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10 Ways to Pop the Traditional School Bubble

posted on May 28, 2017 by Laurel Meister

10 Ways to Pop the Traditional School Bubble-3You’ve been told not to pop your bubblegum in class—but what about in a school with no classrooms? One innovative initiative among New Mexico charter schools is breaking the school rules, encouraging students out of their desks and into the community. Recognizing a need to better serve at-risk students left uninspired by traditional education, the New Metrics project measures student success in ways that represent the whole student, promoting lifelong learning and community engagement, and assessing the soft skills that employers seek. Since its start in 2014, New Metrics continues refining its commitment to project-based learning and gathering local wisdom from educators, entrepreneurs, community members, employers and students.

A 2012 graduate from an Albuquerque public school, I received an excellent core education, but I was rarely pushed outside of what turned out to be a fairly small comfort zone. Entering a rigorous university environment revealed deficiencies that standardized testing never had: I learned to collaborate, be a leader in my community, and evaluate my strengths and weaknesses on my own. The New Metrics initiative aims to pop the bubble of routine homework and testing that I experienced in high school. Collaborating on the project as a college intern, I offer a student’s top ten recommendations for a more college-ready education without using a bubble sheet.

10: Give me a project, not a test.
The exhibition is one way in which New Metrics schools measure hands-on learning. These culminating public events showcase student projects that demonstrate the fulfillment of course objectives. After four years of presenting individual and group work, these students are ready for a college environment that rewards creativity and self-sufficiency.

9: Make volunteering a requirement.
Project-based learning affords students the opportunity to collaborate with outside organizations like sustainable gardens and food banks, with community leaders serving as exhibition judges. The partnership is mutually beneficial: students gain a practical context for classroom concepts while communities in need appreciate the young volunteers. Mindful individuals also make strong leaders in college communities.

8: Talk to me like you would to an adult.
Students who collaborate with adults enter college ready to ask for help, work with professors, and be a part of a world outside of school.

7: Give me something to be proud of.
There is nothing glamorous about sitting in front of a list of answers with a number two pencil, and one teacher I met at a New Metrics meeting even described it as “heartbreaking.” Creative, individualized evaluation instills a sense of accomplishment and has the potential to make a measurable difference in the community.

6: Provide expectations and feedback.
Combining resources that a variety of charter schools have found successful, the New Metrics initiative aims to provide a clear rubric of graduation standards that will guide a student’s education from entrance to graduation.

5. Be my advocate and teach me to do the same.
Many at-risk students come from families that lack the knowledge or resources to provide adequate support. New Metrics schools strive for academic rigor tempered with the kind of unyielding support that comes from thoughtful interaction. Let’s create an environment where students can actively study their strengths and weaknesses, ask for help and stand up for what they know to be true.

4. Let me break the rules.
Without limiting them to fill-in-the-blank answers, young people have the creativity to envision ideas that nobody else could imagine and the energy to achieve goals that nobody else could dream of achieving.

3. Ask me a question with no correct answers.
Adults handle complex issues every day and ask their employees to do the same. Projects and engaging homework assignments require students to hone the critical thinking skills that employers crave.

2. Assign papers and discussions.
My ability to articulately explain my thoughts is my greatest asset in a college classroom, and I fear that our current obsession with technology and test preparation is rendering genuine communication a lost art. The New Metrics initiative will make good communication skills a requirement for graduation.

1. It better be fun.
A New Metrics education makes a difference. It invigorates students and teachers alike and creates the possibility for innovation where current evaluation techniques limit creativity. With drop-out rates soaring and traditional education boring, engaging schools keep students coming back for more.

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