HEADlines: The Unintended Consequences of Assessment Driven Curriculum
Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) . . . are exactly what the testing industry has thus far found difficult if not impossible to test, and it is these skills which are desperately needed by our students for them to be competitive in the global economy. . . .
Independent schools do not have to focus on MCAS or PARCC, yet our students, from all walks of life, thrive in secondary school and college. . . . They learn how to problem solve, think critically, write well, read for nuance. They develop HOTS because their teachers do not have to focus on MCAS assessments.
While we go in this direction [of high stakes standardized testing], other countries have been copying what we used to be good at. . . . They recognized that our system was encouraging innovative thinking and problem solving. They were seeing their students as being able to crunch data but not able to make use of it creatively – and they were intentional about figuring out how to address what they saw as a debilitating competitive disadvantage. . . .
While other countries have been intentionally catching up to an innovative, problem solving approach, we have been simultaneously—with perverse intentionality – adopting “drill and kill” and “one size fits all” pedagogy. . .
As Massachusetts moves from MCAS to Common Core and PARCC, let’s remember that the best education invites students to probe, question, analyze, consider alternatives, make connections. We need to know our students well and have the flexibility to engage their interests, to challenge them to think, to synthesize, to problem solve, to create. That remains a strength of independent education, that is why Applewild stresses Core Competencies, and that should be the goal of education reform: teacher student ratios and innovative, open ended assessment about skills and habits of mind that matter.