Commentary: It’s education malpractice not to focus on students

Commentary: It’s education malpractice not to focus on students
February 11
00:00 2016



“From kindergarten to 12th grade, students attend school 13,000 hours, yet they only receive two days of individualized instruction” (E-Learning 2010: Assessing the Agenda for Change, Education Week, April 28, 2010).

One daily lesson plan is presented to pupils with various learning styles. One size does not fit all in learning or testing!

College professors lecture to future teachers. Consequently, they emulate the professors, many of whom have never worked in K-12 classrooms.

Undoubtedly, all children can learn, but the adults charged with their safe passage must create student-centered schools that increase opportunities to achieve. They should also provide a way for students to receive rewards, recognition, grades, and credentials related to their multidimensional intelligences.  School districts pride themselves on training in Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, but their standardized tests measure limited linguistic and logical-mathematical skills. School activities and examinations ignore Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences: If educators know of the seven intelligences, it is irrational and illogical to only evaluate a few. Those chosen may not be the strengths of students.  I do not know the linguistic ability of Michael Jordan or the kinesthetic intelligence of William Shakespeare. However, based on their roads to fame, it is reasonable to surmise Michael is a kinesthetic-spatial genius and Shakespeare possessed remarkable linguistic intelligence. These are hypotheses that highlight weaknesses of limited assessment instruments. Imagine if Shakespeare was given the kinesthetic tests and his grades were a graduation requirement. Let’s suppose Michael Jordan’s writing ability was his ticket to job security.

What about dancers, athletes, singers, visual artists, the social butterfly, mechanics, etc.?  Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano are musical geniuses, but today’s test may have placed them in the Exceptional Children’s’ program for the visually handicapped. Would Joan Rivers or Jay Leno’s antics result in school suspension? Are African-American males doomed for out-of-school suspension because of their ability as elocutionists, rap artists, or oratorical skills? Maybe pupils are giving us hints how to teach. Are we stuck in tradition? Why do we refuse to address multiple intelligences? Maybe low test scores represent academic rebellion or civil disobedience!

Is that Martha Graham, Fred Astaire, Judith Jamison, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Bill Bojangles Robinson, Agnes De Mille, Alvin Ailey, Debbie Allen, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Usher dancing in the halls?  Are Celine Dion, Leontyne Price, Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Smokey, Stevie, Luther, Gladys and Aretha Franklin singing in the cafeteria? Michelangelo, Glenda Wharton, Gilbert Young, Maya Angelou, Tyler Perry, and Picasso are writing-painting graffiti on the walls. Richard Pryor, Lucille Ball, Eddie Murphy, Johnny Carson, Freddy Prinze, George Lopez, George Lucas, Ginger Rogers, Joe Biden, Rush Limbaugh, Steven Buckley, and Rembrandt refused to be quiet or stay in their seats.  They all may have repeatedly interrupted classes and defaced school property.

In-school suspension, time-out, discipline referrals, and parental contacts appear to be useless. School districts are concerned about the large number of disciplinary referrals.  Does the school have a discipline problem? The behavior may be caused by frustrated geniuses trapped in traditional status quo schools.

Twenty-first century schools of excellence require ongoing mechanisms capable of evaluating, monitoring, and nurturing multiple intelligences and technological skills.  Despite unwise political pressure, state, and national mandates, children deserve education activists with the unswerving courage to fight for fair, inclusive, and appropriate tests.

Perhaps, we can raise standards and increase test scores by teaching and testing multiple intelligences, too. As we analyze data, it is important to think-test outside old, nonfunctional, or limiting practices.  Did we ever ask what test scores and behavior patterns certifiably tell us?

It is important that we accurately measure what students know and are able to do.   Consideration should be devoted to multiple intelligences not measured by today’s limited evaluation tools. The child’s real curriculum and authentic experiences extend beyond the traditional classroom into a technical stratosphere that was once inconceivable. Today’s students’ mechanical skills supersede those of ancestors.  Elementary school children are masters of video games. They can program remote controls for adults and explain computer mechanisms to their teachers.

Students are very complex individuals with unique skills, talents, dreams, characteristics, intelligences, and knowledge not measured by linguistic-logical standardized tests. We know more than we need to know to teach and assess pupils. We have known for years that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. It is because it resists change that we say “pride goeth before the fall.”

One hundred percent of schools may overcome the stigma of low performing. We have unprecedented levels of genius that will remain untapped if educators do not change. Schools hurt our future generation by staying in the assembly-line model. The world is different. The incomprehensible abilities and multiple intelligences of students are beyond the imagination of education leaders and test developers.  We cannot afford business as usual or testing the way we did in the “old” days. The current standardized tests have not allowed us to fully measure the multiple intelligences of our pupils. We may find millions of students with untested genius.

Action Steps: Explore new exams inclusive of various intelligences and give students credit or points that could be added to exam scores. The baby boomers need to get out of the way of the new generation of education technocrats and allow for the full infusion and utilization of E instruction and E tests that give immediate and ongoing feedback during classroom instruction. Credit visual, per-forming arts and hands-on projects as part of standardized tests.  We may find that our teachers and students are not low performing.  We can no longer ignore a multidimensional world evolving at megabyte speed!

Henry J. Pankey is a Democratic candidate for N. C. Superintendent of Public Instruction. He is the author of:  “Standing in the Shadows of Greatness,” “How to Turn Around low Performing Schools,” “The Eagle who Thought he was a Hip Hop Funky Chicken,” “Fly on Sweet Angel” (a play), and “Hooked on Tongue Twisters” (an educational interactive speech game).” His website is

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