How to Create Innovators (hint: it’s not with testing)

January 19, 2011

Last Saturday’s headline reads “Oregon teacher union hosts first-ever education summit with state leaders, teachers, Gov. John Kitzhaber.”  The article said the 125 education officials, teachers, business, non-profit and legislative leaders who attended agreed that Oregon’s education system is in need of substantial change and not just more money.   


What I wanted to share was the later part of the article, which takes up the keynote presentation by Yong Zhao, University of Oregon’s College of Education new residential chair and Associate Dean for Global Education.  Dr. Zhao is a familiar name because he was the keynote speaker at the 2010 Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS) Fall Educators Conference, where he spoke about “Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization.”  His site bio lists his many accomplishments, including over twenty books and one hundred articles.


The article reported Dr. Zhao’s opinion that the U.S. is moving to a national system that is relying too heavily on test score comparisons to other countries to determine how U.S education should change.  He thinks that the gaps in both test scores and time spent on core subjects do not matter.  “The higher test scores represented in the other countries,” he argued, “do not correlate to increases in entrepreneurship, democracy, livability, creativity, patents or economic growth.”  


In fact, Dr. Zhao thinks our test-oriented reform efforts are heading in the wrong direction, because “other countries are shifting their focus to creating more well-rounded students, to adding more electives, to supporting more creative thinking skills.”  On his blog, he argues “when you spend all your time preparing for tests, and when students are selected based on their test-taking abilities, you get outstanding test scores.”

In his PNAIS talk he cites studies that prove there is no correlation between high test scores and improved quality of life (it actually has negative effects), and no correlation to increased national economic growth or productivity.  High test scores don’t lead to increased productivity or predict individual or national success; there is no correlation.  None.


The article concludes:


“He said U.S. education reform, and Oregon reform, needs to focus on preparing students to create jobs and to be innovators. That, he said, comes from fostering global knowledge, developing digital and technological competency and making learning more personalized, crafted to individual student needs.”


In my Business Seminars and Science Seminars I’ve been talking to my students about becoming entrepreneurs and inventors.  I’ve been writing and talking about personalization and individualization for years, and I’m not stopping.  The Delphian School is all about personalization and individualization and has been from Day One. Technology has now made this possible for all schools in ways that couldn’t be imagined just a few years ago (more on that later).  Personalization and individualization (not testing) is the key to an improved educational system, and an improved economy and standard of living.

Pass it on!

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Wednesday January 19, 2011 at 10:34AM

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