Education reform in general, and science education specifically is based on a standards-based reform (SBR) model that has its roots in outcome-based education (OBE). The intent of OBE in science education was largely student-centered, in that education was focused on measurable student performances, that are called outcomes. In fact, many of the progressive models that have been discussed on this blog have been incorporated by outcome-based educators. If you look at the literature of OBE, it generally agreed that standardized tests or high-stakes tests ought not be used in OBE systems. Non-traditional forms of assessment such as portfolios, student logs, teacher observations and opinions should supersede high-stakes and standardized tests.
But the standard-based reform model that is at the center of educational reform uses the term Common Core State Standards which assumes that all students should learn the same material in each subject, and high-stakes tests should be used to assess learning. Furthermore, in many states, teachers, administrators, and schools will be held accountable based on the test results by using a data-driven model called value-added teaching.
I never was a fan of outcomes-based education even though I worked on two projects based on the idea in the 1970s. In the 1970s, the state of Florida was well ahead of the rest of the country in the development of an accountability model in teaching. Through the Florida Assessment Project, a comprehensive set of science objectives (based on the cognitive psychology of Robert Gagne), and corresponding set of performance-based test items was developed. The first set was designed for science, Grades 7 – 12 in 1972 under the direction of Dr. David Redfield at Florida State University. I worked in residence at FSU as a Visiting Professor on the project, as well as a writer for the Intermediate Science Curriculum Project (ISCS).
When I returned from my tenure at FSU to Georgia State University I submitted a proposal to the Florida Department of Education to develop a comprehensive set of objectives and test items for science, Grades K- 6. It was funded, and in 1973, we submitted the final product(3 very large documents) to the Florida Department of Education. Florida had in place by 1973 a “standards-based” set of objectives and test items for science, Grades K – 12.
Since 1973, the U.S. has been centered on reform in education that is standards-based, and much of it can be traced back to the work of Dr. David Redfield at FSU. For the next 15 years, many states developed their own performance-based objectives and test items, and in the 1990s, the AAAS and NSTA through the National Research Council developed the National Science Education Standards.
In 2011, the National Research Council published a new document, A Framework for K-12 Science Education, that has become the basis for a new generation of science standards. The new science standards (a set of content-based performance objectives) will be published in a year or two.
We have had three episodes of educational reform based on the development of sets of performance-based objectives in earth, life and physical science. Assessments, based on the objectives, are then designed to measure student performance (achievement).
Why don’t we think differently about educational reform? Why do we keep repeating the same system of reform that doen’t appear to be working for many students? Why do think that more of the same, but dressed up differently, will make any difference to a student living in poverty, or attending a school that doesn’t have the same resources as a school 20 miles away?
We don’t think differently because we are stuck in the mud. But it is more than that. There is a powerful core movement that is taking the “public” out of schools, and resting the power and control in the hands of a few corporate leaders who have backed the Common Core State Standards program at Achieve, and have also supported Charter Schools, School-Choice, and Common Assessments. Oddly, in our liberal democracy, the reform movement looks more like a system in which all the power rests in a central command center, rather than in the school boards of the 15,000 school districts around the country.
Educational reform that will have meaning for students and teachers needs to be community (neighborhood, school, district) based, and needs to be in the hands of educators that are near the generation of youth that are being educated. There are ways to break us out of the mania of standards-based reform, and the drive to “test kids until they beg for mercy.” Here is one idea to think about.
In the spirit of Paola Freire, humanizing education is “the dialogic relationship between understanding the world and transforming it.” Humanizing education is a reaction to the dehumanizing forces and practices that are imposed on students and teachers. My own experience in humanizing education came about through my association with the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and then the Association for Humanistic Education, and courses that I taught for teachers at Georgia State University on humanistic and experiential education in 1970s and 1980s. Oddly, much of my practical work in humanistic psychology took place in the Soviet Union as part of AHP’s Soviet-Exchange Project, which I headed after it was created by Francis Macy.
My first book, which was entitled Loving and Beyond: Science Teaching for the Humanistic Classroom (Goodyear, 1976), described my approach which I wrote with Dr. Joe Abruscato.
Humanizing education had to do with power, and showing people (in my case, teachers) how they could use their power to transform themselves, their classrooms, and their students. Using the psychology of Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers, teachers confronted issues that stood in their way from liberating themselves within the context of traditional schools. Teachers who embraced the humanistic vision worked to make their environment open and inviting to students and parents, and also expressed diverse views on how students can and should learn.
At the center of humanizing education is justice and equality, and this idea is developed in articles by Maxine Green in Humanizing Education, (Harvard University, 2010). As I have written on this blog, the continued dehumanization of schools through the relentless insistence on test scores, and removal of teachers from the policy decisions that affect students and parents, is not the way to help the current and future generation of students.
Tags: Assessment, Florida State University, humanizing education, National Science Education Standards, outcome based education, Reform, Science, science education, science education reform, standardized test, standards based education, standards based education reform