486/p8079182_9003.jpgQuest is a public school (of choice) in Houston.  The video we watched came from CES.  Quest describes itself this way:

Quest High School facilitators seek to use individualized knowledge of each student to shape that student’s schooling and to teach habits of the heart and mind through three core curriculum areas: Academic Foundations are based on state and national standards and include language arts, social studies, fine arts, mathematics, the sciences, health and Spanish. Learner Behaviors are affective proficiencies such as problem solving, critical thinking, self-discipline, social cooperation, communication and citizenship that are essential for student success in school and work. Workplace Tools teach technology and research skills such as computer graphics, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software.

Tony tells the audience that these are the critical Questions for Consideration, about the video, but quite possibly, they are good questions to ask in observing any school:

  • What skills are these students learning?
  • How they are being motivated to learn?
  • What is the teacher’s role in how they are being asked to learn?

As before, standard font is largely Tony’s own words, italics are my own commentary.

Cannot help but note as I look at the website for Quest HighSchool that their teachers are referred to not as teachers but as facilitators– as I was just writing in the previous post, sometimes even talking about “teaching” can put the wrong emphasis on the main point of schooling, which is faciliatating learning.

Tony invites the room to discuss his first few questions, and the room is buzzing, and then asks two more questions:

  • 1. What would have to change in your schools to make this kind of teaching and learning more the norm?
  • 2. What would you have to do to move in this direction? Start doing?  Stop doing? 

Tony goes on to draw in some great ideas by Engel’s recent op-ed in the New York Times, Learning to Play.

Students are producing real projects for a real audience.   The genius here is that EVERY academic class has a final performance.

Tony and the video make reference to the fine rubrics the school uses to measure the knowledge base and skill proficiencies measured at Quest, but unfortunately the rubrics don’t seem to be available on-line.

Question about Harvard admissions and whether colleges are moving toward these ideas.   Tony says there is still a long way to go, but that there is activity, and for instance, some schools are dropping the AP requirement.  More than 50% of admissions criteria from selective colleges is about things other than testing and GPA.   But this is still a big mountain to climb.

Extracurricular experience and achievement is an excellent predictor, better than any other, of career success.

Inquiry: This is the central project of every class, that we should open and commence every class with clarity about what we are inquiring into.   We also need to bring this same concept to our work as teachers in collaboration: every meeting and every professional development experience should be framed as an inquiry.

There should be only three grades in any class: A, B, incomplete.   Would you want to fly with a C- pilot? Or one who had only passed a multiple choice test?

How help parent body come to terms with these changes?   Tony answers: Engage them in a conversation of how the world is changing, and what are the new skills that are most important in this new era.   Design constructivist learning with adults, about how the world is changing, both hard data and data from the heart, and then used clickers in this audience of 1000 adults/parents to draw out from them what they think is most important in learning today.   Everyone, from students to teachers to parents, need to come together in the project and spirit of collaborative inquiry for learning and reform.

I continue to believe that Tony is the single most important figure in 21st century education, and today’s presentations only reinforce this for me.   Tony’s most particular importance is the linkage he is able to make between the research and writing about how the world is changing, and how the demands on our students in their future is changing, TO the world of our schools and the actual practices of our classrooms.  Nobody else is making this linkage as well, and nobody else is writing and speaking as well, with both warm appreciation for the unique demands and difficulties of classroom teaching AND strong challenge to conventional practice, as Tony.    We are delighted he is coming to our school, St. Gregory College Prep. in March!