Students run in my classroom, they do not race. Racing is dangerous with 34 teenagers in a classroom filled with desks and chairs.
Running can’t be measured with a multiple choice test, so I do not give multiple choice tests. When I did, I wrote them following the model that I experienced in some of my high school classes. Each question had one correct answer, one close answer, one bad answer, and one funny answer. I enjoyed writing multiple choice answers, but hated test days. Watching students struggle to recall the color of Holden’s hat from their reading was an effective measure of their memory and/or ability to cheat but little else. I learned that no bubble, no matter how completely filled in, can reveal students’ understanding.
So, I stopped giving on-demand assessments and used technology to create student “webfolios” that increased healthy communication among my students. The emphasis was switched to the students, their self-reflections, personal responsibility, and away from racing to finish a test.
My students learn that writing is a process, and their best writing will not happen in 40 minutes. They discover that sometimes the best way to learn something, is to try to teach it. They face their fear of public speaking. They experience the difference between argument and debate. They organize, plan, and execute. They embrace opportunities to lead their peers. They reflect frequently and share openly. By the end of the school year, they know the value of their school year is directly related to the effort they put in each day.
The finish line for my seniors is the end of their secondary run. I give out awards based on how they ran. When they leave my class it is usually for college, career, or the military. My hope is they will continue to run because they found something, not stop running because they lost a race.
The educational race error cannot continue. No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind. Race to the Top erased billions from the classroom, increased class sizes, and replaced teaching and learning with underfunding and over-testing.
Racing is dangerous in a classroom and devastating as the philosophy for an educational system. Children can grow strong by running for fun but too many will be crushed by racing for rigor. Teaching cannot be canned in a module. Childhood cannot be measured by a score. Our children are not common. Our students are not data points. Our schools are not for sale.
No more false accountability. No more punitive measures. No more racing. Go for a run in green laces and continue to effect change. Running brings people together. It raises awareness. If enough people run, we can effect change.