Above PhotoEducators, administrators, and students from traditional public, public charter, and Waldorf and other private schools conversed in small groups about the need for authentic assessments and accountability and the necessity to remove self-seeking economic and political interest groups from education.

Patrice Maynard (l) and Katie Zahedi (r) spoke of the artificial divide being made between Pubic schools and private schools, when all teacher are vocationally called to serve children.  Katie in her presentation spoke of the sacred space between a teacher and her students…a space that defies digital measures.

Patrice Maynard (l) and Katie Zahedi (r) spoke of the artificial divide being made between Pubic schools and private schools, when all teacher are vocationally called to serve children. Katie in her presentation spoke of the sacred space between a teacher and her students…a space that defies digital measures.

On Saturday, April 25, at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, about 60 people from different arenas of education gathered together to discuss how to recapture the imagination of teaching as a vocation, assessment as something other than a test, and education as an art rather than a technical delivery system.

The Avalon Initiative, a research project of The Research Institute for Waldorf Education in collaboration with the Hawthorne Valley Association’s Center for Social Research, sponsored and formed the day’s work.* We inadvertently met the day after the most recent round of English language arts and math standardized tests and the successful “Opt Out: Refuse the Test” effort. The families of nearly 200,000 students opted out and kept their children home or requested that their children stay at school in study halls on the testing days. This number is up from 60,000 in the last round and is a statistically significant slice of the 1.1 million school-age children in New York.

Heinz-Dieter Meyer spoke about the need for a professional rather than an industrial-based managerial approach to assessment and accountability. An approach that would place teachers in a pivotal decision-making role.

Dr. Meyer spoke about the need for a professional rather than an industrial-based managerial approach to assessment and accountability. This approach would place teachers in a pivotal decision-making role.

Public, charter, independent schools, homeschoolers and Waldorf school teachers, administrators, and students were involved in lively presentations and conversations about vital imaginations for the future of education and cultural renewal in education.

A panel comprising Katie Zahedi, PhD., Assistant Professor at SUNY New Paltz and former principal at the Red Hook Middle School; Heinz-Dieter Meyer, PhD., Associate Professor at SUNY Albany; and Carol Bärtges, doctoral candidate and high school teacher of comparative literature at the New York City Rudolf Steiner School, launched the day with vibrant new ideas about a new approach to teaching, learning, and accountability in America. Gary Lamb acted as primary convener and moderator for the day with Patrice Maynard acting as facilitator.

Carol Bärtges regaled the public, private, homeschool and charter teachers with stories about Waldorf assessment method s, and referred to the contents of the new publication, "Assessment for Learning in Waldorf Classrooms," a peer-reviewed research paper on non-testing approaches.

Carol Bärtges regaled the public, private, homeschool and charter teachers with stories about Waldorf assessment method s, and referred to the contents of the new publication, “Assessment for Learning in Waldorf Classrooms,” a peer-reviewed research paper on non-testing approaches.

Dr. Zahedi spoke of the success of the Opt-Out movement, which she helped to energize and foster in New York state; and of the sacred relationship between teacher and student, unmeasurable with technology-driven testing. Dr. Meyer spoke, as he has all over the world, and with particular clarity in India, and in his classes in the United States, of his vision of the administration of education in which teachers play a pivotal role in determining appropriate assessments and accountability measures, without the influence of political and economic interests. Carol Bärtges spoke of her years of experience in the classroom and how she assesses using her own intuitive capacities and expertise in her Waldorf school. Carol also spoke of research being published by Academica Press, Assessment for Learning in a Waldorf School chronicling the means of assessment used in Waldorf schools without standardized tests.** 

Gary Lamb moderated small groups conversations on the conference theme, and about the need to counter the current political and economic influences in education.

Gary Lamb moderated small groups conversations on the conference theme, and about the need to counter the current political and economic influences in education.

One highlight of the day’s activities was the presentation by four eighth and ninth grade students of poems they had written about taking the state English tests. Poised and clear, these young people gave a chilling description of their experiences during the long hours of test-taking. One of the members of the support team from Omega cried when she heard them rehearsing. She has been a teacher herself and appreciated deeply the eloquent expression of despair, anxiety, boredom and sadness these students captured in their poetry.

Gary Lamb introduced April Montgomery, a local public school teacher from Red Hook, NY,  and some of her current and former students who recited poems they and their classmates wrote about taking New York State's English language arts standardized tests.

Gary Lamb introduced April Montgomery, a local public school teacher from Red Hook, NY, and some of her current and former students who recited poems they and their classmates wrote about taking New York State’s English language arts standardized tests.

We all left with new understanding of how the artificial barriers of “public and private,” “us and them,” “republicans and democrats,” are distractions from the high vocational calling of “teacher” that we all share who teach or support teachers. The day was remarkable and and set a precedent of how public and private school educators can converse and unite as colleagues on important education issues.

 

 * Visit: The Research Institute for Waldorf Education and The Hawthorne Valley Association Center for Social Research

** To order a copy visit: www.waldorfpublications.org