The video of this talk has now been posted and you can watch it here.

Today I gave an Ignite talk at New Tech Annual Conference. It was intense. I will share the video later but I wanted to share my script and slides here:

#standardizethat by Mike Kaechele
This talk is dedicated to all of the politicians and ed reformers who think we can standardize our way into improving the American education system. I would like to share the things that I think that they should focus on standardizing instead.  

You have probably heard the saying that “weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter” so what then is the real purpose of the “standardization” obsession in this country? It is about comparing. School vs. school, state vs. state. We are now obsessed with comparing children with each other while we race to the top to leave no child behind.

Standardization is also about conformity to someone’s ideal of what an American citizen should be. We need everyone to know the exact same stuff and to be able to demonstrate it in the exact same way: bubble sheets and 5-point essays.

I would measure school differently. My main measurement of effectiveness would be “Do students want to come to your school or class?” Is your school a real community that students want to be at. Community.

Our students wake up at 5:00am or earlier to catch long bus rides to arrive at school before 7am because they want to be here. Why? Relationships.

Parents comment that they don’t have to fight with their child to get out of bed to go to school because they want to go to school for the first time ever. Schools that are places that care about students. Love.     

Students who love life, learning, and people. Students who share happiness with all that they meet. Joy.

The one word students use to describe our school is “family.” Our students come from 20 districts across our county including urban, suburban, and rural. They represent many ethnicities and previous levels of success in school. Family.

Students who work with all kinds of people not just their friends and build upon each others’ strengths. Students who work together to solve big problems impossible to achieve alone. Collaboration.

Mary created a fun memes page on Facebook about our school and later a freshman survival guide video. No, she didn’t have to. No, she wasn’t graded. Creativity.

In problem based learning students think deeply to solve authentic problems. Students also direct their own learning through voice and choice in what they study and how they present it. Choices.

We ended the year with a world simulation where students took over and “ran the world.” They made treaties, fought wars, negotiated and called a world conference on their own. They came to me before and after school to tell me their strategies. Problem-solving.

I watched my students get concerned about injustice in the world such as the Holocaust, genocides, racism, women’s rights in the Arab Spring protests, and the effects of war.
Students who care about democracy, human rights, and justice. Empathy.

You see I care more about my students being caring human beings than their test scores. Caring.

Students learning how to speak in public about what they are learning and what they care about. Communication.

In PBL students can demonstrate their learning through creative ways. One pair of girls made a mock up of glamour magazine critiquing society’s worship of women’s bodies. Fighting stereotypes.

Students are controlled in schools. Don’t touch this. Don’t talk out of turn. Don’t..bla,bla, bla… At our school students can eat and drink in class, and move freely without a pass. Students are the ones who created the norms for how everyone should be treated in class. Respect.

Students are not some kind of widget that can all be taught the exact same way like a part is fashioned on an assembly line. Students need to have their individual needs met. Personalization.

My son wants to be a geologist and loves rocks. This year he had no science until 2nd semester because it is not a tested subject. Students should be given freedom in the curriculum to explore their passions. Passions.

I gave a collaborative, open internet test. You know the way real historians work. Peyton said, “ I wrote a lot. This test was fun. I hope we do this again.” Love of learning.

Anna on Facebook said, “People count down the days until the end of school, but I count down the days of summer! Look what this school has done!!!! It makes me dread summer!!!” Acceptance and belonging.

Hey politician and ed reformer, you want to make sure no child gets left behind?
Community, relationships, love, joy, family, collaboration, creativity, choices, problem solving, empathy, caring, communication, fighting stereotypes, respect, personalization, passions, love of learning, acceptance and belonging.
#standardizethese for every child in every classroom and you will not have to worry about the rest of their education.

9 thoughts on “#standardizethat

  1. Chris Fancher (@cfanch)

    Mike thanks for putting the slides and script here. I heard incredible things about your Ignite from all kinds of people. I had hoped to be there but found myself in the middle of a Skype conversation while you were on. I can’t wait to get to the video. Looking forward to seeing you again in the future.

  2. Lydia Dobyns @lydiadobyns

    Mike. Loved your Ignite talk. Caused me to think “could we open next year’s NTAC with student, teacher and director Ignite talks?”. And that led me to a terrifying thought “could I do my part at the beginning as an Ignite talk?” That’s what seeing courage does to people—causes us to take risks that are way outside a personal comfort zone. Thank you!

    1. concretekax

      Thanks Lydia,

      I feel blessed to be at my school and part of New Tech Network where these things are encouraged. My dream is that it can help change the negative message toward education into a more positive student centered one!

    1. houtman

      Mike – thanks for posting your slide deck and script. You did a fantastic job on the Ignite talk and your passion for teaching and learning certainly came out.

      I really wish we could get out congress-critters end this preoccupation with, and the application of, the one-size-fits all model of ‘managing education processes’. In their minds, everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the education system”, one in which the learners, the facilitators, the parents and the administrators have to adjust.

      This system (factory) grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency which is doing everything to dispirit students, educators and parents.

      There is another way, and I think we all experienced it at NTAC 2012. As you put it, our goal is not to turn out a standardized widget, but is to help our students become life-long learners so they came become and learn anything they desire.

      Again, awesome message. Let’s keep amplifying it in our action and through our kids!

      @ronhoutman – http://www.ronhoutman.com

  3. Theresa Shafer

    Reading this and hearing your voice & the passion with which you believe in these words coming through.I am so glad we went through the prep for these talks together and can’t wait to see your journey & read about it in your blog this year with another great group of students! You not only write and speak these words, you live them! Inspiration #standardizethat !

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