All the loudest voices in reform seem to shoe horn the word “innovation” (or some variation) into most of their pronouncements on how to improve education.
However, according to a former middle school teacher, they probably aren’t thinking of anything approaching the actual meaning of the term.
But the word, like so many others in education, has been hijacked. The “new reformers” have appropriated it as a descriptor for policy proposals and practices they advocate, and as an antonym for almost anything else. Charter schools? Innovative. Regular public schools? Definitely not. Competing for education funding? Innovative. Assuring that adequate monies go to schools that most need them? PassÃ©. Evaluating teachers based on test scores? Innovative. Collective bargaining? Old school.
Corporate reformers have come to own the word so completely that they’re able to promote even the most wrongheaded ideas and still be portrayed by many media outlets as innovators.
The kind of “innovation” behind No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, KIPP, and other high profile education “reforms” of the past ten years has resulted in narrowing the curriculum to little more than reading and math, with even those subjects being taught to the majority of students at the most basic, rote-memorization levels.
This teacher is frustrated that, among other things, the media studies class that he use to teach and the video fair in which his student participated, are “long gone and buried”, sacrificed to the all consuming standardized testing culture.
But he also makes the excellent point that, because of that culture “teacher and student creativity will continue to be squashed at every turn.”
Ok, reformers, you want innovation? Instead of consulting people like Bill Gates and Arne Duncan, neither of whom go near a classroom unless the press is already there, listen to what these students have to say on the subject of improving their own education.
Behind those four minutes is a learning experience that can’t be measured on a multiple choice test.