Why do public programs?
   Public exhibitions of learning are key to accountability

We won’t meet quality standards without quality assessments, and public exhibitions should be part of our assessment repertoire.

In Horace’s School, a sequel to Horace’s Compromise, Theodore R. Sizer, founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, makes a compelling case for public exhibitions as the key to accountability in education. Public exhibitions are complex performances which allow us to assess complex learning.

In a public exhibition, a student’s knowledge is on the line. He or she has to do in-depth research, prepare the presentation, and be ready to defend it.

In nearly any public presentation, a student can be assessed for communication skills, forms of inquiry, and the way he or she puzzled things out. In specific presentations, such as a project focusing on veterans, students can be assessed for historical knowledge, knowledge gleaned from literature, and research and writing skills. In an ambitious project, such as building a Habitat for Humanity house, there are many possibilities for assessment. Besides the obvious math skills involved in carpentry, students could prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and be assessed for history, science, and research and writing skills. Or they could study architecture and be assessed for their knowledge of art. Perhaps they could prepare a rationale for why the home should be built by researching the plight of the homeless or working poor. This could set them up to be assessed in philosophy and sociology.

It’s commonly agreed that students should have to meet high and challenging standards but we can’t seem to agree on how to assess their progress toward those standards. Theodore Sizer and many educators around the country believe we won’t meet quality standards without quality assessments, and that public exhibitions should be part of our assessment repertoire.

Student guide to planning public programs


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