How Do We Define Student Success?

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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student successAs I was doing my daily troll this morning to search for old and new ideas worth sharing, I came across a post from Stanley Litow, IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and former Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, entitled Skilled for Life?: The Training Americans Need to Succeed.

“Adults in the U.S. scored far below their peers in Japan, Finland, Australia and Germany on math literacy and problem-solving skills, and had among the world’s highest ‘achievement gaps’ between those with high and low levels of education, and between those working in skilled versus unskilled occupations,” he writes. “Even more disturbing, the U.S. is falling behind competing nations in the race to obtain job-related skills.”

He advocates for three goals that will have significant implications on school structures, policies, and curricular design:

  1. It’s time to revamp career and technical education by embedding workplace skills training for 21st century jobs directly into challenging academic curricula, and tracking progress against high standards.
  2. It’s time to align high school and post-secondary coursework directly with one another so students can progress seamlessly along the path from school to higher education, and then to a rewarding career.
  3. Finally, it’s time to link career and technical education to where the jobs are now and will be in the future, and phase out programs and schools that prepare students for “careers” that no longer exist.

What is the true measure of student success for every child? As reauthorization looms for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (federal program that supports all U.S. career education), this time it should trigger a much larger debate around personalized learning pathways that finally tear down the walls between the ridiculous distinctions of “academic” and “non-academic” subjects.

Success should be defined based on what students accomplish based on how they pursued an idea, inquiry, or action using universal skills (e.g. creative thinking, problem solving) and related content knowledge. Where are powerful examples of this type of learning that inspire you? Share a course, a school, or a program with our community.

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