Testing. The merest mention of the word evokes a wide range of visceral reactions from stakeholders in Public Education. Politicians pound the podium. Policymakers grandstand. Businessmen salivate over potential profits. Pundits bemoan the results. Bureaucrats acquiesce. Parents fret. Teachers cringe. Students have been known to cry. Billions of dollars have changed hands nationwide in the […]
Testing. The merest mention of the word evokes a wide range of visceral reactions from stakeholders in Public Education.
Politicians pound the podium. Policymakers grandstand. Businessmen salivate over potential profits. Pundits bemoan the results. Bureaucrats acquiesce. Parents fret. Teachers cringe. Students have been known to cry.
Billions of dollars have changed hands nationwide in the quest for better, more rigorous tests. Huge portions of the school calendar – more than a third here in Prince George’s County – have been devoted to the preparation for and administration of mandated assessments.
What have we learned from the mountains of data generated by our mounting national obsession with standardized assessments? We have proven only what educators knew all along: As a group, children who grow up wanting for nothing tend to obtain better results on standardized assessments than children who have little or nothing.
Ignore the anomalies on either end of the spectrum. Outliers neither prove nor disprove a generalization.
The annual sacrifice of more than 50-days of teaching-and-learning to test preparation and administration fails to serve the best interest of children. We must seek a healthier middle ground that wastes less instructional time by turning teachers into test proctors.
It would also be helpful to follow an educational model more closely aligned with the medical profession.
Has your doctor ever administered a test that cured the malady she was seeking to diagnose? X-rays, in general, are not friendly to human soft tissue and exposure to them should be infrequent. The test does not mend the bone; the snapshot furnishes the data upon which the doctor acts.
Then, the doctor sets the bone; surrounds it in plaster; furnishes analgesics.
Children require similar protocols from teachers.
The legitimacy of an academic assessment resides in the prompt acquisition of information by the education professional charged with delivering appropriate supports to students.
The test-and-punish philosophy of the so-called No Child Left Behind ‘Act’ needs to be relegated to the annals of ignominy as an ill-conceived and failed experiment in social engineering.
Some will claim that the business model has worked based on improved test scores. They have rejected Montaigne’s observation that it is better to have a mind that is well-formed rather than one well-filled.
What good are elevated test scores if we raise a generation of children that learns to hate reading in school or if an entire generation of teachers is denied the opportunity to build the critical relationships with children that inspire a lifetime love of learning?
In his counter-culture classic “Trout Fishing in America”, Richard Brautigan quipped that if the sole goal of trout fishing were to catch fish, he would have spent much less time at the water’s edge in the wild. That irony is not lost on educators who now realize that the constant push for improvements on standardized assessments fails as a justification for making a career of teaching when the testing has transformed into an impediment to learning.