Making Innovation Apart of the Learning Ethic
Our groups best bad answer!
These two topics are closely connect. Some might argue they are the same just different views on the educational systems performance. Standards are the content that all students should be learning and the assessment is the validation that they learned the content. When we were debating early on, we decided as a group that we wanted to make one change in educational policy that would have the biggest effect in driving the educational system to adopt innovative practices. Standards have been changing in recent years and we believe Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards (which are not quite adopted yet in Michigan) are heading in the right direction for improving the educational system. Even with these changes, innovation as a whole is lacking. We agreed that it was due to state level assessments. State level assessments are driving the learning ethic in today's educational system.
The current educational system is based on evaluations. Whether it is teacher, principal, school or state evaluations; everyone is trying to prove that they are effective. Teachers want to be highly effective on yearly evaluations. Principals want to prove they are highly effective at leading teachers and improving their school. Schools want to have a high ranking compared to other schools. Where are a majority of these evaluations stemming from? High stakes state level assessments. The problem is not evaluation itself, but in the style of the current assessment. Janet Looney says "large-scale assessments do not test students ability to draw upon more complex skills for problem solving, collaboration, and so on. These are, of course, the kinds of skills commonly emphasized in educational innovations. Tests are often limited to formats that are easiest to score and most cost-efficient to implement, such as multiple choice or short essay questions, so students may only draw upon a limited set of skills" (Looney, 2009, p. 10). Tests are not designed in any way to measure the overall knowledge of students or schools. Tests do not test how much students have grown throughout a year. They test a students ability to recall specific fact information. They are designed to be easily graded for the lowest cost possible.
These high stakes assessments do not test students critical thinking, problem solving, and innovative thinking skills. They are designed for students who are able to regurgitate specific facts to do well. This is a major problem since these assessments are very evaluative. Some teachers feel the only way they can prepare students to do well on the assessments is to teach to the test. Therefore, their classroom does not foster innovation and creativity, but instead is centered on test prep and regurgitating facts. How can we solve this issue of innovation and high stakes evaluative assessments? Looney suggests "The problem of teaching to the test can be resolved, some have argued, by ensuring that the test is worth teaching to" (Looney, 2009, p. 12). If we have a state assessment that values HOW to learn instead of WHAT you learn, then innovation will have to be an integral part of every classroom.
Making innovation apart of the learning ethic is a complex problem. There are many issues that are intertwined. Changing state standards or assessments appeared to be the best two options. Our group feels that if we address our state level assessments then we will be able to address innovation in education. Please take a moment to read our policy recommendation below on changing assessments in education.
Looney, J. W. (2009), Assessment and Innovation in Education, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 24, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/222814543073