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Comments Ketchup…

Kids operating a dinosaurbotA while back, I subscribed to the RSS feed for the comments on 2¢ Worth so that I could be notified when people had added conversation to any of my blog entries.  When it happens, I just click from the aggregator into the blog so that I can follow the thread from the original entry.

This morning, I had some catching up to do, so I just read through them clicking into the context of the comment only a couple of times.  A couple of things formed together for me.  First, someone, commenting on one of the posts — I don’t know which — suggested that what I was talking about was the purpose of education.  Why do we put children in our schools?  What are schools for?

Then I run across a comment that I was mostly impressed with.  But the author, a network filter administrator, said,

When I go through the process of adding a new Universal Resource Locator (URL) to the filter database I actually personally evaluate the site to see which of the state standards can be illustrated or in any way taught by the content of the site. If I find that none can it is immediately blocked.

Interpreted literally, this reminds me of a comment made by a keynote speaker I recently saw at a state school boards association conference.  It was a great keynote, funny, and thought provoking — in a good way.  But the speaker said something that I, personally, do not agree with.

If your second grade teacher teaches a fantastic unit on dinosaurs, but dinosaurs are not on the test, then that teacher is doing harm to your children.  Anything that’s taught that’s not on the test, is doing harm to your children.

Are the standards of instruction intended to be the extent of the instruction?  The answer to that question may well be, “Yes.”  But should the state define the limit of instruction?  I don’t think so.  Safety, I would suggest, should be the only limit to learning in our schools.

Added the Next Day:
I want to be completely fair to the two people I have referred to here. The keynote speaker was quite good, and right on target with most of the message. The statement about teaching to the test and the filter administrator’s strategy both come out of caring for their students. They are not at fault. The fault is an environment where AYP becomes so important, so critical to the schools and the district, that these actions make perfect sense. As much as it has done for children who were being virtually ignored before, NCLB does not enable. It constrains us from the innovation that is so desperately needed in our schools today.

Image Citation:
Ozawa, Ryan. “Dinosaurs Alive!.” Hawaii’s Photostream. 16 Dec 2006. 31 Oct 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/hawaii/324231234/>.

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  • http://shsweb.blogspot.com Brandt Schneider

    I wonder if the tech/filter administrator “personally evaluates” the books in the library as well or discussions a teacher has in class. Sounds like the tail wagging the dog. Schools pay a lot of money to hire content specialists (teachers) because they have content knowledge. Shouldn’t they be allwoed to use it?

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I want to be fair here. The commter, this filter administrator, obviously is putting much more into the decisions of what comes into the classrooms than most, and he/she cares about curriculum, teaching, and learning. The problem is not with the filter manager or the keynote speaker. I think it’s with the atmosphere that has been created by high stakes testing. In many district that are strugling to make elected growth, test scores are everything. Standards are everything.

      It’s why the question is so important. “what are our schools for?”

    • http://shsweb.blogspot.com Brandt Schneider


      But it shocks me a bit that it is BLOCKED by a tech administrator not because it is lewd or porno but because a non-content specialist feels it does not meet standards. It is important to note that these requests are coming from teachers. Is the role of schools to provide access to information?

    • http://edtechlearning.weebly.com David Robb

      I wonder if the teacher (who whoever is requesting the URL) has to provide a justification for the website.
      Just because the filter administrator can’t see a connection to the state standards doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

    • http://www.teachingeverystudent.blogspot.com Karen Janowski

      I agree with these comments – it is chilling to think that one non-educator has that much power to restrict access to instructional tools that have been requested by educators.
      For example, I frequently recommend a free text-to-speech download that is an amazing tool for struggling learners. On the surface, it doesn’t align with curriculum standards but it makes the curriculum accessible for students.
      As you say, what IS the purpose of schools?
      I blogged about this recently and say it is time to remove the roadblocks and take back the Internet.

  • http://www.timchilders.com/tinkerings/ Tim Childers

    “Doing harm?” “Doing harm?” Was that part of the comedy routine? How can adding knowledge to the life of a learner be doing harm? Sometimes I just wish we would forget the state objectives and the tests and just TEACH. What kind of harm are we doing when we short change students on science and social studies only to give them more reading and math? Are we “teaching” that these subjects are below par? What happens when kids get to high school and find the state requires certain social studies and science classes to graduate, but we’ve “taught” them that they just as important as everything else? Maybe this guy should read Raif Esquith’s book “Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire.” (Be calm, be calm, be calm….)

  • http://mrwilliams.edublogs.org J.D. Williams

    A Song for Students: ‘Not on the Test’

    Your post reminded me of this song.

  • http://1laptop1student.blogspot.com James O’Hagan

    Interesting post. Let’s see… LIFE is not on the test, but in some instances we are expected, as educators, to raise children, teach them right and wrong, teach them about sex, teach them about morality, teach them about drugs, teach them about Internet safety, teach them about dodgeball, teach them about winning (and should be doing a better job teaching how to lose).

    With none of these things on the test, then they go out the window too?


  • http://www.reinventingpbl.blogspot.com Jane Krauss

    Fantasizing here, imagining a future, say five years from now, when we look back at the words of these two and sigh in relief that the dark ages are over.

  • http://ilearntechnology.com Kelly

    Really? This is what we want our students to gain from their school experience, how to take a test?! I am floored. I cannot believe that society would value test scores over authentic learning experiences. When I was in sixth grade I had a fill in the blank spelling homework assignment. I didn’t get the assignment done because my dad was teaching me about World War II, I was so interested in what he was teaching me that I failed to finish my spelling homework. The next day, my sixth grade teacher asked why I hadn’t completed my assignment (this was so uncharacteristic of me) I explained that I had been learning about WWII and it got too late for me to finish. He asked if I would share what I learned with the class and gave me an extra day to complete my assignment. Grace! What Mr. Austin taught me is that ALL learning is valuable. One learning opportunity is not necessarily greater or more important than another just because it was assigned as homework (or on a test). We need to stop focusing so much on the memorization skills and turn our focus to teaching kids how to learn. We need to create life long learners. Thank you Mr. Austin! I keep a blog (http://ilearntechnology.com) of excellent technology resources and tools for teachers. Each presents a unique learning opportunity. I would hate to think that these learning opportunities were missed simply because it didn’t meet a particular standard!

  • http://phoenixchase.blogspot.com Mr. Chase

    I’ve seen the same keynote. Given the current focus, the argument should read as such, “If we’re not testing it, it’s doing harm to your children.” Wow, that doesn’t lead anywhere good, does it?

  • http://www.stager.org Gary Stager

    Please please name names. We need to know who the anonymous, fabulous and severely misguided keynote speaker is.

  • http://dmcordell.blogspot.com diane

    Creative teachers use a variety of sources to engage, extend, enrich…and challenge.

    State standards are a very small “box” indeed.

  • a zim

    I believe that the standards push has in many regards been a good thing. But I think it has gone way too far as was indicated by the administrator who blocks sites based on the standards. Here’s another appalling example of standard gone too far. I was working with a teacher on a project and she proudly showed me all the standards she was addressing in this collaborative project. She also showed me the assessment and rubric which she was going to use to evaluate the standards. I praised her for her collaborative model and asked her how she was going to assess that. She stated that she wasn’t going to evaluate how the students worked together as it wasn’t a standard and she didn’t want to get involved in that subjective area. Parents could question her. What is more important than to have our students be able to work together in the 21st century. Sacry stuff.

  • Pingback: Not teching to the test is harming your children? @ What is School 2.0?

  • Pingback: And we worried about Big Brother! « What Counts!

  • Ryan H

    The keynoter said that? Sounds like we need the money back on that one.

    Most useful learning happens in the periphery of the formal learning … “I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Mark Twain

  • http://www.northwestvoice.com/home/Blog/tigoree/ Tim Goree

    It is possible that the keynote speaker’s comments MAY need to be revised. After all of the comments to this, the keynote speaker may agree.

    The revision:

    “Anything that’s taught that’s not on the test is doing harm to the district/school.”

    Many districts/schools have the idea that they as an organization are so important to the student, that harm done to the district/school is equivalent to harm done to the student. I can definitely see how administrators would view lower test scores as harmful to the organization, can’t you?

    Let me guess, the keynote speaker was a superintendent, right?

  • Kay Maynard

    The filter administrator and the speaker are practicing a form of censorship no matter how well intentioned they are in taking this action. Students have a right to read, examine, consider, think about all kinds of ideas however they are presented. The individuals who intentionally filter content are interfering with the learning process. I agree with the writer who said that it is chilling that one individual assumes that kind of power.

  • http://mizmercer.edublogs.org/2007/11/07/standards-whats-the-standard/ A. Mercer

    Good discussion. I added some dissent, although I found the sentiment of “doing harm” appalling.

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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