We are off in a new year, and the education landscape is already looking “lively.” The year started right off with me getting that “where did I see that name come up?” feeling. This feeling was triggered by the Herald-Leader’s January 2, 2014 article, “Danville superintendent leading the way away from standardized testing.”
The newspaper says that the Danville Independent School District wants to drop all testing with Kentucky’s standard KPREP and End-of-Course tests to focus on a shadowy alternative based on “Project Learning.”
The Herald-Leader’s article points to several examples of Project Learning in Danville such as students using “math skills to build furniture out of cardboard boxes, fitting slots together with no adhesive.”
Project Learning isn’t a new idea in Kentucky. It’s been around since the early days of KERA. So far as I can determine, it might help kids cement a few key ideas and skills in their minds, but I’m not sure it is a very efficient learning model. I wonder if this time-consuming approach really insures kids are exposed to and master all the fundamentals in various subjects that are really needed for success in life. Due to the time required to complete projects, I rather suspect that students who do Project Learning will miss out on many important areas covered in more traditional courses in math, science and social studies.
By the way, the article also says Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is backing using Project Learning as a testing alternative. I don’t understand that at all. The commish pushed hard to get Kentucky into the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, supposedly so we would have tests in our schools that would be the same as other states have. Under the Danville Project Learning approach, the school district won’t have assessment scores that compare to any other school in Kentucky, let alone the rest of the nation.
In any event, the foregoing comments are not why I lit up like the New Year’s Eve ball at Times Square when I saw Danville Independent’s name.
Danville is fresh on my mind because I recently completed a new Bluegrass Institute report, “Kentucky’s ‘Unbridled Learning’ Unrigorous School Accountability for African-American Students?”
Danville High School showed up in not one, but two of the three high school tables in our new report. Danville High has some of the state’s worst gaps performance – a huge white minus black proficiency rate gap in math and a zero – yes ZERO – percent math proficiency rate in 2013 for its black students, as well.
No wonder Danville wants to dump the tests that expose such problems.
So, I’m really not sure if any other school system should try the dubious Project-Learning-instead-of-standardized-testing experiment.
However, I sincerely hope our state’s education leaders wake up before they let themselves open to all sorts of problems by letting Danville become one of those dubiously accountable experiments.