Friday, April 19, 2013

One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School

Earlier this year, Molly Moody of Class Size Matters interviewed Nikhil Goyal, seventeen-year old student writer and international speaker, to discuss his new book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessmentof School. Goyal is well known as an advocate for student voice. In addition to his book, published in 2012, you can find his writing in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, MSNBC, NPR, NBC Nightly News, Huffington Post, Education Week and other news outlets.  
Below, Goyal discusses his view of the U.S. public school system, technology and other education topics.

Molly:  What is your optimal design for a school system

Nikhil: First, we should get rid of the compulsory school system. Second, students need to have ownership and agency over their learning. The role of a teacher becomes a mentor and facilitator rather than a "sage on the stage." Intrinsic motivation to learn something outweighs everything else. Third, schools should look less like prisons and more like startups and horizontal work environments. Research has concluded that a school's design can impact a child's learning greatly. Fourth, grades and testing should be abolished. In lieu of this, portfolio-based assessments can be added. And lastly, learning should happen in the context of the community and the city. 

What are the top 4 classroom changes you would have liked to see implemented in your own school?
 First, I would abolish A.P. classes. Second, I would like to receive graduating credit for projects like writing my book. Third, I would love to have had my voice valued in the administration. And fourth, I wish that there was more collaboration between teachers across departments.

What role do you think smaller class sizes could play in schools, and in obtaining the C’s you mentioned in the book (creative thinking, critical thinking, imagination…etc)? 
 Smaller class sizes play a very important role in these changes. There is an exorbitant amount of research that links smaller classes to higher student achievement, if you want to use test scores as a yardstick. It's really a no-brainer. 

So many “reformers” right now are trying to revamp the teaching profession with merit pay, younger and less experienced teachers in the classrooms, etc. Do you think we need changes to the profession?
 The "reformers" changes, as demonstrated by experiments and trial studies, simply do not work. The teaching profession still needs to be transformed. This means teachers need to paid MUCH more, given adequate professional development, evaluated holistically, and taught learner-centered techniques in graduate education schools. Absolutely. 

What is your personal relationship with technology and what do you think of the current plan to hand student data over to inBloom, Inc? 
 I love technology. I'm fueled by social media especially. At times, it can be distracting, but that's something that children of this generation must learn to overcome. Technology can be an extraordinary tool to engage with all types of people. But what inBloom and these data hungry companies are engaging in is simply wrong. Stealing students' data for profit and manipulation while violating their privacy cannot be tolerated. Students will not stand silent.

 What are your suggestions for people applying to colleges, or thinking about applying? Are you considering college for yourself?
 My suggestions for people applying or thinking about applying to college would be to fundamentally evaluate what you, as an individual, will gain from the experience. Obviously, some people are required to go to college -- doctors, some lawyers and engineers, public school teachers. But for a majority, it's important to consider the debt you will be burdened with, the prestige and brand of the institution, and whether alternatives like apprenticeship programs, self-directing your learning, volunteering, or traveling work better for you. At the very least, I advocate for students to take a gap year at some point. I plan on going to college eventually, because I want to go into politics.  

What advice would you give to other young people/students looking to share their voice?
 I would suggest that they start a blog and begin documenting their opinions on schooling and other issues. Having a Twitter account is also very important. 

What are your next plans? Policy? Entrepreneurship?  Advocacy? All of the above?
 I just graduated high school in January. I plan on taking a year and a half off until going to college. I'm launching an organization called Learning Revolution to create walkouts and school protests to promote specific platforms for transforming schools. 

To read more about Nikhil Goyal’s book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, and his latest appearances, visit his website:


28 year retired NYC teacher said...

Once it was a rule that "little children should be seen and not heard". What are the credentials and qualifications of this "child" to be taken seriously by anybody?

Unknown said...

A great and much inspirational post, great job. Math tutor Long island