Saturday, March 28, 2015

Testy

In the eight years that I haven't been in the classroom, I've watched and listened to all the dialogue about the encroachment of standardized testing.  In particular is something called the "Smarter Balanced" assessment tests that are being given in my community.  While the newspaper editorialists and many local politicos tout them as necessary and a significant, valid measure of what our students can and cannot do, those in the classroom are either silent and compliant, or condoning the virtues of non-compliance with these high stakes tests.  In fact, the head of the Portland Assn. of Teachers recently said: Abuse,  can be "the result of cruel and unconscionable acts that impair a child's psychological, cognitive, emotional and or social well-being" such as from "habitual ridicule" or "scapegoating." She questioned whether low-income or non-English-speaking students would be subjected to harassment if their school fares poorly in test results.
I've even heard some teachers calling themselves "conscientious objectors" when it comes to participating in the administration of these tests.  I see that parallel because, as an educator, everything that these challenging tests purport to be about is antithetical to what I believe and know to be excellent teaching.  Start with the 70% failure rate being predicted.  That tickles the "if it's harder, it must be better" fancy of those who claim to be experts on this issue.  Notice that they aren't in the classroom.  They have , or at least seem to have, no rigorous curriculum in use with which to compare their ideas of what is challenging and most important.  The are in love, in my view, with the idea of collecting data that shows schools are failing.  They are not, I assure you.  How do I know this?  I know this because every year students that leave our institutions of public instruction are doing well in college or their chosen professions.  I know this because I have the luxury of remaining in contact with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of former students, and I can see how they are doing.  But that was then, you might ask.  True, it's different now, it's always different a decade or so later.  With the disparity in wealth that is the new reality we face, there is no longer the certainty that a good education will be rewarded with a job or career that's equally as satisfying.  Maybe those test makers and corporations so giddy over the elevated place they have come to occupy in the school calendar know this.  Maybe, aside from tapping into that billion dollar industry, they are already beginning the training for the only jobs that will be available to most of those kids taking their tests.
That's all conjecture, I know.  But what is not is the fact that rigor and rigormortis aren't all that far apart.  As many students would say, "you're killin' me."

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