Thursday, November 19, 2015

Change the Model

I have brought up Annie Murphy Paul’s approach to testing before (in the most detail here:  But something she said recently struck me as a great quote, and of course something I need to share with you.

She describes the current debate about standardized testing in school as being polarized arguments about:
·         Accountability (to the feds in DC) versus autonomy (because local leaders know best)
·         Opt-in versus opt-out (how do teachers and parents decide what tests to give and which students take them)
·         Local control versus common standards (there are pros and cons of each).

And while all of these are important dimensions, they miss the most important thing.  What if we could design better tests from the beginning? She suggests (and I agree) that her model of affirmative testing is a great place to start. 

“Changing the Paradigm” is such an overused cliché that I hesitate to use it, but that is really what we are talking about.  A fundamental rethink of the whole process.  And since we know a better way, why not use it?

I would say the same thing is true for many of our enduring societal tribulations.
·         Do we invade that country or stay out?  How about something totally different from either choice? 
·         Do we legalize “death with dignity” or ban it? How about something totally different? 
·         Do we raise taxes or lower taxes? How about different taxes? 

Instead of making every decision about deciding between two extremes, why don’t we try to improve the strategy? The challenge is that this is harder to develop and harder to create 10 second sound bites.

Maxim of the day: let’s recruit more freethinking people into government.  As elected officials, political appointees, civil servants and senior staff.  We need to have both performers and producers in government.