Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Clarkston Community Schools Placed on the College Board’s 5th Annual AP® District 

Honor Roll for Significant Gains in Student Access and Success

A Record 547 School Districts Across the Nation Are Honored

CLARKSTON, Mich.— Clarkston Community Schools (CCS) is one of 547 school districts in

the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 5th Annual AP®

District Honor Roll for increasing access to AP course work while simultaneously maintaining or

increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams. 2014 is a

milestone year for the AP District Honor Roll, and more districts are achieving this objective

than ever before. Reaching these goals indicates that the district is successfully identifying

motivated, academically prepared students who are ready for the opportunity of AP. Since

2012, CCS has increased the number of students participating in AP while improving the

number of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher

“The Clarkston Community Schools maintain highly rigorous learning standards for our

students. This recognition from the College Board, ranking us among the top 547 school

districts in the country, verifies this,” said Rod Rock, Ed.D., superintendent of Clarkston

Community Schools. “In fact, CCS is increasing Advanced Placement participation, achievement

and minority participation. Our teachers, community and students require the very best, and

CCS provides it.”

Data from 2014 show that among African American, Hispanic and Native American

students with a high degree of readiness for AP, only about half of students are participating.

The first step to delivering the opportunity of AP to students is providing access by ensuring

courses are available, gatekeeping stops and the doors are equitably opened so these students

can participate. CCS is committed to expanding the availability of AP courses among prepared

and motivated students of all backgrounds.

“The devoted teachers and administrators in this district are delivering an undeniable

benefit to their students: opportunity. When coupled with a student’s hard work, such

opportunities can have myriad outcomes, whether building confidence, learning to craft

effective arguments, earning credit for college or persisting to graduate from college on time,”

said Trevor Packer, the College Board’s senior vice president of AP and Instruction. “We

applaud your conviction that a more diverse population of students is ready for the sort of rigor

that will prepare them for success in college.”

Helping more students learn at a higher level and earn higher AP scores is an objective

of all members of the AP community, from AP teachers to district and school administrators to

college professors. Many districts are experimenting with a variety of initiatives and strategies

to determine how to simultaneously expand access and improve student performance.

In 2014, more than 3,800 colleges and universities around the world received AP scores

for college credit, advanced placement and/or consideration in the admission process, with

many colleges and universities in the United States offering credit in one or more subjects for

qualifying AP scores.

 Inclusion on the 5th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three

years of AP data, from 2012 to 2014, looking across 34 AP Exams, including world language and

culture. The following criteria were used.

Districts must:

 Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6

percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts

 Increase or maintain the percentage of exams taken by African American,

Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students

 Improve performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2014

scoring a 3 or higher to those in 2012, unless the district has already attained a

performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or


When these outcomes have been achieved among an AP student population in which 30

percent or more are underrepresented minority students (Black/African American,

Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native) and/or 30 percent or more are low-income

students (students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch), a symbol has been affixed to

the district name to highlight this work.

The complete 5th Annual AP District Honor Roll can be found here.



Formed in 1952, Clarkston Community Schools is a highly regarded school district with an

enrollment of 8,000 students, encompassing seven elementary schools, one middle school, one

junior high and one high school. The district offers a rigorous curriculum, including advanced

studies and Advanced Placement programs. The Clarkston High School facility includes state-of-

the-art technology, a Performing Arts Center, Olympic-size pool and top-notch athletic facilities.

In 2006, the district opened a brand new Early Childhood Center. For more information, visit


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Replacing the MEAP: A Statement of our Values

Standardized Tests: A Values Statement
By Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Clarkston Community Schools

This week, Michigan’s Legislature is considering the future of standardized testing in Michigan. Having recently approved the adoption of the Common Core Curriculum, our elected officials must now determine which standardized test they will use to measure student achievement, teacher and administrator effectiveness, and to grade schools.

In school, students study math, science, social studies, language arts, physical education, art, music, and technology. The Federal Government, through the No Child Left Behind legislation, requires states to assess all students in grades three through eight each year in math and language arts. States must also assess students in grades ten through twelve at least once in math and language arts, and less frequently across all grades in science.

With these single test results, the Michigan Department of Education determines school, administrator, teacher, and district effectiveness. These results also identify how much money a school gets from the State of Michigan. If a school does not perform at a level set by the state, it can be shut down or the principal and a majority of teachers may be fired. Teacher tenure and administrative advancement rest on test results. And there’s merit pay. These are very high stakes, for one test.

In preparation for this decision, Michigan’s Legislature received a report outlining the positives and negatives of a variety of potential assessments. This week, legislators will hear testimony from stakeholders regarding their opinions on assessment.

The fifty states spend over $1.7 billion to assess all students as required by federal law--approximately $34 million per state. Test publishers are certainly in the game, affecting policy, assessment, and budget decisions.

As our policy makers consider the options, they will most certainly weigh costs, validity and reliability, how long it takes to return results, accessibility, and relationship to the Common Core. This makes sense.

What they most likely will not consider is that ultimately, how we assess our students is a reflection of what we as a state value. Assessments reflect what we believe about intelligence, knowledge, success and failure, teachers, schools, work, and the future. The questions that we ask students and the problems they must solve show them what adults think is important. Since these tests are such high stakes for teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, parents, and students, kids who take them feel a tremendous amount of pressure to do well. They hear their teachers remind  them to get a good night’s sleep and to eat a healthy breakfast. They sit in their seats and work through practice tests for weeks in advance of the actual tests. Those students who did not perform well on last year’s test may be taken out of their gym, music, science, social studies, or art classes to get an extra dose of math or language arts, since these are the subjects that really matter to the federal government.

When Henry Ford was transforming America through the production of the automobile in the early part of the last century, standardized tests in Michigan and America reflected an assembly-line values system. It was not necessary for a person to be able to think at a high level in order to make a good living. This was the value of the day and it carried through on standardized tests well into the 21st Century.

We know definitively that today’s workers must understand how to collaborate, solve problems and think critically, adapt and be agile with their thinking, demonstrate initiative and entrepreneurialism, communicate effectively, analyze large amounts of information, imagine, and be curious. The level of these skills in today’s workers must match their level of knowledge. This is a much different skill set then was required in the day’s of Henry Ford.

Henry Ford passed away in 1947. His company lives on and is a vibrant part of Michigan’s economy. Many of our high school graduates will after college go on to work for the Ford Motor Company and make a great living. These workers will encounter a very different work environment. They may not have a pension to count on. They will start their careers with significant debt from college. They will fund a good portion of their own healthcare. If they do not already, they may be independent contractors as opposed to union workers, thus having less protection between themselves and management. And, unlike the past generation, today’s graduates will work in a global market competing against college educated workers from other countries who are willing to work for less and have accumulated lower amounts of debt.

If we adults know the skills that our children require in order to succeed in today’s world, then we must select a standardized test that reflects these skills. If we wish for our children to compete in a global marketplace and we are interested in student achievement between countries, then we should select an international assessment. Otherwise, it is impossible to compare and to know definitively how our students stack up against their global counterparts.

Let’s choose the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which asks students to demonstrate higher order thinking skills. The results are highly correlated with a nation’s economic vitality. Let’s show our students what we value by asking them to match their thinking skills with children from all over the world.

Henry Ford was an amazing entrepreneur. His genius, problem solving and critical thinking skills, creativity, imagination, agility, curiosity, and ability to analyze information made him the world’s first billionaire. These are the exact skills that each one of today’s high school graduates needs. Let’s prepare our students for the future by asking them to take a test that measures today’s skills. Let’s not miss this opportunity to show them what we value.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

International Assessment Conclusions Called Into Question

PISA Conclusions Called into Question

Recently, a report came out regarding the international PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exam comparing student achievement between countries. This showed Americans’ student achievement as stagnant or making only slight improvements compared to other countries. I am a fan of the PISA assessment, because it asks students to do more than regurgitate facts, which is the focus of current standardized tests in the United States. Alternatively, PISA requires students to demonstrate their ability to think and solve problems. However, I am very concerned about the number of students who actually take the test and the accuracy of the results and conclusions derived from the PISA exam. Here's why.

PISA is administered to a minimum of 150, randomly selected schools in each of 65 countries. All of the grade 11 classified students in these schools take the PISA test. In the United States, with our total population of juniors at approximately 4 million in over 27,000 high schools, this means that 6,000 juniors in 150 schools took the test. This represents 0.15% of the total population of eligible juniors and 0.59% of all high schools in America. This number of test takers is insufficient, according to statistical methods, to draw generalizable conclusions from the data. This means that the data derived from the test cannot be used to draw conclusions about overall achievement in the United States.

Comparatively, Finland has a population of 5.4 million people. They have approximately 70,000 fifteen year olds who could take the PISA test. These students attend approximately 300 high schools. If 150 schools in Finland are required to take the PISA test, that is a sample size of 50%. Logically, this represents approximately 35,000 students, which is 50% of the total population of fifteen year olds in Finland. This is a very strong sample size and the results are certainly generalizable to all of the fifteen year olds in Finland.

China has an overall population of over 1.3 billion. Japan's population is 127 million. Korea has a population of 50 million. How can we draw comparisons about student achievement between countries if the sample size of students taking the test is statistically insignificant compared to the number of potential participants?

Certainly, those who examine the data closely will determine that some countries have more than 150 schools who take the test. For example, over 900 schools in Canada participated. And with an overall population of 35 million, 900 schools is a nice sample size.

In sum, 510,000 students in 65 countries representing approximately 28 million eligible fifteen year olds in the world took the test. This is a sample size of 1.8%.

Are you comfortable making a judgement about anything with evidence from 1.8% of the population? In Michigan, 1.8% of fifteen year olds represents 2,500 of our 142,000 fifteen year old students. However, with the American percentage of participants at 0.15%, only 213 of the eligible fifteen year olds in Michigan took the test (although PISA will not disclose how many of Michigan’s students or schools actually participated). And 0.59% of Michigan high schools represents 4 schools. Are you comfortable making a conclusion about the skills of our fifteen year olds based upon a sample size of 0.15% of the population? That's less than 1 in 100. That’s 15 out of 10,000 or 150 out of 100,000. Are you comfortable stating that the achievement of fifteen year olds in Michigan is stagnant based upon a test given in 4 schools? How many kids at your local high school took the PISA test? Not one Clarkston student took it. Not one.
I like the PISA test. I think it is a big improvement over the standardized tests our students currently take in Michigan. I think our state should consider using The PISA assessment with a statistically significant percentage of the population of fifteen year olds and then consider the results in comparison with other countries who have a statistically significant number of students take the test. Until then, I think it is negligible to draw any conclusions from such a small sample.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Twelve Reasons that CCS is Blessed!

Twelve Reasons that CCS is Blessed!
By Rod Rock, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools
As we prepare for the holiday season, there are countless reasons to be thankful. I ask you to please join me in giving thanks to the people of the Clarkston Community Schools--our staff, board, volunteers, parents, administrators, and students--for these top twelve recent fiscal, service, academic, athletic, and technical accomplishments.
1. The district achieved a balanced budget, through its fiscal conservatism, collaboration with bargaining groups, and reductions in expenditures. We owe a special thanks to our employees who are contributing significantly toward health care, have had freezes in pay for several years, and have experienced pay cuts.
2. Through collaborative processes, the district accomplished more than $1 million in newly generated revenues via innovative partnerships with private and parochial schools.
3. In collaboration with Independence Township, the district established Clarkston Television, bringing enhanced learning opportunities to students and information to the community.

4. Our co-curricular clubs and teams have achieved remarkable success this fall, including our state championship football team, the marching band, the volleyball team, the boys’ soccer team, the girls’ swimming team, the boys’ tennis team, and many others.
5. The district has refunded bonds, saving taxpayers more than $15 million in taxes over the next 22 years.
6. One of our students, Sean McNeil, accomplished National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist designation. That means he was in the top 3% of the approximately 1.5 million American high school students who applied. Lynn Gordon, the media specialist at Andersonville and Independence Elementary Schools, was recognized by the Michigan Association for Media in Education group for making significant contributions to the profession. Kyle Hughes, a teacher at CHS, was appointed to the National FIRST Robotics Board. Teachers Chas Claus (boys’ tennis) and Kelly Avenall (volleyball) were both named coaches of the year in Oakland County. Many other CCS educators and students have achieved similar levels of excellence!  Congratulations!
7. Juniors at Clarkston High School accomplished the highest ACT composite scores in a seven year period.
8. This year, our Academic Service Learning team will provide countless opportunities for our students and staff to serve the greater good. Over 5,000 CCS students will give to our community, region, state, nation, and world throughout the year. This is truly the spirit of Clarkston!
9. The district implemented readers, writers, and math workshops at the elementary levels. These processes enhance student’ achievement through teacher professional training and student engagement.
10. Just last year, CCS became the first school district in the world to host a Harvard University Project Zero conference for all teachers in the district. More than 800 educators from six continents attended. Clarkston is now known as a leader, globally, in building a Culture of Thinking.
11. The Board of Education has agreed to purchase a new student information system.
The system is web based and will be available 24/7 at home, in our schools, and on mobile devices.  It will allow students, parents and staff to communicate and verify that every one of our students is getting the support they need to succeed.
12. The district served as a national leader in energy efficiency. Nine of our school buildings have received Energy Star certification. Clarkston High School was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of just 78 Green Ribbon Schools, nationwide.
Your school district works very hard every day to cultivate thinkers, learners, and positive contributors in a global society. As evidenced above, the district has achieved sound financial status, even in difficult economic times; has creatively generated revenues; has improved its technology information processes; has expanded service learning; has enhanced teacher and student achievement; has produced outstanding accomplishments by individual students, teams, and staff; and has led the way in energy efficiency. We have much to celebrate this year, thanks to our outstanding staff members, our supportive community, our amazing students, and the dedicated leadership of our administrators and board of education. Together, we make Clarkston one of the best places in the nation to live, work, and learn. CCS is truly blessed!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Educational Reform: What's Dumb about Smart? Part III

Following up on my August 10 Detroit Free Press Letter to the Editor, Feedback: Schools put too much emphasis on tests (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308100015), here is Part III of my III part series on What's Dumb about Smart.

Educational Reform: What’s Dumb about Smart? Part III
by Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Clarkston Community Schools

Recently, I had lunch with the mother of an autistic child. This mother is one of the biggest advocates for children I have ever met. She is also a terrific supporter of public schools. She and her husband have studied neuroscience. Their child has taken part in national studies on the brain. They use herbal remedies, diets, and medical treatments. They are great parents.

Their child is terrifically smart. She can hear things once and know them forever. She is a good reader. The child is well spoken and is not highly emotional. The child is very self aware and has, since a very young age, been able to articulately discuss and discern how she learns and how learning is challenging for her. She struggles with writing and interacting with other students in large class settings, yet she does very well on tests just by hearing and reading the content. Still, the educational system requires her to write and takes away points from her grade when she does not write.

In a system that focuses on deficits in children, we label this child as disabled and mildly autistic--we determine that this child needs to be fixed. We give this child writing support, we work on her study skills, and we remove her from gym and art classes so that she can spend more time practicing her writing.

In a system that focused instead on strengths, aptitudes, and individual differences in children, we would label this child as logically-mathematical, intra-personally, and linguistically intelligent. We would notice this child’s natural proclivities and strengths and we would use this knowledge to help the child better learn math, science, social studies, art, music, and interpersonal communication skills. We would give this child a computer that would allow her to take notes in a way that made sense for her smarts and we would expect her to demonstrate her knowledge and understandings on tests designed for her (perhaps alone). In these ways, we would assure that any deficits in her learning were not a result of inhibitors related to the unimodal learning environment of the school, classroom, or test, but rather actual gaps in her knowledge. These are the elements of a non-dumb educational system.

In 1983, Harvard professor, Howard Gardner, conceptualized the idea of multiple intelligences. In his research, Gardner "documented the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways," (1995, p. 11).

According to Gardner, "We are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains" (1995, p. 12).

Hear it again: “Students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways.... Where individuals differ is in the strength of [their] intelligences and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains."

This is really smart! Kids are different. Each child is unique and uniquely smart. It is the job of the educational system, then, to figure out how and to help each child use his/her smarts to be happy and to achieve at the highest levels possible so that he/she may pursue his/her dreams and positively contribute to our world. This is a profound and fundamental change/reform that is inclusive of all children. It is not elitist, it is malleable; it is not exclusive, it is attainable. In so doing, we are not lowering achievement standards, promoting excuses or laziness, or threatening anyone. Instead, we are reforming education. This is non-dumb. This is really smart.

Of course, these ideas are blatantly obvious and make complete sense, right, parents of multiple children? You know from raising your children that, even though they were born of the same parents and reared in the same home, each of them possesses a different set of strengths and can uniquely apply these strengths in carrying out tasks, solving problems, and understanding concepts. Does this mean that one is smarter than the other? Is the scratch golfer smarter than the concert pianist? Is the CPA smarter than the millionaire plumber who hires the CPA to do his bookkeeping?

What Gardner is saying in his research on intelligence, and what we all know to be true, is that there are many ways to be smart and one way is not necessarily more indicative of ability, future performance, or potential contribution. Indeed, it takes all kinds of intelligences (e.g., strengths, aptitudes, skills) to make our world work and to thrive in the worlds of work. Standardized tests, by their very design, measure only a limited number of intelligences, and therefore exclude many children from the realm of the smart. This is really dumb.

It is time to stop talking about intelligence in the singular form and to make it plural. It is time to recognize the strengths and aptitudes that kids bring with them to school, to build upon these, to assess these, and to help children understand how to best use and expand these to make our world work and to thrive in the worlds of work. Humans, unlike dogs, do not learn through suppression, conformity, or omission. Exactly the opposite is true, in fact: humans learn through expression, creativity/individuality, and inclusion.

Once we collectively agree upon an expanded definition of smart, achievement for all children will improve. Not because we dumbed down the standardized tests or discontinued accountability measures, but because we stopped suppressing the natural inclinations and proclivities of many kids and instead included their smarts in our assessments. This will be the beginning, after too many years of marginalization, of real, student-centered, educational reform. I can’t wait, and neither can your child who thankfully and remarkably is exactly unlike anyone else on planet Earth.

As preeminent scholar and author Peter Senge discusses, “Transformational change is about deep, systemic change; and what is most systemic is actually most personal” (2013). It is time to transform education by un-dumbing smart and personalizing learning according to the gifts that children possess. How will proposed legislation or reform make this closer to the truth for every child?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What Matters Most in Education?: N = 1

In my opinion, government policy, although well intended, is aimed at faux, short-term wins over true, long-term betterment. As an example, we grade schools, then we rank order them, then we label them, then we color code them. Why? Is this based upon science, or politics? What doctrine proves that these policies make schools any better for kids?

When we watch football on TV, we see performances. At the end, there is a clear winner (almost without exception). What we do not see are the thousands of hours--broken down by position, offense and defense, weight rooms  conditioning, youth football, passing camps, junior high, all alone with a dream, playing catch with dad, watching tapes, planning for practice, half-time adjustments, getting cut from the team. The stuff that matters most--effort, trial and error, repetition, one pound stronger, one-tenth of a second faster, diets, sacrifice, sleep, encouragement, skills, drill, break down--we never see. Our only window in is the game--win or lose? Record. Statistics. Performance.

What matters most in schools and in the learning of individuals throughout life isn't an arbitrary label--gifted, disabled, average, focus, reward, red, periwinkle, highly effective. Rather, it is the thousands of hours of effort that few people ever see that in sum total equal who we are as individuals. Our character, our grit, our spirit, our willingness to run one more lap, study one more minute, try when we feel like quitting, belief in our selves, pursuit of a passion.

Our rewards are not arbitrary, notwithstanding of the labels. Our rewards are very real; tangible. They come often in the form of passion, emotions, relationships, and inspiration--given and received.

I want to educate in a smart world, where we collectively do the best we can for every child. This is the antithesis of politics, which most often represent the will of the majority. Individuals, they are the epitome of minority: n = 1. This makes education much more of a case study than generalizable to the masses. In fact, when you think about a child; a life; a human; a story, the only thing that matters is n = 1.

This is my opinion.

Rod Rock

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Educational Reform: What's Dumb about Smart? Part II

Following up on my August 10 Detroit Free Press Letter to the Editor, Feedback: Schools put too much emphasis on tests (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308100015), here is Part II of my III part series on What's Dumb about Smart.

Educational Reform: What’s Dumb about Smart? Part II
by Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Clarkston Community Schools, Clarkston, Michigan

It is universally agreed upon, mistakenly, that the United States’ educational system is broken. Yet, in all of the discussion, debate, and legislation related to fixing it, rarely do we ever read or hear any suggestion that what is broken is not the system itself, but rather the very concept of achievement and intelligence that the system pursues and promotes. This fundamental flaw makes dumb the educational system’s pursuit of smart.

Reform in the current context means revised governance structures (such as charter schools, virtual schools, and district consolidation); school choice (such as vouchers); one-size-fits-all standardized tests for every student every year, the use of test results to rank schools, teacher evaluation and merit pay, new curricula, and more tests. Since reform discussions began in the US nearly 65 years ago, this list has not changed. Reform is almost exclusively and perpetually about governance structures, standardized tests, curricula, and placing blame.

Essentially, this means that not much ever actually changes in our educational systems. Yes, more laws are put in place. Yes, the money for education goes to different providers. Yes, parents have choices. Yes, curriculum is different. Yes, kids take more tests. And, these reforms are remodels as opposed to true changes. The facade looks different, and how the system measures, acknowledges, and fosters individual differences in children remains static.

The reason: because the reforms never addressed the fundamental element of education--intelligence. From 1947 to 2013, our educational systems have never--despite overwhelming evidence--adjusted what it means to be smart in school. In opposition to prolific begging from universities and the business world regarding the skills today’s kids need, our educational systems remain profoundly focused on a unimodal concept and measurement of intelligence. Education attempts today, harder than ever, to fit more and more students into an accepted, antiquated, singular, and highly prejudicial definition of intelligence. This is really shameful.

There is one curriculum, generally speaking, in your local school. It is expected that students born in the same six to ten months of a calendar year will experience and thrive within this curriculum, and as a result, achieve at a high level on the same standardized test each October or March. When this does not occur, the child, the teacher, the school, and the district are considered to have failed and reform sets in. Yet nothing ever really changes.

This approach makes perfect sense in a factory model of education. It is highly efficient, predictable, portable, manageable, reportable, and reliable. However, it is completely dumb if you are the parent of a child who demonstrates intelligence in a different way. Say your child is an excellent listener and does not enjoy writing or taking notes. In fact, his motor skills are so poor that the process of writing actually distracts him from learning. Since the standardized test is designed for kids who read and write well, as opposed to listen well, there is a very good chance that your child will not do well on this test and that he is currently being reformed. Does this mean he’s dumb?

Suppose your child is a highly active learner. She can go into the woods, build a fire, catch a fish, filter creek water for drinking, and identify plants, but despises sitting in a classroom, facing the front of the room, reading from a textbook, and memorizing facts. Despite your child’s obvious smarts, she is unlikely to do well on the standardized test that takes into account only reading and memory skills. Does this mean that she’s dumb?

In a system where the definition of smart is dumb, the answers to these questions is simply, uniquely, and profoundly, “Yes, your child is dumb.” This is the message that the child receives as he or she is reformed each day. This is the message that the teacher receives as she looks at her students’ standardized test scores. This is the message that the media sends as it compares one school’s effectiveness to another.

So, what is dumb about smart is the way that standardized tests measure it, the ways in which the media reports it, and the ways in which the government uses it to constantly reform the educational system? If we measured a tub of butter in acres instead of ounces and pounds, and then tried to sell it by the pound, we would be very confused. And, if we surveyed land in ounces and pounds and then tried to sell it by the acre, we would have a messed up system. Yet, this is exactly what we do in schools. We measure the intelligence of our students on a unimodal, universal assessment, and then we use the results to try to fix the kid or the school. Only after they graduate do they come to realize how they are smart. We have a messed up system.

We have to stop this nonsense. We must stop assessing to determine who is smart and start assessing to see how each child is smart. The present assessment system is patently unfair to children, teachers, and schools. It marginalizes kids. It tells kids that they are dumb and that they cannot be smart. It connects failure to learning, which is an absolute oxymoron. It’s what is dumb about smart. It is time to change it, fundamentally and universally.
In Part III, I will discuss the elements of a non-dumb educational system.