During my first two and half years at Schechter I have written five blogs concerning the state of education and the need for change. My persistence comes from the knowledge that much of the old system no longer works and change is already happening all over the United States and globe. Some schools and districts are ahead of the curve and some are stubbornly resistant.
I consider myself a life-long learner in the field of education. I believe it is my obligation to constantly learn in order to be the best educational leader possible of our Kehillah. I am not a trailblazer. I leave that for others. Each time I write about education or make a change to our protocols I make sure that the decision is based on well vetted research and experience. I may be an early adopter once I am convinced, but I work best with facts and evidence to support our educational approach.
This decision-making process has enabled me to move forward with a level of confidence that I am on the right track for our children. I have been at this for over four decades and I have observed the biggest barrier to change is always fear and/or skepticism based on old assumptions. In order to improve and become better we must leave our comfort and feel discomfort to arrive at the next level of excellence.
A few months ago I wrote a blog about unlearning. Unlearning is learning to think, behave or perceive differently, when there are already beliefs, behaviors or assumptions in place (that get in the way) - at either the individual or the organizational level. Unlearning is a real thing and a necessary part of the growth process. So while the notion may make some uncomfortable, we can’t run from its reality if we want to continue to grow and learn.
For several years I have been writing about the folly of putting such importance on the SAT and ACT standardized tests. They are not, and never have been, a good indicator for college success. These tests were efficient at sorting. The dirty little secret was that GPAs were a much better indicator, but a three billion dollar industry wasn’t going to let educational truth get in the way of their profits.
I told parents of younger children years ago not to focus on SATs because the likelihood of them being around by the time their children got to college was greatly diminished. Yet, I was met with skepticism. But what I was doing was watching the trends and research. Back in 2016, elite universities like Harvard started to pull away from them. Then the top private schools in the country formed a consortium to change how universities look at high school achievement. The pandemic accelerated the demise. Today, 80% of the 2,300 four year colleges no longer require the SAT or ACT scores according to Fair Test: National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
As The President of Bard College, Leon Botstein, recently said on a webinar on the future of education, “The SATs are junk, outdated and a fraud. There is nothing that can be done to fix it. It needs to die!”
Now, this past week, the testing industry, in a last gasp for relevance, announced the tests would go digital, become shorter and broaden their content to be more equitable. Too little too late? We’ll see. One thing for sure, SATs and ACTs will continue to have less and less influence. This is a victory for students!
Standardized tests are simply not great indicators of learning and achievement alone. They give a snapshot in time and can provide guidance, but should never be used as the central indicator of learning, future learning or achievement.
As I have written before it is important to recognize that the science of learning and brain research have provided us with much better information about how we learn; what motivates learning, helps learning to stick and what gets in the way of learning. This research has implications on instruction, assessment, homework - almost all areas of education. All over the country and around the world schools are incorporating these changes to better meet the needs of today’s learners. I try to learn from their successes and failures and then bring it to our Kehillah.
I have a moral obligation to do what is right, even when it goes against the conventional wisdom that many hold onto in spite of research and overwhelming data that proves otherwise. I owe our children that and at the same time I owe parents patience, education and conversation as we tackle these issues to best meet the needs of today’s learners - your children.
Excitingly, Schechter Bergen is on the right path and many wonderful learning experiences take place all of the time. We are moving forward in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. Our goal is to go from strength to strength, to take a great school and make it even better for our most precious and sacred gifts, our children.
I look forward to this journey with you and to continuing the conversation.