Thursday, March 6, 2014

SOLSC #6: This I Believe

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for a slice of life stories TWT.
GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories.

I'm going to break the rules today. I'm not going to write about a slice of my own life, because I have some opinions I want to share related, but just not a slice of my life.

So here goes.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have just begun their state testing this week - In Illinois we call them the ISATs - Illinois Standards Achievement Test. Well, this has been an extra hot topic this year because some parents are opting their children out. Additionally, I'm pretty sure there are two whole schools, Drummond and Saucedo, who decided not to administer them.

The CEO of CPS, Barbera Byrd-Bennett has made some statements - basically mandating teachers to give the test and parents to send their kids to school to take it, saying things to teachers like, "If you don't give it, the state will revoke your teaching license," and telling parents it's a law that their child must take the test. I believe those statements were made prior to Monday, and then on Tuesday, I came across this:

Full Story Here
(btw-after you read that article, read the comments! #priceless)

Really? Parents can't opt-out their children? How could that be so?

Here's the thing:

I am all for accountability. But I just wish it was like it was when I was in school. When I was in school, we took one test - it maybe took three days and that was that. It was actually kind of fun because of the novelty of it! It wasn't this super long thing that went on and on with test after test. It wasn't after hours and hours of test practice. It was just a quick little thing.

I'm all for teachers using assessment to inform their instruction. Good teachers create an assessment, backwards plan, and then take kids to the skills they need to master those objectives.

I just think this testing frenzy has gotten far too out of hand. It's a multi-billion dollar enterprise: Textbooks boast stickers on their covers: aligned to the CCSS! Test prep materials fill shelves and shelves (and cabinets...and more shelves) at the teacher's store! Companies who make and score the actual tests are making billions! I think the bigger problem here is that people: parents, students, and teachers are starting to question this empire of money that is being made on our students. And furthermore: Who writes all these materials and tests? How many curriculum specialists who have had a long tenure in education are writing? My guess: Not many.

(And don't even get me started on measuring school in impoverished areas with this kind of test.)

Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at NYU, former Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander during President George H. W. Bush's administration wrote a very important book:

In it, she shares some of her lessons learned:

  • Our schools will not improve if we value only what tests measure. The tests we have provide useful information about students' progress in reading and mathematics, but they cannot measure what matters most in education. Not everything that matters can be quantified. What is tested may ultimately be less important than what is untested, such as a students ability to seek alternative explanations, to raise questions, to pursue knowledge on his own, and to think differently. If we do not treasure our individualists, we will lose the spirit of innovation, inquiry, imagination, and dissent that has contributed powerfully to the success of our society in many different fields of endeavor (p. 226).
  • Our schools will not improve if we rely exclusively on tests as the means of deciding the fate of students, teachers, principals, and schools. When tests are the primary means of evaluation and accountability, everyone feels pressure to raise the scores, by hook or by crook. Some will cheat to get a reward or to avoid humiliation. Schools may manipulate who takes the test and who does not; district and state officials may fiddle with the scoring of the test. Districts and states may require intensive test preparation that mirrors the actual state tests and borders on institutionalized cheating. Any test score gains that result solely from incentives are meaningless because gains purchased with cash are short-lived and have nothing to do with real education (p. 227).

I don't believe that more testing means that education is improving.

I believe....
education improves when curriculum is developed by knowledgeable teachers who have lots of experience.

I believe....
that education improves when we use a cycle of plan - instruct - assess and then reteach or enrich - to meet the needs of all our students.

I believe...
that education improves when students receive a complete curriculum in all areas, including content areas and the arts.

and, finally --

I believe....
that education improves when we let the children in front of us inform our practice more than some policy makers who, not only have no background in educational pedagogy, but also have no idea about what the little people sitting in the seats of our classroom really need.

Your thoughts?


  1. The worst part about this testing is kids who break down, crying over questions they don't understand. Eight years old is too young to feel so much anxiety over something so insignificant in the big picture of their lives.

  2. This is strange...I just left a comment on someone's post and said I wish that the tests were like when I was a kid...we just walked in one day and it would be test big deal...kind of nice to have a change in the day. No one seemed to be upset with them...we were not told how important these tests were. We need to have the pendulum swing back to the center where common sense rules. Jackie

  3. This is spot-on. Thank you for writing it. I am using this opportunity to add to my blog as a literacy coach. Otherwise, I neglect to reflect enough on the things that matter to me----as a coach, I spend a lot of time reflecting on teachers' concerns (which become mine, by nature of the work). I follow Diane Ravitch on Twitter, and she gives me sanity in a political/educational world gone mad.

  4. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to everything you said! I love, love, love teaching but the amount of testing we're doing is absolutely ridiculous! I can't stand it!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...