Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal visited Palouse and Colton schools Thursday, sharing his vision for education that will target individual experiences — especially in the final two years of high school.
Reykdal toured Palouse School in the morning before sitting down with students and administrators to field questions on a variety of education-related subjects. Later in the morning, he visited Colton School for another tour and meetings with students.
In Palouse, Reykdal said 11th- and 12th-grade education will focus more on “pathways than one-size-fits-all.”
“We spend $2 billion in the junior-senior year, that should be more purposeful,” he said. “There are kids who by 10th grade who are ready for college work and we should load them up, and there are kids who know they want to be in the technical industry and we should get them on their way.”
Reykdal was asked how favorably he regards standardized testing. Reykdal said he ran for his position under the belief that such test scores should have no connection to graduation requirements.
He said while these assessments do help administrators to understand how the state education system is faring along specific metrics, emphasizing these scores and tying them to a student’s academic future had negative educational consequences.
“Here’s two things that I observed over the last 20 years that (standardized testing) did. It created the perception that it was always about passing the test and it was really narrowing the curriculum,” Reykdall said. “If the perception is ‘I’ve got to get kids to pass the test to graduate,’ well then you start wiping out electives because a kid who’s struggling in math probably needs a remedial math class.”
Reykdal said as schools start to create more instructional options for students who want to go into career and technical fields after high school, he sees an opportunity to teach life skills in a contextualized setting. He said while career and technical classes may connect students to a job more quickly than other pathways, they’re not just teaching students how to do that job but helping them to develop transferable skills like critical thinking and qualitative reasoning that can be applied in any field.
“Forty years ago what we were saying ‘go here and get a welding certificate’ and it was all technical welding, there was no English-language arts to it, there was no science to it,” he said. “We’re putting all that in there now so if the kid says ‘hey I’ve been welding but what I really want is to be a chemist’ well, they’re going to get credit for all that work they did because welding is nothing but chemistry.”
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