How can teachers learn from Jay-Z while challenging Melinda Gates about the role of standardized tests? This short reflection from TEACHING 2030 author and middle school teacher Ariel Sacks links out to some interesting pieces about educational reform.

I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus this month while I charge through the first month of school. It’s been a great year so far and I’ll be writing more about why in subsequent posts. I first want to shout out two amazing posts by my CTQ colleagues.

ONE. If you haven’t checked out Jose Vilson’s post, How Jay-Z can help us remix education, run to Ed Week to check it out. As someone who has followed Jay-Z’s music and career since his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, I too have noticed that, wow, he’s the only guy from that era still really in the hip hop game as a current artist. What has he done to remain current, influential, and a leader in his field? Jose analyzes that and points out that he has become more than “just” a rapper. He’s become successful and influential in several other arenas and at the same time, he hasn’t stopped being a rap artist. Jose makes an apt comparison to the concept of the teacherpreneur that the co-authors of TEACHING 2030 and I put forth in the book and other places.

TWO. Education Nation came and went this past Sunday and I was busy grading, planning, and catching my breath. I did not even tune in at all, partly because of how busy I was, and partly because of what a disappointment it had been for me last year. I was there in person at Rockefeller Center last year and just left feeling used (blogged about it here and here). This year, it sounds like NBC put on a more balanced program, with space for more thoughtful contributions by teachers and less dramatics. But that’s not the end of the story. If you have not read Anthony Cody’s post at Living in Dialogue analyzing the circular logic of Melinda Gates’ statements about her organization’s research, you absolutely must.

Cody points out that while Melinda Gates asserts that we need multiple measures of effective teaching, she goes on to explain that her research is looking at only those measures (forms of peer observation and student feedback, to name a few) that correlate to higher test scores at the end of the year. In other words, what do teachers whose students get high test scores do, and how other than testing, can we measure this same outcome? The problem is that with this model of “multiple measures” all roads are leading toward a single measure—high scores on a narrow and imperfect test, which may have little to do with success in the world students must navigate as adults. As Cody points out, the notion that standardized tests measure the skills that will matter for students in their adult lives remains unproven. Again, you must read his piece on this and decide for yourself whether we are moving in a good direction.


[Image credits: Vilson at; Cody at]

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