SARs Virus Strikes Poudre School District
"The tests our children take should support learning, not just
accounting. If we really want our children to become the great inventors
and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn't stifle innovation,
they should let it thrive." - Barack Obama
There's a serious virus in Fort Collins and it's called SARs. This SARs is different than the SARS known as "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome," the virus that spread around the world in 2003. But the SARs virus here might be more serious.
This SARs is called "School Accountability Reports." These so-called "reports" are the result of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Colorado Student Assessment Program -- those mind-numbing weeklong fill-in-the-bubble tests that all Colorado children suffer through.
With CSAP results in hand, every school and every school district in Colorado is required to create a SARs. The winners get headlines; the losers, too. This year, these reports garnered both a front-page story and an official editorial in the Coloradoan.
Reported along with this story in the Coloradoan was the fact that Polaris Expeditionary Learning School was the only school in PSD that received a "low rating." As a parent of two kids at Polaris, you might think I would be very concerned, but I am not. Here's why: I am not a fan of CSAPs -- they reduce the extraordinary educational opportunity available to our children into a standardized off-the-shelf creativity-stifling experience that can mold our children and our society's future into the same thing.
CSAPs fail to test for, or value, many more important educational outcomes. As example, the Poudre School District did a survey of all PSD students at the end of the 2008 school year in which Polaris ranked very differently. Below are some of the statements ranked by students, the results of which are now called "Polaris Pride":
That quote at the top of this Soapbox was made May 28 at the Mapleton Expeditionary School in Thornton during Obama's only visit to a public school in Colorado. Mapleton, like Polaris, uses the expeditionary learning curriculum (www.elschools.org), which focuses on real-world projects called "learning expeditions" with active teaching and community service. The percentage of students who go on to college from Mapleton is a remarkable 100 percent - that's why Obama visited that school. Polaris' college enrollment percentages equal those of the PSD average.
We voted for change in November. Let's take another step toward change
and eradicate the SARs virus from Colorado and PSD.