As schools around the state of Illinois and the rest of the country enter standardized testing season, Spectrum Progressive School in Rockford is taking a progressive stance. The school has given students and parents the option of whether to test or not. They can choose to participate in the Iowa Assessments given in many area private schools or take part in what is being called “Genius Week.”
Genius Week evolved from a program started by Google. Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time to work on any creative project that they want as long as it may eventually become a new Google product. The idea is simple, and it allows people to work on something that interests them. Google’s policy has worked so well that it has been reported that 50% of Google’s products have been created during this time period.
Spectrum Progressive’s goals for students participating in Genius Week are:
- To promote, support, and model creative, innovative thinking and inventiveness.
- To allow students an opportunity to discover/investigate one of their passions and reflect on/share their learning with others.
- To work with mentors from the community.*
- To provide students and teachers an opportunity to develop skill sets that are valuable in any learning situation (research, experimentation, collaboration, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking).
- To provide an opportunity for students to share their Genius Projects with others while using good speaking and listening skills.
Parents and students have had a positive response to being given a choice on standardized testing.
“I love how excited (our student) is about Genius Week, said one parent. “I’ve been torn about whether he needs to do the testing or not. I want to know that he is learning and progressing at an age appropriate level, but I realize those tests are flawed”.
“One thing Spectrum teaches their students is to be independent thinkers. That being said, (our student) wants to and insists on taking the assessment tests,” commented another parent.
Spectrum Progressive School believes every child learns differently and, therefore, not everyone tests well. Thomas Armstrong, Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, recently stated on the organization’s website: “Standardized testing creates stress. Some kids do well with a certain level of stress. Other students fold. So, again, there isn’t a level playing field. Brain research suggests that too much stress is psychologically and physically harmful. And when stress becomes overwhelming, the brain shifts into a “fight or flight” response, where it is impossible to engage in the higher-order thinking processes that are necessary to respond correctly to the standardized test questions.”