I spent a wonderful morning at Scarsdale High School reviewing and watching student presentations on a long term culminating project from a senior social studies course called City 2.0. Maggie Favretti, Jen Maxwell, and Fallon Plunkett created this three-section course of approximately 75 students who did 23 different presentations. They worked collaboratively in designing, implementing and working with these students who, over the course of a year, studied problems in various neighborhoods throughout New York City and devised solutions to common problems they discovered regarding the use of public spaces and facilities.
Among the solutions proposed were a street art campaign to help pedestrians avoid getting hit by vehicles while looking down – appropriately called “Look UP”, a photo station in Times Square to deal with the superhero “character” issues, a public art public forum for people to discuss proposed pubic art works, an employee discount card for workers who, because they are in Times Square, are often are priced out of food at the most convenient places, and an ad campaign to get more people to tip street performers.
This capstone is but one example of a dying breed of authentic assessments invented by bright and creative teachers who are very aware of the need for student accountability and assessment. Why is it dying? Common Core and excessive Standardized Testing.
Sadly, there were at least three groups who worked to bring more creativity and art to urban elementary or middle schools but each, to one extent or another, was stymied by staff and administration who told them they didn’t have the time to devote to their excellent ideas because of test prep and testing. Ironically, one of those groups was working to improve how ENGAGENY (New York’s version of Common Core) used the creative process in studying ELA.
But here lies the rub…. The night before, in this very same building, just two floors below where these presentations took place, was a forum on Common Core and Testing in NY and how they hurt education. Her Majesty Chancellor Tisch was there. Originally scheduled to be part of the panel, which included Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the newest NYS Regent, Judith Johnson, and new Scarsdale Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Hagerman, she sat in the audience and left half way through. I guess she couldn’t stand having her points of view objected to by the other panelists and the vast majority of the audience.
There is no reason work like this cannot be done in all high schools, not just well off schools like Scarsdale. I worked in three where this kind work was considered essential to learning, regardless of the technology available.
More sadly, no one at that forum came to see these magnificent presentations the following morning. No one at the forum saw why teachers know best about creative teaching and authentic assessment.
That is the real shame.
Try the book: