The nerve of this kid, who is super-bright by the way, to think I’m going to stop teaching just because there’s no standardized test at the end of June. I teach a generation of kids who don’t remember a time when the grade at the end of the marking period mattered as much as the state standardized test, if not more. Nowadays, when the test is “done,” the school year is done for them. Yet, they always get a rude awakening when, after the test, I have my chalk / marker ready to go for the next subject.
One—extremely effective—way to let our students know that high-stakes testing is not the be-all-and-end-all is to avoid the temptation to lower our standards once the test has come and gone. You can’t hide behind test prep anymore. Let this be the time that you try out an audacious project with your students.
Some ideas that we’re piloting at my school:
- Sixth grades are pulling apart the mathematics curriculum and creating online video tutorials for each and every topic—something along the lines of a homegrown version of the Khan Academy. Next year’s sixth grade will have a collection of student-made resources explaining how they learned to tackle a given problem.
- Seventh grade students are creating digital textbooks, historical fiction, and other curriculum-based writing pieces using iBooks Author. These books will be available on every iPad in the school, an online repository, and possibly even the iBookstore.1
- A high-school A.P. U.S. Government teacher is going to experiment with flipping classroom with college lectures from iTunes U and using class time to focus on deeper discussions and debate.
- The librarian is creating an online book club where students video their discussions about popular book for posterity and for other students who may read the book in the future.
- I am working on bringing in software engineers from local New York City start-ups (e.g. Tumblr) to come in and get my students interested in programming.
There are other small ideas that percolating, but the teachers involved in the projects above have committed to getting these projects off the ground. A major focus is leveraging student creativity in order to build up a library of resources that will ultimately benefit the entire school community.
I am not entirely sure what’s involved in that just yet. ↩