Significant research, including the work of Howard Gardner and Sir Ken Robinson, show that state exams only measure a narrow view of intelligence. Because of this, it is even more damaging when schools align their curriculum and pedagogy to the narrow focus of the state exams, while simultaneously ignoring the innate curiosity of children and the 21st century skills needed to thrive in our current economy. The state exams do not measure creativity, verbal communication, real world problem solving, spatial intelligence, collaboration, initiative, or adaptability among others competencies. Only schools can do that. The intuitive brilliance of students is ignored by state exams and I would argue that it is exactly intuitive brilliance of students that is widely needed to rescue our economy and humanity from the damage of old mindsets and policies that continue to facilitate inequality and despair.
The state exam is not a focus of our learning environment. Because of this, we are free to meet the individual, holistic needs of each student, while co-designing an authentic curriculum. Our curricula includes the multiple intelligences and space for additional academic supports where needed. With that, our students receive 450-600 minutes of literacy instruction per week, depending upon their needs. This instruction takes the form of large group, small group, and individualized instruction where necessary.
We anchor our literacy instruction in writing performance tasks which help us to align the reading, writing, listening, and speaking standards in a more organic and cohesive fashion. With this, we can read and have critical dialogue on any topic and our students develop stronger skills in narrative, argument, and expository writing.
Our students also receive at least 300 minutes of math instruction per week in large and small groups while also leveraging the efficiency and differentiating abilities of technology. Students also receive 375 minutes of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) per week in which they work on projects directly designed to build their 21st century competencies.
What’s just as important with our curricula is what happens outside of the “core subjects.” Our students receive recess daily. Gym, dance, and creative arts occur 2-3 times per week, as does technology and game design. Students also have a class called Genius Hour where they have the opportunity to work on projects aligned to their passions and interests. We also have after school programming five days a week, where students can learn audio engineering, gardening, fine arts, robotics, sports, and receive additional tutoring where needed.