From The New Haven Independent
Published December 9, 2016
By Paul Bass
In making the case for charter schools, Malachi Bridges challenged the views of his teachers, as well as the rationale for standardized tests.
Bridges doesn’t attend a charter school. He used to. Now he’s a senior at a traditional magnet public school, Metropolitan Business Academy Interdistrict Magnet High School on Water Street.
Metro has engaged Bridges and his schoolmates this fall in an experiment measuring what they’ve learned. Building on similar experiments in New York City, proponents hope this idea can replace high-stakes standardized tests like SATs and Common Core.
Metro’s social studies teachers got together to draw up a common five-day lesson plan for all their students in grades 9-12: Writing a research-based essay making an argument for or against charter schools.
Malachi’s teachers are skeptical about charters. They worked hard, though, at showing their students both sides of the debate, in depth. Malachi came down in favor of charters as positive alternatives to traditional schools. And he obtained a high score on his project, performing better than he did on the SATs.
The point of the exercise wasn’t to convince students about the merits or drawbacks of charters. It was to teach the students a useful, lasting skill, apply that skill to a subject relevant to their lives, tell them the expectations in advance, and then evaluate their work in a common, rigorous way. Unlike high-pressure standardized tests, these projects — designed by teachers rather than faceless outsiders — aim to overcome racial and income biases to provide more meaningful measurements of learning.
Tasks that measure what they’ve learned, versus tests that measure how much they’ve studied for a test. Engaging students in “lifelong learning,” as one teacher put it, versus “gaming a system.”
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