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Straight Talk

Ohanian Comment: Although the word "global" makes my teeth ache, I think this is a courageous, informed, and very useful statement for a school leader to make to his community. I worry that it is also rare.

Reader Comment: I agree that the word "global" and all its forms, has become very cliche. But what I think he is saying is how we interpret what "global skills" are, is very important. Are global skills being able to beat everyone on the globe economically , or being able to work together with them? Is it reading 180 words per minute, or is it being able to read thoughtfully in more than one language? I also live in a hot bed of Republican conservatism and he fights against the "Chinese are communists and we should nuke them" argument almost weekly in our little local paper. I think he is doing a lot to help change the way my community thinks.

by Dr. William C. Skilling

Public education has been under fire consistently
since A Nation at Risk was published in 1983 by
Reaganâs National Commission on Excellence
in Education. This report purported that public
education was failing miserably. President Reagan
went so far as to say, âIf an unfriendly foreign
power had attempted to impose on America the
mediocre educational performance that exists
today, we might well have viewed it as an act of
war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen
to ourselves.â

The arguments then are the same today: our test
scores were not high enough and we were falling
behind compared to other industrialized nations
on international tests. (By the way, China was
not even mentioned.) The proposed solution was
to do more of what we were already doing to
improve student performance, which meant we
had to raise standards and require more years of
study of core subjects (math, science, English, and
social studies).

What has happened since the publication of A
Nation at Risk? President Clinton laid out new
educational goals in 1994 through the "Goals
2000" effort. President Bush signed the âNo
Child Left Behind Act" into law in 2002.
both of these programs did not provide plans of
action to fulfill their goals, and they were based on
unrealistic expectations. For example, artificially
low standards are required to ensure that each
child is performing at grade-level standards by
2013-2014 (as mandated by No Child Left Behind).
One focal point of the Obama administrationâs
program, âRace to the Top,â is the provision of
merit pay to districts with higher test scores.
So 28 years after A Nation at Risk, nothing has
changed, and we are still getting it wrong. Standards
still require us to dedicate even more time to Year of the Rabbit
teaching core subjects. We certainly donât want
to lower standards, but on the other hand, raising
standards is not a break through. The standards
that government asks us to raise will actually
become a hindrance to learning.

I am not arguing against raising standards, but
rather, I want to make a case for establishing and
raising the right standards. The easiest thing to do
in education is teach to a test that is predictable
with exact results. It is called memorization.

cannot expect to recreate the education of our
youth, which, in essence, prepares our students for
a world that no longer exists. Students should be
given the right to ask, âwhere will I ever use what
you are teaching me today?â

We must move away from a conformity mentality
with standardized curriculum and testing.
Most great learning happens in groups, not in
isolation. Our focus should be on closing the
global achievement gaps. Our focus should be on
preparing our students to problem solve across
multiple disciplines, in unpredictable situations,
in areas in which they are unfamiliar, in order to
produce, create and invent. You cannot measure
these outcomes on a standardized test. Not only
are American educational standards too low,
they are the wrong standards. The standards our
government wishes to raise will lower student
performance, stifle student creativity and ingenuity,
and will become a hindrance to creation and

In our globalized world, we must understand the
new essential knowledge and skills students will
need, such as a high cultural IQ, proficiency in at
least one world language, contributory membership
on an international team, an ability to think
divergently, and an ability to create and invent.
Additionally, they need to be effective cross-cultural
communicators, entrepreneurs, inquirers, risktakers
and imaginators who are adaptable and
flexible. None of these outcomes are measurable
on standardized tests. By falling into the trap of
raising traditional standards, we are setting up our
students to become functionally unemployable for
our new globalized world.

At Oxford Community Schools, we are creating our
own trajectory of where we are heading with our
teaching and learning. We are changing the metrics
by which we measure the success of our students.
We are changing the standards to align with the
new skills and knowledge that students will need
to be competitive in the new global marketplace.
The International Baccalaureate program is just
one strategy we are implementing to change the
educational paradigm in order to Create a Worldclass
Education Today, to Shape Tomorrow's
Selfless Global Leaders.

— Dr. William C. Skilling


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