Last week, I attended a conference hosted by USC’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice. The focus was 21st Century Skills and Knowledge: The New High School Curriculum and the Future of Assessment. Presentations from educational leaders in higher ed and K-12, as well as from the College Board, Educational Testing Services, International Baccalaureate, and University of Cambridge International Examinations, discussed the need for rethinking the way we assess learners, including both cognitive and noncognitive approaches. While promoting Common Core, even the large testing agencies expressed the importance of collaborative learning, complex problem solving, critical thinking, and multiple measures of assessment in developing 21st century learners.

Let me be blunt: I think many of our K-12 schools are failing at this. As a parent and an educator, I do not see enough attention to collaborative learning, complex problem solving, critical thinking, and multiple measures of assessment in developing 21st century learners.

Some of my favorite take-aways and reminders from the conference:

* It is wrong to focus on students growing up to become taxpayers. We need to focus on helping them become responsible people with wit and humanity.

* An important life skill is knowing how to concentrate on an unwelcome activity for more than a half an hour.

* The whole point of assessment should be on improving education.

* When you single out to educational elements to assess (such as math and literacy) you run the grave risk of excluding other essential elements.

* “Do not confuse motion with action.”

* Twenty-six percent of American k-12 kids go on to get a degree.

* There are 3 million teachers in the United States. Professional development is crucial. However, no one wants to fund teacher education research.

* Rod Chu said, “Educators seems to be like those who deny global warming is occurring. Where is our union of concerned educators crying for action by our own educators to rescue our future?” He also said, “If indeed it takes a village we need to get out of our ivory towers…We need to get beyond eduspeak and express cognitive and noncognitive standards in a way our students and their families can understand.”

* Someone said that trying to change education is like trying to turn the Queen Mary. You need to start five miles ahead of time.

* It is wrong to see technology’s advantage as being in cost-savings. Even if the tools are not expensive, effective use of technology does not come with a tiny price tag.


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