Content Knowledge Vs. 21st Century Competencies: The Battle Begins

I had an interesting conversation today with @tstarkey1212 that began with a question from @appeducationfox regarding how to respectfully reply to teaches who don’t have time for tech with students, and ended with me questioning the dichotomy of knowledge and competencies.  And the battle between content knowledge and21st century competencies was spawned.  The conversation spanned a few different educational areas but these two focuses (knowledge and competencies) continued to be in opposition to one another.  For example, we “debated” which focus would provide students with better future prospects; whether or not a content focus creates students who expect answers rather than students who discover answers; whether or not competencies should be the focus of education; and whether or not content is only beneficial for standardized tests or whether it serves another function.  Each of these ideas kept coming back to content knowledge being at odds with 21st century competencies.  By the end of the conversation, I think both Thomas and I had some points to reflect upon.  This post is the result of some of my reflection.  I know I will have a lot more to do on this issue.

My journey into 21st century competencies is summarized here, along with some of my concerns with how we are evaluating students.  I have a hard time separating the use of standardized tests from what our current education system is.  I see the tests as the main focus for the government and, unfortunately, for many boards, admin, and teachers.  Whether my teaching focus is on content knowledge, as mine was for the first several years of my career, or on 21st CC, as the latest several years of my career have been, these standardized tests have been the bane of my teaching.  I don’t understand how the Alberta PATs (grade 3,6,9) and DIPs (grade 12) relate to what I’m teaching.  I know the “what” is the curriculum, and that this is also used to create the PATs and DIPs; however, where I teach my ELA students that writers write from a personal desire to express themselves and readers read with a personal context (I find new meaning in texts every time I reread them based on personal context) the standardized test expect students to identify “the correct” multiple choice answer as determined by a group of expert ELA teachers, in a timed test situation, without the option to read and reread or discuss or research or defend their answers.  For me, these tests are the epitome of “Content Knowledge” as opposed to critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and contextual information.  One of the questions Thomas asked during our Twitter conversation was “Do you find that teachers where you are equate knowledge with ‘stuff needed to pass standardized tests’?”  My answer was a resounding YES!  I know I do.  I believe that in order for my students to do well on these tests, they need to strictly focus on the knowledge-based questions they will be asked, that they must be taught NOT to think for themselves or to bring themselves to the texts they read.  And I’ve refused to teach that.  Of the five major ELA General Outcomes, the diploma exam focuses on two, and barely scratches a few of the “less important” (IMHO) outcomes of a third.  Curious as to what has been left out?

  • Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.
  • Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to manage ideas and information. (inquiry and research)
  • Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to respect, support and collaborate with others.

What’s left out are the hard-to-assess-with-a-standardized-test-non knowledge-outcomes.  What’s left out are the outcomes that ask students to think for themselves, to inquire and question, to collaborate.  What’s left out are the outcomes that begin to address what students need to be able to do in the 21st century.  So my answer to Thomas today was this:  “The fact that inauthentic standardized tests exist, perpetuates a negative equation of knowledge to the test.”  I believe that the very existence of these tests suggest that testing is the point of knowledge.  This is what our students come to believe, and many teachers as well.  Teachers teach to the test.  The test focuses on a small portion of the curriculum but is used to rank districts, school, teachers, and students to the tune of 50% of a grade 12 student’s final grade.  Teachers prioritize the curriculum to try to determine which outcomes are worthy of focusing on (for the test), suggesting that the other outcomes are not necessary.  The standardized test sacrifices competencies for the sake of inauthentic assessment of content knowledge.

My conversation with Thomas has led me to question how I truly view knowledge. What if I got my wish and inauthentic standardized tests simply vanished from existence?  Would knowledge then be given a place of honour in my teaching practice?  The obvious answer is “Of Course!”  I teach ELA because I love ELA.  I crave a well-written text, characters who make me cry or cry out in rage (though if anyone else is around I’m only crying because there’s dust in my eye), poetry that can make me see the beauty in our all-too-often selfish world, and persuasive texts that make me question my perspectives.  I relish the opportunity to create these texts myself.  I NEED to be able to share these passions with students.  It’s why I wanted to be a teacher.  I shudder to think that my students may not see the necessity of boasting of the knowledge of how to correctly place a semicolon in their writing, or that they lack the knowledge to comprehend an allegory from Greek Mythology.  I will admit that knowledge is not merely a requirement for career paths but also for witnessing the beauty of the world around us (and for you math teachers *yuck* I can now begin to understand your abhorrence with me for not knowing my multiplication tables–perhaps I’ll cherish the opportunity to gain this knowledge just as a means of self-improvement). For this realization, I owe you a sincere “thank you,” Thomas.

Coming back to a reality that still worships inauthentic standardized tests is hard for me, but I love my job, so I am forced to ask myself how I can continue to hold knowledge in high esteem while not falling into the traps set by testing.  I think the answer may be found in ending the battle between content knowledge and 21st century competencies and finding some common ground where the two can work together.  I do believe that much of the knowledge we expect kids to know can be “looked up.” However, I also believe that we can’t be looking up everything all the time or we risk looking incompetent (likely because we would be).  Consider this video shared with Thomas and me by @appeducationfox.

What would this video look like if the job candidate had been educated in a solely 21st century competencies classroom?  Would it really be that much different?  Reading and writing skills would suffer, basic mathematical equations would be time consuming, and science concepts would be unknown.  Clearly the two must work together.  I also believe that knowledge is tied to testing in the minds of students, even though it is the basis for life-long learning.  Education has become (or maybe always was) about testing and specific career prep.  In recent years we’ve tried to tell kids that school is about learning, but we haven’t separated it from the traditional methods of education.  The result is students who are beginning to hate learning.  I speak here from experience with my own children.  They used to love learning and school.  Now they view learning as something that should only happen at school (which every year they dislike a little bit more).  Just the other day, talking with my son at home about using his iPad more for learning than for games, he retorted that learning is done at school and home was the place for having fun.  I was repulsed.  Learning should be a life-long activity, embraced at every opportunity.  Learning should be fun.  My son has separated the two, and I blame a content-focused system that doesn’t value learning as a life-long goal but rather as a levelled activity, grade by grade.

So how can knowledge and competencies work together?  Where is the common ground?  What do our students need?  I’m sitting here thinking about what practical application this is going to have in my classroom when Easter Break is over.  I know I need to put some more emphasis on the knowledge, not that I haven’t been teaching it, but to actually make it more obvious to my students.  They need to understand that knowledge is important.  However, I also need to make it clear that it’s not knowledge OR competencies.  Everything we’ve done all term is still important.  I also think that I know exactly how I’m going to do this.  Before the break my students handed in a (more) authentic assessment task.  The focus of this task fit in with an ongoing term-long project where students are creating a meaningful opinion to share with others.  This assessment task was meant to highlight the importance of understanding the purpose of the writing.  Ironically, looking back at the project and rubric, this focus was not even mentioned.  Sure, we discussed purpose and studied a few texts with this focus.  Yet, my assessment of this task was 100% on 21st century competencies, linked back to the curriculum, and not on the knowledge I needed my kids to know:  That purpose will be shown through the presentation choices they make.  Skimming through their work, I know this is a problem already.  I received a few letters, and many academic essays, all of which seem to have the purpose of stating/explaining/defending a theme song choice for the film, but the presentation does not match the purpose at all, nor is it authentic to the situation.  I failed to put enough emphasis on the knowledge that was needed to produce authentic work, choosing instead to focus on the competencies that were needed.  I will need to correct this major oversight on Monday and use this work as a rough draft.

As a conclusion, I’d like to quickly share a chart from Alberta Education’s proposed Curriculum Redesign.  I’d like to discuss this shift in much more detail sometime soon, but for now, this visual depicts what I believe should be the common ground for knowledge and competencies.

curriculum shift

While the content-focus is lessened, so is the prescriptive curriculum and summative assessment.  What this means to me is that the knowledge the students and I deem as important (local decision making) will lead to greater depth of study and formative assessment.  There will be less focus on testing and more focus on learning.  This should benefit both sides of this battle!

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The Value of Zero

As a classroom teacher I have mixed feelings about a no-zero-policy being implemented in schools.  I want to begin by saying that I am very thankful neither my school board nor my principal have dictated a policy about giving or not giving zeros to students for work that was assigned but never received.  I appreciate my professional opinion being valued and trusted.  Next, I will willingly admit to not being a “math guy.”  I fully admit to failing math 20 when I was in high school, to taking no physics, and to still not knowing my multiplication tables from 1-12.  That’s what calculators are for.  Thankfully, this isn’t a math debate; I just wanted to put that out there in case I say something that happens to go against the principles of math logic.  This is about grading policies.  I also promise to try to stay focused on this issue without wandering into related subjects about whether it’s even necessary to grade students, how we categorize grades, or why we have multiple levels of grades (satisfactory vs proficient vs excellence, etc.).  I’ll try to save those for future posts.

What is the value of a zero?  I like the idea of zero as a placeholder, the idea that zero has no true value.  The idea that it’s not actually a number that represents what a student is capable of doing, except in the odd cases where the student actually completed the work but does it so poorly as to earn a zero.  Even in these cases, I’d like to argue that this grade should be a placeholder with the expectation that the work will be redone after additional learning.  Zeros should be viewed this way:  They are a grade that has been given as a placeholder until the student completes the work.  Zeros symbolize the fact that a student still needs to do the assigned work.

Of course, other symbols could be used.  The “incomplete,” for example, is one candidate that many educators favour.  Others symbols may include “F,” “D,” or “Insufficient.”  I’m sure there are other symbols as well that could represent work that students have not done or not handed in or have done incorrectly or extremely poorly.  The reality of the situation though is that the work has not been appropriately completed.  When it comes right down to it, there are only a few options available for teachers when they are faced with this situation.

The first option is to acknowledge the fact that the work has not been completed appropriately and to ascertain the reason for this.  We need to understand that the students in our class are actual people with all the flaws we ourselves have.  They are busy, they are self-conscious, they are forgetful, they are preoccupied, they are prioritizing their lives.  For all of these reasons, most students would see no value in a zero; all they see is that they have a reason for not doing their work.  Most would even be willing to get it done if given the chance.  For some, that means bringing it in the next day because they left it on their bed.  For others, it might mean needing an extra week because they are going through some rough times at home.  Others may need to be retaught the content before they can complete the work.  The point is, we need to recognize that a zero is a placeholder until the child is capable of completing the work.  We need to provide them the opportunity to reschedule the due date for a date that meets their needs.  In these cases, the zero will be erased and replaced with the mark that represents their ability (Let’s assume a percentage can do this).  The value of a zero is the opportunity to get the work done appropriately.  This is the option I advocate for.   This is the option that allows children to save their dignity in our classrooms. (I won’t get started into the fact that I believe grades as we know them should be eliminated from the education system; for now, I am stuck having to assign a percentage grade to my students.)

The second option involves refusing to use zeros as placeholders, instead choosing to allow them to stand as a final grade.  Unfortunately, I know there are teachers out there who do this.  For these teachers, a deadline is a deadline and if you don’t meet the deadline then you receive an irrevocable zero.  These teachers, I think, view this as an attempt to motivate students to do the work because if they don’t do it, their grade is permanently marred.  These teachers would rather a kid fail or drop their class and “learn a lesson” about deadlines rather than take the time to ascertain the reason for the missing work.  But this is not an indicator of what the student is capable of, especially if their work is sitting, completed at home on their bed.  I am not a supporter of this option; however, I can understand the sentiment behind it.  I believe there are better ways to teach responsibility to students with chronic lapses in self-management.  In these cases, the value of a zero is the measurement of a social value rather than of the curriculum.

The third option, one that I’ve heard from many educators, is to replace the zero with an IC or an incomplete.  I know our Alberta Standardized Tests use an INS for insufficient.  There is a logical fallacy to this option, though.  Let’s say, for instance, that a student doesn’t complete their first assignment for your class.  You assign an IC because you have been forbidden to assign a zero.  Then, for the next assignment, the student scores 100%.  Let’s assume the two assignments are weighted the same and are the only two assignments of the year (I told you I was bad with math, so this makes the calculations simple).  As you complete the final marks for this student, what do you do?  Logically, if the IC isn’t a zero or any other percent, then it can’t be calculated into the final mark.  Therefore, the student receives 100% in your course.  If this is the case, and I am the student, and you have 40 assignments in the year rather than two, why don’t I simply do one assignment well, then not do anymore?  On the other hand, if, like the Alberta Government, you take the IC and turn it into a zero for the purpose of calculating a final mark, then why not just call it a zero all along?  What other options are there?  Either it counts as a zero or it doesn’t count as anything. Right?  Wrong.  One other option I’ve heard is that an IC could represent a failure to complete the course.  This would require a student with an IC to retake the course.  Problem solved?  Not even close.  If I’m that student, I’ll do just enough to force you to give me 1%.  Surely any student can provide enough to earn 1%, whether they’d prefer not to do the work, have other more important things to deal with, or actually don’t understand the concepts.  What if a student didn’t do this though?  Is it really fair to force a student to repeat a grade level if they have one IC?  If we turned that into a zero, they’d still pass.  What about two or three IC’s?  How many do they need to say they didn’t complete the course?  And really, what’s the difference between an IC and a 49%?  Don’t both symbolically represent failing to successfully complete the course?  In this case, the value of a zero is no different than 100% or 49%.

In my current education system, I have to report in percentages for my junior and senior high school classes.  I am quite certain I do not have the ability to force a student to repeat my course because they have an IC.  I am quite certain I would fight any policy that forced me to do so, unless that policy rightly forced any student with a below passing grade on any single assignment to also repeat the course.  Ultimately that would result in a pass/fail system, and that is one that I think I am fully on board with.  But I’ll save that for another post coming soon to this blog near you.

As I wrap up, I’d like to offer a couple last ideas that I’ve been struggling with as a response to this issue.  I don’t like giving zeros.  I know they do not represent what a student can actually do.  The only value they have is to simply inform me that for whatever reason work  was not acceptably done.  They are not an accurate portrayal of what I am suppose to be measuring.  When I first began teaching 6 years ago, the school I still teach in had a high rate of incomplete work from students in all subject areas.  This missing work was assigned a zero by teachers at some point in the year (some earlier than others).  A couple years ago I suggested a homework room, where students who had missing work would spend their lunch “hour” sitting and theoretically working on their overdue work.  I had good intentions with this idea and truly believed in it.  I even volunteered to sit in every day at lunch for two years to supervise The Room.  The program did work, though it had its flaws. Zeros were fewer and farther between.  Students were provided time to work on assignments that they didn’t find time to work on outside of class.  Teachers were more understanding about seeing students as human beings with lives outside of school.  But we also had a headache trying to police those who did not show up to The Room.  We had difficulty deciding on appropriate discipline for those who didn’t show up and needed to be tracked down.  We had fights with students who didn’t know why they were in The Room.  We had teachers who didn’t use the room or forgot to add their students to the list.  I now believe The Room, while it addressed some of our immediate issues, did not address the problem.  Students still weren’t handing in work or doing it properly.  More of them simply eventually got it done.  I think there are a couple things we can do as teachers to address this issue, even in our current education system, and I will even dare to say that we can eliminate zeros altogether.  I want to address these further in another post, but in order to get the discussion started, I’ll toss a couple strategies out here.  As teachers we MUST:

  • Stop assigning homework
  • Learn and care about students’ needs
  • Create a more appealing learning atmosphere

For now, I’d love to hear what you have to say about this issue.  Can we eliminate zeros?  Should we be giving zeros?  Is our current system for awarding grades really the best we can do?  I’m still trying to get things figured out for myself; perhaps together we can figure out what’s best for our students.

(More) Authentic Assessment Tasks

I’m a supporter of authentic assessment tasks.  I came out of university 5 1/2 years ago with a project-based teaching style all ready to implement.  I created projects for my junior highs that were fun and meaningful and (more) authentic than most assessments and evaluations I endured growing up. I say (more) authentic because for the most part I am still the main audience for their work, even if I try not to be.  I know I need to work at getting their projects in front of a more authentic audience but thus far I haven’t consistently done that.

Here are some examples of the projects I’ve created for my junior highs:  My grade 7 students wrote and (randomly) presented instructions on a topic of their choice.  We’ve had instructions about how to properly groom a miniature pony, and the pony came to school to be groomed; how to put on hockey gear (always “randomly” assigned to a girl); how to do your make-up (always “randomly assigned to a boy); how to make a disgusting sandwich (and the boy who followed the instructions actually ate it–yuck!); and how to woo a girl (so cute with the writing of a poem and set-up of a picnic).  The 7’s have also created menu’s for a restaurant of their creating and in recent years some menus have been created online.  My grade 8’s have created tv ad storyboards for a company of their choosing to pitch to someone they actually thought was an ad agency rep.  They also created trading cards of the characters from The Outsiders again thinking they were actually being sent to a company who was holding a contest to promote their new line of educational trading cards. (I love how gullible grade 8’s are, and it leads to awesome authentic tasks.)  My grade 9’s have created CD inserts for a band and album they create from the ground up, writing all the “lyrics” (poetry) to go in it, based on a theme of their choice.  They’ve also written and mailed letters of complaint/compliment to actual businesses of their choice.

But that’s junior high.  When it came to my high school classes, I must admit I struggled greatly with utilizing authentic assessment tasks.  Despite believing that these types of assessments better engaged my students, required more creative and critical thought, led to deeper understanding of texts and concepts, and brought meaning to the tasks, I balked at the high school level.    That’s not to say that I didn’t create assessments that weren’t creative and interesting, but they lacked that authentic feel, and if I’m being honest they were much fewer and farther between.  Part of the problem has been the curriculum I have to teach and assess; I’ve struggled to envision authentic assessment tasks that relate to Shakespeare (comment with your suggestions) or how academic essays are in any way authentic (when’s the last time you wrote one???).  The time frame has also been an issue.  My senior high ELA classes are semestered 84 minute periods daily.  However, there have been years where I have had junior high classes that were also 84 minutes daily, but all year.  In order to cover and assess all the outcomes, plus prepare for diploma exams worth 50% of their overall mark, I just didn’t feel I had the time to assign authentic assessments that allowed students choices, opportunities to significantly revise ideas mid-stride, or deeply explore texts and concepts.  I felt they needed to be taught and assessed and shoved off to their next class.

This year I felt that a stronger focus on 21st century competencies might replace my guilt about not offering authentic assessment tasks to my high school students.  We did some really neat stuff last term in my ELA 20 and 30 classes, mostly revolving around collaboration and critical thinking, with some creativity and tech tossed in for good measure.  I tried to differentiate, allow for personal choices, and encourage deeper thought about the world in which they live.  And things were great.  Students actually said they enjoyed the atmosphere and purpose of the class and even some of the texts; although, the notion of ELA still depressed some of them.  It had been my hope that prepping kids for the 21st century would result in improved diploma exam grades.  I no longer believe this to be true.  (You can read THIS post of mine for more explanation.)  Reflecting on the diploma exams got me to thinking that 21st century competencies really aren’t enough if these competencies are going to be assessed through inauthentic assessments.  I’m not saying that critical thinking, for example, can’t be assessed unless it’s through an authentic task, but it would certainly help.  What I am saying is that very few people write essays or multiple choice tests in the “real world.”  I know professionals don’t create in isolation under ridiculous time limits.  So why do we expect these things from our students?  The more we can prep our students for their lives when they leave our classroom, the better.  For that reason I am hoping to bring better assessment opportunities to my students.  My goals are to remove as much inauthentic assessment from my courses as possible, including my final exams; to focus even more on the 21st century competencies; to incorporate more (more) authentic assessment tasks; and to find ways to bring my students’ work to more authentic audiences.  Please, pass along any suggestions you might have.

If you have the time, I’d love for you to take a look at a (more) authentic assessment task that I created for my ELA 10 class.  They are currently working on this project, but any feedback you can offer would be great!

See No Evil:  A Film Adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Possibility of Evil”

Teaching for 21st Century but Assessing in the Past

I learned about 21st century competencies nearly two years ago, and from that moment my teaching practices began to transform.  These competencies provided answers to many of the questions that I was asking regarding the disconnect between what I was currently doing and what I believed I should be doing in my classroom. I had been questioning my practice of copious note-taking, or rather note-giving, of how I was handling the assessment of group work, of providing answers to students and thus creating dependance, and of the use of technology in my classroom (and more).  I was unsettled, discouraged, and desperately wanted answers but didn’t know where to turn.  I felt trapped teaching in a style that I didn’t believe in.  And I continued this way for a long time, clinging to the teaching methods I grew up with in school, and must admit was never really told not to use throughout my university education courses.

Then I learned about Twitter.  I remember the edtech for my district offering an online crash course for any interested teachers, and I thought, “Why not?”  It was a bit of a risk for me at the time; those who know me now often think of me as a “tech guy,” but prior to this moment a couple years ago, I wasn’t.  I was actually scared to participate in this session.  I’d never participated in an online learning session before, and although I’d signed up for Twitter some time prior to this, it was so confusing that I never went back to the site.  But Jen Clevette, Peace Wapiti School Division 76’s edtech at the time, was extremely helpful.  She made Twitter easy to understand.  Deciding to take this risk changed the course of my teaching.

Twitter led me to QR codes, Qr codes led to me taking initiative and posting them at Teacher Convention, which led to me being invited to Peace Wapiti’s Community of Practice, which led to me flying to Calgary with Jen Clevette, where, while sitting in the airport waiting for our flight, I was brought up to speed on this new concept of 21st century competencies (at least it was new to me). And this, as I’ve said, began to provide some answers to the apprehension I was feeling about my teaching.

Now, after 2 years of growing and changing and learning, I have noticed some of these feelings returning.  They are, in part, based again on my own teaching practices, but just as much they are because of broader practices in education.  One of the main sources of my current apprehension revolves around assessment.  It seems to me that we are teaching for the 21st century, yet we are still assessing students based on methods from the past.

This became staggeringly clear after reading a passage from Alberta Education Action Agenda 2011-14:  “Transformative change refers to changing the education system by re-examining student needs, how we teach students, what we teach them, how to better engage communities in educating students and how research can be harnessed to inform change.”  I quickly noted the absence of reexamining how we assess students.  Essentially we are being told that we should teach the curriculum through the 21st century competencies, but that we, and the government, should and will continue to use outdated and now inconsistent assessment methods.  From the same website as above comes this statement emphasizing that we should be teaching students the required competencies needed for life in the 21st century: “We need a curriculum that focuses on the competencies young people require in the 21st century.” So, we are to teach the competencies, but then we are to administer standardized tests that forbid collaboration, time to think critically and creatively, and utilization of digital literacy? Implicit to this then is the need to prepare students to write these types of tests and to provide ample practice, which for many teachers means midterm and final exams in the same format from grade 10 through grade 12.  I see the unsettling contradiction between how/what we teach and how we assess as an ethical dilemma as I strive to uphold the TQS for Alberta teachers.  On the one hand I’m obliged to “function within a policy-based and results oriented education system” (TQS standard b) and administer standardized tests (TQS standard i), but on the other hand I’m to “engage in ongoing, individualized professional development” (TQS standard b) and “use the results [of student assessments] for the ultimate benefit of students” (TQS standard i).  The results oriented education system demands that my students perform well on standardized tests; however, my professional learning is telling me that I am to teach students to learn in ways that the standardized test not only ignore, but oppose; consequently, I believe assessment consistent with what I teach will provide results I can use to the ultimate benefit of my students.  I’m left wondering how to ethically juggle these competing demands.

A final quote from near the end of the Alberta Action Agenda 2011-14 states that “curriculum, including assessment and education supports, will be comprehensively reviewed and modified as needed to incorporate holistic perspectives that allow for timely evolution to meet changing needs.” I’ve seen a lot of changes being discussed regarding curriculum and education supports: Government-funded AISI projects have been initiated (and now discontinued due to a new budget) that focus on research to support 21st century learning, and discussions for modifying curriculum are occurring, in addition to a restructuring of the competencies; PWSD brought a 21st century focus to district PD, as well as initiated a cohort of inclusion, AISI, and high school curriculum coaches (I’m the ELA coach for the district); and Mighty Peace Teachers’ Convention sessions also had a very strong focus on 21st century learning.  However, what I have not heard about is any proposed changes to standardized tests. So now what?  Do I just sit back and wait patiently, hoping change comes, hoping my students can somehow manage to walk the fine line between what they’re taught and how they’re assessed, hoping that things turn out the way I believe they should?  As we approach the midterm point for this semester, I am reflecting on where my grade 10 ELA class has been and where we are headed.  I am strongly considering the possibility of radically revising my final exam for this course from a diploma style structure to a more collaborative and critical thinking based model.  I’m not certain yet exactly what this will look like, but I do know that my students are thoroughly engaged in the collaboration and critical thinking opportunities I’ve presented them with so far this year.  They are building these skills and seeing how these 21st century competencies improve their understanding of texts and their text creations.  I shudder to think that after all of this I might revert back to the way I’ve always done things in order to prepare my students for government tests that have not yet been “modified as needed.”  At what point do we demand that assessment practices shift to match the changes in teaching and learning?