Standardized World Is Flat

Not a day goes by without hearing about failing schools, the need for tougher standards, accountability and school improvement. For many, this means an increase in our focus on state-mandated standardized tests, often seen as the primary criteria for judging school success.

With administrators in the hot seat, teachers are being told to teach to the test. Kids are sharpening their number-2 pencils and preparing to take still another standardized test, hoping a good score will be their ticket to the future.

I am not alone in questioning what a standardized test really measures — the ability to analyze or the ability to memorize. Quite a few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak at the U.S. – China Conference on Education.

I will never forget the conversation I had with one of the participants from China about standardized testing. I was told, “We invented standardized testing. It does one thing, it kills all creativity.” His statements rang so true with me. How did I pass a test? Memorize.

There was very little investigation or synthesizing of information going on. Granted, it got me through school with good grades, but memorizing facts (that are soon forgotten) is not how to get ahead in today’s world.

I recently had an opportunity to attend a presentation by Thomas Friedman, journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The World is Flat” and “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” In his presentation, he talked about the convergence of technology, how the “dot.com” boom wired the world and the international competition that is now unfolding before our eyes. He talked about how globalization has progressed from countries to companies to individuals. He also talked about education, our need to nurture the right brain, how the arts help to develop creativity and the mental agility to synthesize. He talked about the need to teach our students how to connect, collaborate and compete in a flat world.

It is not a focus on standardization that will make our students succeed. It is cultivating their individuality, their creativity and their ability to look at things differently. Just knowing what everybody else knows will not cut it in today’s world.

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