This week I went to see Dr. Tony Wagner speak as part of a national speaker series sponsored by my school district.  Dr. Wagner is the author of The Global Achievement Gap.  I haven’t had a chance to read the book, but I’ve heard it takes a good critical look at how education needs to reform to improve student achievement.  There were microphones set up for attendees to ask questions and/or comment on the discussion.  The comment that had the most lasting impression on me was from non other than my own colleague, Joe Gentry.  He is a biology teacher at my school and commented on how he has taken that leap of faith and risk in reaching out to his students.  As a result of hearing so much talk from his students on social networking, texting, this and that…he now communicates with his students via facebook and texting.  He actually gave out his cell phone number to his students.  Consequently, he marvels at the fact that his students text him numerous times after school and he can provide immediate feedback.  Not many teachers try to extend their classroom beyond the 7.5 hours they are bound by contract during the day.  However, Joe is a pure example of how teachers can let go of the fear of the technology that their students use as an everyday tool.  

Wagner made many confirming comments on how we need to take a look at assessment.  He showed us a video of Quest High School in Texas which requires students to present an exhibition at the end of the senior year as a graduation assessment.  Very impressive.  However, I don’t know how exactly this an easily be implemented in a full high school where students don’t have to apply to get in.  However, it was very inspirational and a great reminder of what we are trying to achieve as teachers.  Collaboration.  Communication.  Authentic experience and assessment.  There is no doubt however that these essential components of an effective school are being cut by the major budget cuts experienced across the state and country.