Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Think Outside the Classroom

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
It wasn't long ago when we had to defend afterschool programs if they didn't raise test scores. We were told that "if it doesn't raise the test score, learning didn't happen". Some stood in opposition to this reductionistic thinking while others cowered with fear of losing funding.

Today, the clouds are parting and the pendulum has swung the other way, as educators better appreciate what afterschool and summer programs can do. This is due in part because of the failures of No Child Left Behind and new studies on the importance of social emotional skills, 21st Century learning skills, findings from neuroscience, and many other areas that show that learning is more than a test score. And the willingness to take risks, make mistakes, persevere in the face of a challenge are all important parts of learning. 

The upcoming How Kids Learn conference in October is a celebration of these developments as it focuses on the importance of play, creativity, tinkering, and the arts in children's learning. In the conference, participants can hear from the founder of the Maker Movement, educators and researchers from the Center for Childhood Creativity and the Exploratorium, and new research sponsored by the DOE on the importance of grit, perseverance, and tenacity. The conference will also sponsor breakout groups led by innovative practitioners and allowing participants to experience their techniques in a hands-on way. For more information and to register, click here

Moving away from the old API score and a single standardized test score to evaluate schools will be tricky. The California Board of Education and legislators in Sacramento will have to name the multiple measures that will take the place of the API ranking. For a detailed description of what has to be done and who has to do it, see this EdSource briefing here. Meanwhile, it is important that we declare what afterschool can do, hold our positions when pressure returns, and be sure that we have the quality programs that can fulfill the logical promise of afterschool and summer learning experiences. 

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