We Might Be Nearing the End of the Education Reform Wars
There's a growing consensus that learning is about more than test scores.
Like any sentient political junkie, I was struck in the third Presidential Debate by how much of a point Romney made to agree with President Obama's approach to foreign policy—on intervening in Libya, on leaving Afghanistan, on keeping troops out of Syria. It was Romney who stated, "we can't kill our way out of this mess," delivering a line one would have expected to hear from Obama in 2008. And like any sentient liberal, I was irked, wondering which Romney we'd get were he to be elected.
I am one of what I expect to be about a dozen people in the world who gets the daily Google Alert for "Empathy" delivered straight to my inbox. And so I am regularly reminded of the critical role that empathy plays in high-skilled fields, ranging from business to journalism, medicine, and robotics engineering.
What's more, innumerable voices in education—KIPP, Turnaround for Children, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation, to name but a few—are turning their attention to the role of non-cognitive skills play in equipping kids for success, a trend that has begun to pick up significant steam thanks to Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed. To say that math and literacy test scores alone are no guarantors of college success is no longer a bold declaration, but rather a statement of fact.\n
Fortunately, there's a growing commitment not merely to gathering data, but to gathering the right data, and to using it to improve, rather than prove. Organizations like the New Teacher Center are working to develop what are known as formative assessment tools—which incorporate qualitative feedback to help teachers improve instructional practices—that include social and emotional learning measures, helping teachers identify students' strengths as well as their own, and to identify specific strategies for improvement.\n
Even there, however, the battle lines are no longer quite as rigid as we tend to think. Earlier this year, Expeditionary Learning—known for an educational model built on Outward Bound, with an explicit focus on empathy, collaboration, and self-discovery—was hired to develop the curriculum and professional development training for grades 3-5 of the Common Core for the state of New York.\n