THE BLOG
07/16/2013 04:58 pm ET Updated Sep 15, 2013

College Readiness Doesn't Mean Suffering Through Bad Instruction

With all the data and politics around college readiness in K-12, I have one major question: "What does that even mean?" We all have our own ideas. Some might say it's the ability to be able to research and write coherent pieces. I've heard people say they want their students to have some basic skills in all subject areas. Some might say the ability to collaboration. You might also say that it is important that students can articulate their learning in presentation. Again, these are all good ideas. I'm sure many of us want this for our students, regardless if our students are going to a four-year university, a career, an apprenticeship, or a two-year community college.

The burden of college readiness seems to fall on our K-12 system. How are we preparing students for this college-ready work? This is where the controversy sets in. We all have different opinions of what that looks like in terms of instruction. What is my role of the teacher? What should be valued in assessment, and what should that assessment looks like? There seem to be many camps that people fall into, but there are two polar camps. As an advocate of instructional approaches of PBL, I advocate for a variety of assessments, assessment for and of learning, the role of the teacher as facilitator and guide, as well as other what you might term as "progressive" approaches. This is one camp. Another camp might say that this isn't preparing students for college. Students should be getting instruction and assessments just like college. This looks like lectures, a lot of independent work, and writing of many papers. In addition, the teacher serves as master of content and seeks to impart that wisdom on the students.

What's interesting to me is that this polarity really doesn't need to exist. In fact, many teachers who use PBL for example, use direct instruction and lecture as a critical scaffolding tool. PBL teachers target rigorous content and have students write. There doesn't need to be a "or" but rather an "and."

More importantly I would like to offer this "push-back." Many educators recognize that the "college way" of teaching and learning does not support all students (I would further argue that this way is changing and evolving). Many of us learned the game of education and acclimated to it. If we see this as "not good," then why do we force students to endure it. I would offer this. College readiness doesn't mean we have to have all students suffer through a negative K-12 educational experience. We do not need to make students endure negative education to be prepared for further negative education. Let's instead prepare students for college with engaging, rigorous, and differentiated education to prepare them for wherever they go after high school. That's college readiness!