sidesteps the issue of testing and innovation – while US students spend endless hours honing their test taking skills, the demand for routine skills has disappeared from the workplace. Anyone know of a meaningful and rewarding career that looks like filling out a worksheet? Maybe Friedman will be willing to tackle the stifling impact of testing on creativity thinking among our students. For my thoughts on the subject, see my post “As NCLB Narrows the Curriculum, Creativity Declines

“Education for Innovation” a live digital town hall 

Watch the video here.

You can submit questions you would like the moderators, PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill and Hari Sreenivasan, to discuss with the speakers. Then, vote the questions you like best to the top. Click here

You can join the for the live, interactive webcast on Tuesday, December 7 at 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 EST or join the conversation at Twitter/InnovationEcon use the hashtag #Ed4Innovation



More on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

PISA is an assessment (begun in 2000) that focuses on 15-year-olds’ capabilities in reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy. PISA studied students in 41 countries and assessed how well prepared students are for life beyond the classroom by focusing on the application of knowledge and skills to problems with a real-life context. For a detailed example of how PISA assesses sequencing skills see my post “Why Don’t We Teach Sequencing Skills?


For more PISA questions in reading, math and science see my blog post “Are Students Well Prepared to Meet the Challenges of the Future?” You can find some great critical thinking questions to use with your students


Response to sample question
This short response question is situated in a daily life context. The student has to interpret and solve the problem which uses two different representation modes: language, including numbers, and graphical. This question also has redundant information (i.e., the depth is 400 cm) which can be confusing for students, but this is not unusual in real-world problem solving. The actual procedure needed is a simple division. As this is a basic operation with numbers (252 divided by 14) the question belongs to the reproduction competency cluster. All the required information is presented in a recognizable situation and the students can extract the relevant information from this. The question has a difficulty of 421 score points (Level 2 out of 6).

Public School Teachers – Problem Or Solution?

Susan Szachowicz
Susan Szachowicz

A few years ago, after giving a workshop at a Chicago-area conference, I relaxed over a deep-dish pizza dinner (what else?) with a few of the other presenters. I never forgot the no-nonsense approach of  Susan Szachowicz, principal of Brockton High School. I was pleased to see her school profiled in today’s New York Times – “4,100 Students Prove ‘Small Is Better’ Rule Wrong” 9/27/2010.

While Arne Duncan, Oprah, and NBC’s “Education Nation” are busy blaming public school teachers, it was refreshing to see the NY Times highlight the turn around at Massachusetts’ Brockton High School that flies in the face of current ”educational reform du jour.” 

A decade ago, Brockton High School was a case study in failure. Teachers and administrators often voiced the unofficial school motto in hallway chitchat: students have a right to fail if they want. And many of them did — only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.

Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.

Note that this reform was led by dedicated public school teachers (including Susan, who later became principal) advocating a return to basics – reading, writing, speaking, reasoning. It wasn’t a top-down mandate, restructuring or charter school take over. It was a (unionized) teacher-led initiative, supported by thoughtful administrators. It took place at one of the largest high school in the country – so much for Bill and Melinda’s “small is beautiful” approach. 

Are public school teachers the problem or are they part of the solution? It depends on whether their unions put job security ahead of student performance. Teachers are responsible for results. But educational leaders, parents and the community are also responsible to support them. Accountability is reciprocal.

Kudos to the entire Brockton High School community. Their collaborative focus on instruction has resulted in dramatic improvements in student performance. It’s a lesson for parents, school leadership teams, teacher unions and education policy makers. Maybe Brockton can star in a sequel to “Waiting for Superman.” 

Image credit: Flickr/Office of Governor Patrick

Secretary Duncan to Testify before House Education Committee on Obama’s Education Agenda

On Wednesday, May 20, (10:00 a.m. ET)  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the House Education and Labor Committee about President Obama’s agenda for transforming American education. This was the the Secretary’s first appearance on Capitol Hill to outline the President’s education goals. He was the only witnesses, and there were many questions and answers from both Democrats and Republicans.