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How do you measure creativity?

That’s one of the slippery questions that the San Diego Unified school board is facing as it tries to rethink the way it measures its students. The board wants to broaden its definition of student success to include critical thinking, applied knowledge and creativity. The problem is that those skills aren’t usually measured by the standardized tests used to track students’ progress and grade schools.

“Do we have an index for creative thinking for every kid in this district?” asked school board member John de Beck, who questioned whether the move was realistic at a board meeting today. “I don’t think so. So what are we kidding ourselves for?”

Board President Richard Barrera said that means the school district needs new ways of evaluating students, including qualitative measures that don’t necessarily boil down to a score. One way to do that could be with portfolios, which show student work over time, but staffers and school board member Shelia Jackson cautioned that grading that work takes a lot of time for teachers.

No decisions were made today, but the school board asked its interim deputy superintendent and curriculum chief to come back with more ideas on how it could measure critical thinking and other skills.

“We can do something very bold in San Diego — which is to come up with our own San Diego measure of success,” said board member John Lee Evans.

I’m curious for your thoughts. How could San Diego Unified measure whether students can apply their knowledge and think critically and creatively? Are other schools doing it already? What about other countries? Shoot me your ideas at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or post them here on the blog.

— EMILY ALPERT

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