Are You Part of the Hunger Games?

This thought provoking article challenges educational leaders to reassess the value of standardized tests and the “one size fits all” mentality of student learning.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bonnie Margolin, a teacher in Florida, remembers a time before No Child Left Behind. She remembers when politicians did not tell teachers how to teach. She remembers when teaching was far more and different from preparing to take tests.

We are now trapped in The Testing Games. Like The Hunger Games, the odds are never in your favor.

“The obvious comparison is the idea that education is some form of competition. We know this concept is a popular one, just based upon the fact that our own US President named his education reform, The Race to the Top. In this race, states are encouraged to create education policies based on test scores. Student promotion, teacher evaluations, and school grades are all based on test scores. Funding is then tied to the student achievement. In simple terms, how well the students race decides how much money the schools get in funding.

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Consider the Elephant When Leading Change

An excellent analogy for examining behavioral change is that of an elephant and its rider trying to follow a certain path, writeschange Chip and Dan Heath in their bestseller SWITCH. The elephant, being a powerful, stubborn creature, represents the emotional side of people, looking for a quick payoff rather than long-term benefits. The rider in turn represents the rational side that knows what should be done, and can tug at the elephant’s reigns to exert some small degree of control over it. Finally, the path represents the situation in which the change is to take place.

There are many components that influence whether change will be successful, whether progress along the path is made. From changing your own diet to influencing others’ behavior, your success will depend on your ability to direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path.

Consider the following when implementing new school initiatives:

  1. Use a “systems” approach to ensure that all aspects of the learning community are considered when planning and implementing change and develop a team of stakeholders throughout the change process.
  2. Share oversight with teachers and others to encourage the implementation of the change efforts.
  3. Make plans, but “hold your plans loosely.” Develop plans, but know that they will have to be adapted to change as needs change.
  4. Realize the tension between establishing readiness for change and the need to get people implementing new behaviors quickly. While getting people intellectually ready for change is something to be considered, don’t take so much time and effort that people lose interest and motivation.
  5. Provide training and staff development for staff.
  6. Choose innovative practices for and with teachers that are research-based and student centered. Picking approaches that have been used or researched can help the implementation.
  7. Recognize that change happens only through people. The emotional effects of change on educators need to be considered and understood by all involved in the change process. Understanding resistance and working with it is key.
  8. Be prepared for “implementation dip.” Fullan (1993) and others note that things often get worse temporarily before improvement begins to appear.
  9. Seek out “paradigm shifters” and “idea champions” who are interested in making substantial changes in practice.
  10. Take the long view; realize that change takes time and should not be forced to occur too quickly.elephant