Long-Term Yardsticks

I was reading an article yesterday morning from USAToday about the MicroSoft School of the Future in Philadelphia. The article plotted the school’s struggle with students who were not accustomed to using laptops to “…keep notes, do homework, and take tests.” Now this blatantly schooly description of how students are being asked to use their laptops is certainly worthy of comment, regardless of whether it was the journalist’s (Kathy Matheson, The Associated Press) wording of that of her source. ((Matheson, Kathy. “Microsoft ‘School of the Future’ in Philly finally in a groove?.” USAToday. 19 Jun 2010. 20 Jun 2010. ))

But that’s not what triggered the ding in my head.

The Microsoft liaison, Mary Cullinane, when responding to the “dismal” (7.5% of 11th graders scored proficient or higher in math; 23.4% scored proficient or higher in reading) test scores last year, said,

..test scores don’t tell the whole story. It is a long-term journey and we have to get away from short-term yardsticks.

Several of us edubloggers have written our personal and sometimes moving blog entries, where we confessed to not having been exemplary students when we were young. I do not remember if I’ve written mine, which is almost certainly part of my problem. I’ll just say here that I was not a successful student. I did not become a successful student until graduate school, where I knocked the roof off with my grades — and didn’t learn nearly as much as in undergraduate school, I might add.

I visited my parents last week to help them celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, and my Mom told me about running into my third grade teacher, Mrs. Newton. When Mom told her about what I was doing with computers, she said that Mrs. Newton smiled and said something to the affect of,

Remember when David was in my room, and I told you not to worry about him, that he’s a bright kid, and one day he’s going to find something that’s going to capture his interest, and he’s going to take off?

Now I’m certain that my Mom would have remained concerned if she’d known it wouldn’t happen until I was 35.  But I have to wonder if any teachers today are saying, “Don’t worry your son.”  Dismissing the below grade level test scores, and saying, “He’s bright. He’s going to take off when he finds his passion.”


Of course it shouldn’t be a waiting game.  We shouldn’t be waiting for children to find “their passion.”  We should be helping them. If we could simply shallow the standards, and provide more time and resources to enabling and empowering students to find, or even invent their passions, we may see the development of deeper and more habitual academic skills — and earlier.

Empowering learning just seems to make a lot more sense to me than just defining and measuring it.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.