Sunday, February 9, 2014

Opportunity cost

The Common Core mandates, in elaborate detail, exactly what we want kids to learn and when. It gives no attention whatsoever to the question of how kids learn. Worse, it assumes that how kids learn is entirely unrelated to the question of what we make them learn—that the decision to march kids through a prescribed regimen of skills and topics on a prescribed schedule, no matter what any given kid might be ready for or interested in, will have no effect on how well those kids will learn, or on their long-term attitude toward learning.

None of that strikes me as very wise. If policy-makers should be thinking hard about anything today, it’s about how kids learn, about how to cultivate intrinsic motivation and intellectual curiosity, and about how create a school experience that kids see as engaging rather than as an alienating chore. They should also be thinking hard about what values schools are teaching and modeling by how they treat the kids in their care. Instead, their idea of how to improve education is by making a long list of goals and ordering schools everywhere to meet them (or to go through the motions of meeting them).

Speaking of opportunity cost: Check out Karen W.’s posts (e.g., here, here, and here) on how much more we’ll be spending on standardized testing if we adopt the tests that are designed to along with the Common Core—the so-called Smarter Balanced Assessments. Long story short: we could be going from our current assessments, which cost about $3.50 per student, to a cost per student of $20 or more. Is that what we should be pouring our scarce education dollars into? Also check out how much more time the students will spend taking tests. For full coverage of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, there’s no substitute for Karen’s blog.

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