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Is “Accountability” Undermining American Education?

Is “Accountability” Undermining American Education?

What is education for? Is it for pouring facts and formulas into students’ heads, or is it for creating learners?

At its best, was the U.S. educational system known for producing memorizers and test-takers or was it known for producing innovators?

I think we can agree that we want to create learners and innovators—people who seek challenges, stretch to learn new things, and bounce back from (or are even energized by) setbacks. If this is what we want, we are going about it in exactly the wrong way. High stakes testing may in fact be creating the very opposite in our students.

My research shows that an environment that emphasizes evaluation and testing  creates a fixed mindset. That is, it sends the message that intellectual abilities are fixed and that the purpose of school is to measure them. Students come to see school as the place to look smart and, above all, not look dumb—not a place to create and learn. A fixed mindset also breeds low effort (because students believe that high effort advertises low ability), and poor reactions to difficulty (because they believe that difficulty also reveals low ability). These are not the habits of people who achieve or innovate in adulthood.

 

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The Winner of the Seventh Growth Minded Educator Contest

The Winner of the Seventh Growth Minded Educator Contest

The Growth Minded Educator Contest is our way of capturing and sharing collective learning experiences, and recognizing the efforts that educators have put into instilling and cultivating a Growth Mindset in their students.

January 2011 Contest Results

The February 2012 Growth Minded Educator is... Renny Fong! Congratulations! Thank you to everyone who participated. We received some fantastic submissions, and will reach out to some of you to discuss ways to share the other entries.

Renny Fong shares a practice he uses to help his son develop as a reflective thinker and see his own growth. Here is his answer to the contest question: "How can parents and teachers make assessment and grading a tool for growth? Please share an assessment-related approach or activity that you use with your kids to keep them focused on growth":

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Grading for Growth in a High-Stakes World

Grading for Growth in a High-Stakes World

Last month, I wrote about creating a risk-tolerant classroom environment as a way to empower students to seek challenge and risk mistakes—core principles of a growth mindset. But how can a classroom be risk-tolerant when there are tests and grades at every turn?

Recently, I gave a workshop in an elementary school full of creative and dedicated educators. These teachers thought their kids were wonderful, and they wanted nothing more than to simply nurture their enthusiasm, creativity, and growth. But the students (and their parents) were full of anxiety about grades and state tests.

It's no easier for the teachers. Assessment and grading are among the most complex and controversial areas of teaching, because they're expected to do so many different things: motivate students to do their work; measure progress towards learning goals; identify and promote talent and merit; and hold schools and, increasingly, individual teachers, accountable. Many educators are struggling with these competing priorities, and wonder how they can foster a growth mindset at the same time.

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Recent Comments
Lisa Blackwell
That's a fantastic insight! Implicit in your comment is the recognition that learning isn't an all-or-nothing affair, and that eve... Read More
Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:33
Lisa Blackwell
Not necessarily--rubrics aren't the best fit for all assignments, but even more to the point, not every assignment must result in ... Read More
Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:34
Lisa Blackwell
Great points, Mae. These are important skills, and very aligned with the growth mindset too. Have you found a way to incorporate t... Read More
Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:43
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