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What are Your Predictions

Below you will see a chart that illustrates data that often have a significant impact on a student’s future education options. Additionally, when this kind of data is aggregated across classrooms, schools, and districts, it becomes a focal point for making decisions about the success of an educational community, the quality of its leadership, and the effectiveness of its educators.

  

 

Grade Point Average (out of 4)

SATs combined

Reading, Math, Writing

Range 600-2400

Highest AP score (highest scores=5)

State Standardized Test Score

Math

State Standardized Test Score

LA

Mary

3.85

2100

3(Calculus)

Advanced

Proficient

Camille

3.00

1575

US History (4)

Proficient

Needs Improvement

Jack

3.40

1800

Statistics (5)

Advanced

Proficient

Nadal

2.4

1250

none

Needs Improvement

Needs Improvement

Elana

4.0

2300

Calculus (5)

Bio (5)

Advanced

Advanced

 

 As you review the data points, I would like you to forecast-to the best of your ability-which of the students might:

1)     Create a mobile app to help parents find emergency childcare

2)     Lead a community-wide effort to establish a local food pantry

3)     Become a first responder who runs toward an explosion in order to help victims

4)     Turn down a lucrative Wall Street career and start a charter school

5)     Establish a non-profit to help single moms obtain their GEDs and further their education?

Recently, many have criticized our education system for its failure to adequately prepare all students for the types of jobs that businesses most require- engineers, software developers, analysts of big data.  Business leaders often discuss an alarming lack of critical skills in newly hired employees.  Yet while these are very important problems that must be addressed, I worry that by focusing so many of our assessment efforts on markers  similar to those included in the chart above, we are overlooking other key capacities that we also urgently need to renew and strengthen in our nation and our communities.  The skills measured by tests are easily obtainable and can be quickly rank ordered.  Do the abilities that standardized tests measure provide a window into how our students will apply their insights and aptitudes to improve society?  How do we measure empathy, compassion, conviction, and the ability to give back to the community?

In our mission to close achievement gaps, we have relied on data that gives us a glimpse of basic skills without a sense of character, commitment, or courage.  How many of the stories that we hear on the news or share within our social networks that capture our imaginations and resonate with our humanity are about grade point average and test scores?  Would any of the achievement factors listed in the student data table above prove to be particularly relevant to us as we learned about individuals from all walks of life who aided the Boston Bombing victims?  How much would grade point average matter to us when we reflect on the firefighters who fought to tame a wild fire in Arizona, medical personnel who gave free health care after Hurricane Sandy, or the police officer who bought shoes for a barefoot homeless man?

In order to prosper as a nation, our young people must develop competence within a range of domains.  We cannot afford weakly developed skills in any of our graduates.  Competence in what, however, is the question we must ponder more diligently.  As we develop a response to this question, we should not settle for the aptitudes that are easiest to measure and most directly linked to our immediate requirements.  If we widen our lens in order to capture our most important and persistent needs, we might embrace competencies that enrich our souls as well as our minds.  Skills and abilities without compassion often characterize the leadership of despots, dictators, and war criminals.  We also have seen our fair share of Wall Street wizards, eminent scientists, and technology gurus without an ethical compass or any sense or desire to contribute to the larger community.  Is sheer technical acumen that makes our students career and college ready enough to strengthen our society?

In the not so distant future, I hope we can focus on not only how our schools rank in standardized test scores, but how effective they are at producing citizens who support the needy, help those without resources, and strengthen the sense of community we all desperately need in order to thrive.

John D’Auria is President of Teachers21 (teachers21.org) and co-author with Paul Ash of School Systems That Learn (2012, Corwin Press) and author of Ten Lessons in Leadership and Learning.

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