"...what America needs is an education system that cultivates a diversity of talents and develops “unique niche talents” that are not available at a cheaper price elsewhere in the world or that cannot be replaced by machines." --source
Sees American education at a crossroads—
Zhao’s perspective truly resonates with me both on his blog and in his recent book, Catching Up or Leading the Way
On national standards and NCLB--
As a result of adopting national standards, schools will produce a homogenous group of individuals with the same abilities, skills, and knowledge. Such a result will be disastrous to America and Americans because as globalization and technology continue to change the world,
America needs a citizenry of creative individuals with a wide range of talents to sustain its tradition of innovation. Americans need talents and abilities that are not available at a lower price elsewhere on earth. American education, despite its many problems, has at least the basics that support the production of a more diverse pool of talents. However these basics are being discarded by NCLB and similarly spirited reform efforts.
In a way, the reforms that aim to save America are actually putting America in danger. NCLB is sending American education into deeper crisis because it is likely to lead increasing distrust of educators, disregard of students’ individual interests, destruction of local autonomy and capacity for innovation, and disrespect for human values. --source
On our country failing to compete with other countries, particularly in math and science--
Last week, a comprehensive study based on analysis of major longitudinal datasets found “U.S. colleges and universities are graduating as many scientists and engineers as ever before.” The study was conducted by a group of researchers at Georgetown University, Rutgers University, and the Urban Institute. “Our findings indicate that STEM retention along the pipeline shows strong and even increasing rates of retention from the 1970s to the late 1990s,” says the report. However, not all STEM graduates enter the STEM field. They are attracted to other areas. --source
From Education Week Curriculum Matters on the need for niche talents, and passionate people:
"The American education system now is driven ... to push us toward standardization, centralization, and embodying test scores, which actually I think is moving American education away from the future," he says in the video, produced by the Mobile Learning Institute and sponsored by the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the publishing giant. "The global economy requires niche talents, requires people to become artists, become creators, become musicians, become innovators, become people who are passionate about their work."
From Teacher Magazine Living in Dialogue on testing and monolithic thinking--
Zhao makes a strong case that uniform tests result in monolithic thinking. In the modern global economy, the passion that results when people are allowed to develop along diverse paths is far more precious than the large scale mediocrity that results from national standards and a test-centered (or "data-driven") school culture.
Most pointedly, he questions the contradiction between President Obama's condemnation of the emphasis on tests, and his embrace of "tougher, clearer standards" as the key to reform.
From his book—on the strengths of American education and suggested changes--
The traditional strengths of American education—respect for individual talents and differences, a broad curriculum oriented to educating the whole child, and a decentralized system that embraces diversity—should be further expanded. Page 182
Offering suggested changes--
expand the definition of success, personalize education and view schools as global enterprises. P 182
And in his book, he concludes--
American education is at a crossroads. Two paths lie in front of us: one in which we destroy our strengths in order to catch up with others on test scores and one in which we build on our strengths so we can keep the lead in innovation and creativity. The current push for more standardization, centralization, high stakes testing, and test-based accountability is rushing us down the first path, while what will keep America truly strong and American prosperous should be the latter, the one that cherishes individual talents, cultivates creativity, celebrates diversity, and inspires curiosity. As we enter a new world rapidly changed by globalization and technology, we need to change course. Instead of instilling fear in the public about the rise of other countries, bureaucratizing education with bean-counting policies, demoralizing educators through dubious accountability measures, homogenizing school curriculum, and turning children into test takers, we should inform the public about the possibilities brought about by globalization, encourage education innovations, inspire educators with genuine support, diversify and decentralize curriculum, and educate children as confident, unique, and well-rounded human beings. From page 198 also quoted here
So much more in his book, documented— with suggestions for global and digital competencies-
Isn’t this powerful, good thinking? How can we persuade policymakers to read and listen?