Transform education by measuring what matters. Hint: It’s not test scores. — from the Innovative Educator by Lisa Nielsen


What if instead we measured success in things that really mattered to students, parents and teachers.  For example…

Students have:

  • A plan to find and develop their passion(s).
  • A team of mentors, guidance, and/or advisors to help guide them in discovery and development of their passions.
  • Customized success plans that they help design.
  • Advisors who are deeply involved in and responsible for their lives and their success.
  • An opportunity to learn about what they are interested in the world with real world experts.
  • Reported they are satisfied with support they receive from the school.
  • An authentic portfolio that can be used for career, academic, or civic pursuits.

If we work to move the conversation to measuring success by meeting our student’s personal goals in college, career, and/or life experiences we accomplish these goals:

  • Instead of teaching to the test we teach to the student.
  • Billions of dollars are restored toward resources for students.
  • Schools are held accountable, not for test scores, but for placement in what matters: college, career, and/or civic duty.


From DSC:
Some reflections on on David Warlick’s solid posting,
I never needed to know that. First, some excerpts (emphasis DSC):

But the fact is that one reason we, as educators, do not readily recognize this compelling truth and try to make sense of its profound implications is that we can not predict what our children will need to know and not need to know.  It would be nothing more than speculation.

So again, “What do our children need to be learning today?

Several ideas spring to my mind as I try to unfold this.

  1. Our children need to learn something.
  2. What they need to learn is no longer as important as it use to be.
  3. Increasing the stakes on what they learn does little more than punish our children for our own arrogance.
  4. If what they learn today may not be useful to them tomorrow, then how will they continue to learn what is?
  5. How they learn has become much more important.
  6. Perhaps the most important thing we can help our children learn, is how to teach themselves.

I think David’s comments are right on. How students learn — and I would add enjoying learning — are very important. If I don’t like to learn, or if school is a painful experience, I will be at a huge disadvantage in life these days. Lifelong learning is now a requirement for most of us, if we want to stay marketable/employed. But if I don’t like to learn, this is going to be an uphill battle for me.

So when I approach the Common Core, or standardized tests, or questions concerning curriculum, etc….I am looking through the lenses that constantly ask the questions:

  • Will this help develop a passion for learning?
  • Does this allow students to pursue their passions?


My notes on two presentations from the Learning Without Frontiers Conference, London, 26th January 2012:

My notes for:
Sir Ken Robinson’s talk

Practice <–>Theory <–> Policy

  • People who practice don’t often have time to get the latest and greatest information re: theory
  • Theorists don’t have much time for practice
  • Policy makers don’t know much about either 🙂

Purposes of education:

  • Economic.  Not solely, but there are economic reasons for providing education. Academic vs vocation programs – Sir Ken doesn’t subscribe to this dichotomy in educational DNA. Need new sorts of education
  • Cultural. Aim to pass on cultural genes – values, beliefs
  • Personal. The most important! In the end, education is ultimately, personal. Too much impersonal testing that students aren’t engaged in.

Key point:

  • There is everything you can do – at all levels; many of us ARE the educational system – at least for the group(s) of students that we are working with. So we can make immediate changes; and collectively this can create a revolution.

Education not linear, not monolithic. Rather, it’s a complex, adaptive system – many moving parts, like a vortex…not like an undistributed canal; more like an ocean with different forces tugging this way and that. (From DSC: I agree with what Sir Ken is saying here, but I especially agree with this particular perspective — thus the name of this blog.)

Personalization is key! Education needs to be customized to the communities where it’s taking place.


  • Curriculum – towards disciplines (skills, processes, procedures) and away from subjects
  • Teaching & Learning – dynamic; flow of knowledge; not static; forms need to tap into streams; move towards collaborative activities; active learning trumps passive learning
  • Assessment – must move from judgment to description


My notes (part way) for:
Jim Knight – If Steve Jobs Designed Schools

What if Steve Jobs had re-invented the education system rather the computer and consumer electronics industry?

Steve Jobs was a contradictory character, combining control freak and Zen Buddhist, and technology with design. He had a revolutionary impact on computing, animation, the music industry, printing, and publishing. Last year he and Bill Gates together expressed surprise at how little impact technology had had on schools. Jobs’s wife is an educational reformer, he was a college dropout; but what would it have been like if Steve Jobs had focused on education? What would the Jobs School be like?

How do we make an insanely great school?

  • Must go really deep to create something that’s easy to use (from DSC — I call this “Easy is hard.”) Need to de-clutter the teaching & learning environment, the curriculum, the qualifications, and the people.
  • How does it make me feel when I walk through the doorway of your school?
  • Get to choose who you want to learn with and from
  • Simple, beautiful space; flexible; social; reflective, all year round
  • More seductive, intuitive, enthralling
  • Does it inspire curiosity?
  • “Don’t need instructions”
  • Not just a school – learning doesn’t stop when school bell rings
  • 24×7 thing
  • Curriculum
  • Is there a range of things to interest everyone?
  • Need more choice; selection; more control of their learning
  • All ages
  • Enterprising
  • Creative, technical, practical…but most of all, it would be fun!

More here…


The Joy of Books — A Short, Inspired Film Full of Passion


From DSC:
This is a great one for all teachers out there trying to get students interested in reading & writing! It also is a nice use of multimedia to communicate a message — so it serves as an example of a new media literacy as well.


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Interesting quote from Larry Page wants to return Google to its startup roots — from by Steven Levy

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

“You can’t understand Google,” vice president Marissa Mayer says, “unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.” She’s referring to schools based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician born in 1870 who believed that children should be allowed the freedom to pursue their interests. “In a Montessori school, you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so,” she says. “This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, why should it be like that? It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.”

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Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

From DSC:
I’m a broken person. As such, I don’t mean to post the piece of scripture above to be pointing figures at anyone or to be telling someone how to live and what to think.  But my experience has been that God’s ways are often 180 degrees opposite from the ways of the world.  So, often times, we need to be retrained in our thinking and in regards to our perspectives and assumptions (whether they involve faith-based items or not).  Sometimes, the old tapes and messages need to be thrown away. That’s why I posted this item.

I also post this because I believe God knows how He made each one of us and which abilities, gifts, passions, talents He gave to each of us.  I view my job as to identify the passions and gifts He gave to me and then go to work on developing them — while striving to use them in serving others.  A fulfilling, WIN-WIN situation indeed.

5 ideas for responding to what kids want the nation to know about educationfrom The Innovative Educator by Lisa Nielsen


In the session the focus was clear. Educators and the former principal (YAY for administrators) who attended wanted to know how we can hear the children and show them they matter, we love them, and we want to honor their unique passions, talents, interests, and abilities.  We discussed a lot of great ideas.  Here are five ways we discussed addressing what students want from education:

  1. Rather than bubbletests, measure student progress with personal success plans.
  2. Rather than report cards and transcripts allow students to showcase their learning with an authentic ePortfolio.
  3. Rather than work that only has the teacher as the audience, empower students to do real work that matters to them and has a real audience.
  4. Rather than telling students how to meet learning goals, empower them to drive their own learning as participant Deven Black explained he does (visit this link to see how).
  5. Have conversations with students about what their talents are.  You can use the videos in this article that feature students sharing stories about their talents.

From Daniel Christian: Fasten your seatbelts! An accelerated ride through some ed-tech landscapes.

From DSC:
Immediately below is a presentation that I did for the Title II Conference at Calvin College back on August 11, 2011
It is aimed at K-12 audiences.


Daniel S. Christian presentation -- Fasten your seatbelts! An accelerated ride through some ed-tech landscapes (for a K-12 audience)


From DSC:
Immediately below is a presentation that I did today for the Calvin College Fall 2011 Conference.
It is aimed at higher education audiences.


 Daniel S. Christian presentation -- Fasten your seatbelts! An accelerated ride through some ed-tech landscapes (for a higher ed audience)


Note from DSC:

There is a great deal of overlap here, as many of the same technologies are (or will be) hitting the K-12 and higher ed spaces at the same time. However, there are some differences in the two presentations and what I stressed depended upon my audience.

Pending time, I may put some audio to accompany these presentations so that folks can hear a bit more about what I was trying to relay within these two presentations.

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First day of school: Anastasis Academy #standagain — from


Today was one for the books.  We did it! We opened a school with a radical new vision for what a school should look like in light of learning.  It was a truly great day!

[Anastasis Academy’s mission] is to apprentice children in the art of learning through inquiry, creativity, critical thinking, discernment and wisdom.  We strive to provide an educational model that honors and supports children as the unique and creative individuals that God created them to be.  We work to shape the development of the whole-child by engaging the mind, body and spirit while inspiring each to personal excellence.

Also see:

Look where you want to go and steer in that direction: How a blog started a school — from Dreams of Education (6/24/11)


From DSC:
24 “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine on you  and be gracious to you;  26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) May He bless your efforts as you seek to not only impact the minds of — but also the hearts of — your students.


We really need to impact both in order for our future students to make significant, positive impacts around the globe. Way to go Kelly!


Grading Moratorium: Steve Moore

From DSC:
I need to reflect on this idea further…but when dropout rates are hitting 20-30% for many parts of the country and when, for many students, school can often become a source of pain/discouragement rather than instilling a love for learning, I’m finding myself more open to ideas on how to change that situation. We need to foster a love for learning..and perhaps this type of thing would help. 

How do we assess students’ learning without attaching the competitive — often discouraging/”I just can’t do this” — type of message? Are there better ways to tap into students’ passions, gifts, abilities, and creativity?





What if school nurtured the passion and interest of every young person? — from Anne Knock


As we move away from valuing some intelligences over others and recognising that there is value in the contributions of all – school can become the nurturing ground for all students, as it should be.

We need to create environments – in our schools, in our workplaces and in our public offices – where every person is inspired to grow creatively. We need to make sure that all people have the chance to do what they should be doing, the discover the *Element in themselves and in their own way.

Ken Robinson The Element: How finding your passion changes everything

* Element – the place where things we love to do and things we are good at come together.

Five creativity exercises to find your passion — from Entrepreneur by Lisa Girard
Want to start a business, but not sure what to pursue? Here’s how to discover what you love.


“It’s amazing how disconnected we become to the things that brought us the most joy in favor of what’s practical,” says Rob Levit, an Annapolis, Md.-based creativity expert, speaker and business consultant.

Levit suggests making a list of all the things you remember enjoying as a child. Would you enjoy that activity now? For example, Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s greatest architect, played with wooden blocks all through childhood and perhaps well past it.

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Passion-based learning in the 21st century: An interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach — from by John Norton

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach often speaks of the “moral imperative” for K12 educators to assure that all students gain the skills, knowledge and dispositions they need to be successful in a connected world “where the ability to think critically, collaborate effectively and master increasingly powerful digital technologies” will determine their success in school, college and careers.

Nussbaum-Beach has been an educator for 20 years, serving as a public school classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor, and digital learning consultant. She is a frequent international speaker and the chief executive officer of Powerful Learning Practice LLC, a company she founded with educator-author Will Richardson to provide “professional development for 21st century educators.” PLP’s client list includes public, parochial and independent schools in the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway.

Nussbaum-Beach is also president of the digital consulting firm 21st Century Collaborative, LLC and a doctoral candidate at The College of William and Mary. She serves on the advisory board for the 2011 Horizon Report on trends in K12 education. Her first book, The Connected Educator, will be published by Solution Tree later this year.

In this interview, Sheryl describes the “shift” she believes must take place in teaching and learning practices if elementary and secondary schools expect to remain relevant in an era when information and communication technologies will continue to expand exponentially.

Also see:

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