Monday, April 07, 2008
It is not on the test
Take the time to listen to Tom Shapin's song above, or visit his site to listen to it. visit his site. Great links for teachers interested in the creative arts.
In the United States the Federal Government has imposed on all schools, in every state, a 'No Child Left Behind' policy (NCLB). It sounds commendable being an attempt to ensure all students achieve basic literacy and numeracy levels.
The first problem is that for States to receive federal assistance their reading and maths programmes must conform to 'approved evidence based research'. The catch is with the 'approved research' aspect. With reactionary and conservative elements currently in power in American society, innovative child centred approaches are not included.
The second problem is the resulting narrowing of teaching to achieve credible test results. The consequence of this, 'teaching to the test', is that the the valuable creative areas of human expression - the arts, in all their forms, are being excluded.
This obsession with 'old basics', important as they may be, is a worry to song writer Tom Chapin who has written a song well worth a listen.
Below are words from his song.
'Go to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you'll do just fine.
It's reading and maths, forget all the rest.
You don't need to know what is not on the test.'
'So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school 'cause they're not on the test'
The press to narrow eduction is being felt worldwide. Some countries, like the UK, have imposed 'league tables' to show how all schools compare and Australian States have complicated ways of reporting and comparing achievement in the basic areas.
Schools in New Zealand have not escaped as schools have been asked to define 'learning targets' for the year and, the reality is, that schools feel the pressure to limit such targets to literacy and numeracy.
Such blinkered thinking is occurring at the same time the 'new' New Zealand Curriculum is asking schools to develop a wide range of 'key competencies' for students to become, 'creative, enterprising and energetic learners'. Being literate and numerate are an important element of one of the competencies - to become 'a life long learner'.
Tom Shapin asks, 'why are we putting so much effort into a form of education in which there is no creativity? This is the time our youth should be taught to "think out of the box" not to be put into a tighter one.'
Shapin writes, as a father and grandfather, that, 'music art, drama and sport - these are what kept me involved when I was at school. And these very things that make a teacher's ( and student's) job easier and more rewarding are what's been cut out from curriculum across the country'.
Teachers, he believes, 'need all the help they can get, anything that excites a student, opens their eyes, and hearts and minds is a positive that makes a child invest in school.' Couldn't agree more.
In New Zealand, with positive leadership from schools, we have a real opportunity to see all students leave with their love of learning intact.
Let's start with defining some more ceative school targets.
For ideas on creative teaching take advice from Sir Ken Robinson and Tony Buzan
If you never seen Sir Ken's video on creative teaching youv'e missed something wonderful. Google him to access it.