It's 2010, the Future is Here, What About More Brain Skills Testing?

Did you miss me while I was gone for a couple weeks there? Okay, hopefully not too much. One of the articles I nearly missed right before Christmas makes the case for a type of reform that could be easily overlooked in the Race to the Top. From December 21 of last year (last decade even!), Cognitive First leaders Larry Hargrave and Mickey Elliott wrote in a Denver Post column about the need to focus on student “learning capacity”:

Discoveries in brain science and innovations in educational theory have recently converged and made it possible to cultivate learning capacity and enhance academic performance by addressing weak cognitive skills and strengthening giftedness.

Just as researchers in medicine work to understand physical disorders by their causes, cognitive skill development allows education to move beyond an academic and correlative model to a new understanding of learning that is foundational and prior to improving academic performance.

It is now possible to measure the health (or unhealthiness) of learning in every student — and improve their “smarts” regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, religious convictions, IQ or education.

We already screen for hearing and vision. The new science of learning has shown that we can screen and work to train the brain for improved attention, processing speed, sequential and spatial ordering, working memory, long-term memory and logic and reasoning. The classroom of the future will begin here and build on this foundation.

Future, here we come. After all, it’s 2010. Look, I’m no brain specialist, or anything like that. But this cognitive screening idea at least sounds worthy of closer consideration and debate by policy makers. Don’t you think so? If not, maybe a cognitive skills test could help find out what’s wrong up there.

Ok, just kidding.

Anyway, you may be scratching your head, saying, haven’t I heard of these guys before? Yes, flash back six months to the summer of 2009 and listen to the podcast my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow hosted with Dr. Hargrave. That should help refresh your memory (or maybe they can test that, too).

Happy New Year to you!