Have you ever asked your students how you are doing as a teacher? Have you ever been surprised by their responses, perhaps pointing out obvious flaws in your instructional practices? If you seek reflection in your teaching practices, I bet you have done this. What is ironic, however, is though students are considered educational stakeholders, their voice is largely left out of the educational discussion. If their voice is included, it is often marginalized to a token sample so leaders feel good for including a student voice. Nikhil Goyal, a 17 year old high school stident, decided to stand up and point a giant finger at many long-held educational practices, calling for reform. You know what? He’s not just the “know-it-all” that likes being argumentative. He carefully researched his facts and talked to leaders like Diane Ravitch, Howard Gardner, Joe Bower, Tony Wagner, John Katzman, Deborah Meier, and Dan Pink among many others. His action-packed call to action is a must read for any educational reformers.
Goyal’s book details some disruptive concepts and why they must work to reform education. In fact, Goyal likes the phrase “learning revolution” rather than reform. By simply reviewing a list of his well-documented ideas, you will understand why. This abbreviated list is from his epilogue.
- Group students by ability, not age
- Let students control their learning
- Ignore PISA ranking and largely reduce standardized testing
- Repeal NCLB and abolish Race to the Top
- Establish national curricula with “lean guidelines”
- Abolish grades in favor of portfolios
- Abolish the SAT and AP programs
- Transform college admissions
- Integrate play into the classroom, creating risk-taking scenarios
- Reinvent the core curricula (and yes, he provides specific ways how)
- Stop lecturing in favor of project-based learning
- Pay teachers more and treat them as professionals
- Create a “West Point” for teachers
- Transform teacher evaluations
- Fight against merit pay
Do not quickly dismiss this list as short-sighted griping. Goyal concisely and thoroughly explains each above point and offers suggestions for improving the system! The reforms are implementable NOW, and his call to action requires educational leaders make the decision to act now, to save our educational system. If we do not revolutionize our education system, schools will degrade further, hurting our economic and political status in the world. We do not have an option to not act.
I began reading Goyal’s book in lieu of the yearly book study in my school district. Teachers were reading Dweck’s Mindset, which I had read the year before. I thought Goyal’s book would be a great book to study for my district for next year, so I asked my superintendent if I could read Goyal’s book instead. Unfortunately, while I LOVE this book, I feel it might be too edgy for some career teachers. I do believe his ideas must be read and understood by all educational leaders. I fear if all teachers read it, without an open mind and a willingness to change the system, then teachers may criticize his ideas unfairly and without valid support.
This book needs to be read by those wanting to change the system. But, guess what? THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM IN AMERICA IS IN DIRE NEED OF REFORM. Radical reform! Revolution. Without drastic change, the coming decades in our democratic society may be hurt beyond repair.