Saturday, February 20, 2016

Solutions for social, project-loving students: do things really need to add up?

In this past weekend's Wall Street Journal, Nikhil Goyal, author of the just-released "Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice," offers "Solutions for Stressed Out High Schoolers."

Goyal first discusses the "solutions" offered by Princeton-area superintendent David Aderhold, which I blogged about earlier this year. Goyal mentions Aderhold's abolition of midterms and final exams and his restrictions on homework, but not the restrictions Aderhold has imposed on a competitive math program and a summer enrichment program. Nor does Goyal mention the strong dissent of the Asian contingent, which comprises a majority of the school district's parents and students.

Moving on to other "solutions," Goyal discusses how some schools have eliminated AP classes, and how the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland has voted to replace final exams with in-class projects and tasks. Other schools

are aiming to give students more opportunities to explore their passions, work on real-world projects, and collaborate and learn from students of all ages.
The idea that some students might be a lot more stressed out by real-world projects and peer-collaborations than by midterms and finals apparently hasn't occurred Mr. Goyal. Nor has it occurred to him that midterms and finals are still (for now) a fact of college life for which colleges still (for now) expect students to be (psychologically as well as academically) prepared.

Tellingly, Goyal, who ought for his part to replace some of his armchair assumptions with more real-world journalism, cites someone whose name I instantly remembered:
The idea that education must be for life and "school needs to stop getting in the way of curiosity," said Ira Socol, and educator at Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, Va.
The Albermarle district has added music studios and spaces for hackers and "makers" to its middle and high schools in the past several years so that students can take chafe of their own learning and do interdisciplinary, hands-on work. At one middle school, students built tree houses in the cafeteria, learning problem-solving and technical skills alone the way. Students can now sit in the tree houses to eat lunch, congregate and relax. The schools have also begun to gravitate away from traditional exams and toward portfolio-based assessments.
Ira Socol is someone I blogged about a half-dozen years ago. As you can see, his beliefs don't exactly add up--at least for those who believe that 2 + 2 = 4.

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