What should the future of American education look like? (Choose one.)
a) The government ensures that every child in a public school has access to a great education, regardless of socioeconomic status or race.
b) Education caters, in some measure, to an individual child's needs. Educators help children take steps to pursue whatever life goals they have, whether they include being an auto mechanic or a rocket scientist.
c) A premium is placed on making sure all children have the same base of knowledge, no matter what each individual child does later in life.
d) Teachers spend more time teaching and less time testing.
e) Testing continues to be done to make sure kids aren't falling behind in key areas — with educators fully believing that if we can provide extra help to, say, a third-grader who's struggling to read, we can improve all of his education outcomes.
f) All of the above.
If you chose "f," then you're in good company. Teachers, principals, administrators, parents, students and state legislators have all been battling recently over how to create a future that accommodates such realities. Most of what they're talking about, of course, has to do with standardized testing — a system that's imbued with good intentions but that many believe has gone overboard.
Starting here, we ask educators from two very different school districts about what's working and what's not, and what to do about it.