Monday, October 3, 2011

High School Exit Exams in 21st century Iowa

So it is the eve of the state of Iowa's Gov. Terry Bransted to announce the details of his plans for educational reform. None of the details have been officially delivered, however there have been some reports prognosticating the details of this "blueprint" for the future of education in Iowa. So as I was reading some of these items I got to thinking about some of the recent "hot" topics on education including  cuts in preschool funding, see "Iowa House approves preschool funding cut, scholarships" story for more details on that, and the newly formed science and technology council (see "Branstad names members to science, technology council" for some background)just to name a few. After tomorrow I am sure that many of the details will provide for much debate from everyone, however I wanted to get the jump on one of the items that was mentioned, high school exit exams. Now it should be noted that there is no guarantee that this will even make it's way into the final plan, and I have no prior knowledge of any kind in relation to this, but the idea got me thinking, is this the 21st century student should be leaving high school? Another standardized test?

As a student in educational technology the idea of exit exams is a little discouraging. The thought of additional  testing dose not fit with the changing landscape of technology and education, nor does it fit with the knowledge and skills students will need for today's jobs or post secondary schooling. Some of the questions that came to mind about this topic:
  • Will these tests really help the students, and show what they have learned?
  • Will the teachers teach to the test, and will what they teach be valuable outside of that?
  • What 21st century skills will be included, and how will they test for those?
These questions all came  up and got me thinking about a topic in my recent studies. In "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change The Way The World Learns" the author, Clayton Christensen, point out that schools today are not designed for today's student. They are designed for a mass produced student with a set of skills that can be taught to a large group of similarly skilled individuals at the same time. The future of education he points out, and I would agree with, is though customized learning. Maybe students will need more than just the core competencies to succeed post high school.

So I am curious, what does everyone think on this? Dose the idea of exit exams meet the needs of today's students? If exit exams were to be used could they test for the needs of the 21st century student? If so how would they look? If not what could be done instead?

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