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As the United States prepares to elect a new President, leading figures in education have given their views on Barack Obama's legacy and what the next education secretary should focus do.
Previously, Diane Ravitch, Andy Hargreaves, Howard Gardner, Randi Weingarten, Julia Freeland Fisher, have all given their opinions. Now, Charles Fadel, visiting practitioner at Harvard’s graduate school of education, and founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign, shares his views.
What will be the legacy of Race to the Top and Barack Obama’s other education initiatives?
The new landscape allows states to move ahead at their own rate. The advantage of Common Core was that it can help the weakest performers find a more unified and ambitious floor, but it came at the cost of holding back the better performers from innovating. Although this new landscape may contribute to achievement gaps between best and worst performers, it will also allow experimentation about how to best move forward, which results can then be propagated.
Regarding testing, there has been a significant movement back from the punishing aspects of No Child Left Behind which made so many teachers and jurisdictions teach to the test and game the system. There needs to be a balance between accountability and true assessments.
But there is also a need to address social issues in a comprehensive way: we should educate parents about parenting itself, and about the need to change both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of education in order to improve their children’s chances. We must offer free day care/Pre-K care of high quality to everyone. We need to offer free psychological support to all students, as early as day care/Pre-K.
We should comprehensively compensate for the wealth disparities between schools/towns. We should also significantly increase (2x or more) teachers’ salaries in order to recruit people who would otherwise go into other industries, as well as significantly increase teachers’ social status via PR campaigns.
There is a growing consensus that contemporary education does not adequately prepare graduates for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce and world. What are your thoughts?
Contemporary education is failing our students because we are stuck in a curriculum designed for a different century, i.e. a curriculum that focuses heavily on quantity of testable knowledge.
Yet if designed well, curriculum can help lead to more peaceful, sustainable societies, with more economic progress and fairness, composed of people who are fulfilled and happier.
Economic inequality is growing, education is misaligned with employment opportunities, and random global violence is escalating.
We need to re-examine college entrance requirements and their tests. They hold change hostage to antiquated and incomplete requirements. Massive adaptation must be demanded by parents and educators alike. Without these changes, we will be unable to adapt curricula to reflect modern needs. The consequences will be more unemployment, social unrest, and continued inability to face our significant planetary challenges.
How do we produce a relevant education framework for our students?
It starts with creating a framework for what we need to teach, which must be comprehensive yet concise and actionable. The Center for Curriculum Redesign has proposed a four dimensional education framework.
- Firstly, there is the Knowledge dimension. This is the dimension most emphasized in the traditional curriculum. Yet current curriculum is often not relevant to students and to societal and economic needs.
- Secondly, there is the Skills dimension. Higher-order skills such as the “4 C’s” of Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration, also known as “21st Century Skills,” are essential for deeply learning knowledge as well as for demonstrating understanding through performance. The overburdened curriculum makes it harder for students to acquire (and teachers to teach) skills.
- Third is Character. The essential, generative character qualities are: mindfulness, curiosity, courage, resilience, ethics, and leadership. Character learning also happens in out-of-school settings such as sports, scouting, adventure trips, etc., which highlights the importance of a broad education.
- The fourth dimension is Meta-Learning — how we reflect and adapt. It includes metacognition (predicting, monitoring, and evaluating one’s learning), as well as internalizing a growth mindset about one’s capacities
It sounds like our mindset about assessments also needs to change.
We have been stuck on the bandwagon of only “objective” measures, which has kept us focused on knowledge. It is time to accept, as does the world of work, that subjective assessments are highly valuable if treated carefully.
Our research on the science of assessments has lacked dramatically behind the needs, and must be urgently developed.
How do we support our teachers given the continued learning we’re talking about?
Like all other professions, continued learning is essential. Many teachers already do this naturally. But the major shift ahead will require comprehensive re-training for both modernized content and engaging pedagogies, and this must be accompanied by major funding of professional development.
The original version of this article first appeared in The Global Search for Education series on CMRubinWorld. Follow on Twitter @CMRubinWorld