Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Cost of Testing

Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says.

Where do I start?  Sometimes someone will say something to you that hits a nerve and you mentally react.  Every time I see this quote, or one similar, I think “what are we waiting for?”  For years we have been operating our public schools (which I support) under an agrarian system.  As a society, we look in the wrong places for results.  The idea that tests can measure student learning and teacher effectiveness alone is so far from reality.  We bore the students at the top with time spent teaching to the test and we drag along the kids at the bottom hoping they will respond and perform better on tests.  There is a time and place for tests and testing, but the testing in our public schools has gone too far. 

What can we do to bring those at the bottom of the class up in the education process?  We need to excite them.  We need to see what talents they possess and nurture those talents as we continue to teach them the basics of reading, writing and math.  We need to integrate these lessons into their skill set.  There are many individuals who have gone through Special Education, or been ranked near the lower end of their class, who had to wait until they were out of the school system to succeed with their  talents.  This should not be.

At the other end of the class we have students bored with school.  School time for them is a time to socialize, and learning equates to going through the motions to please a particular teacher in a particular class.   It is when these kids get home that they start to learn, focusing on their interests be it computer, art, or work.  One could argue that these students could not do what they do outside of school if it were not for what they had learned in school, but what if these kids were encouraged to learn more in school not just prove they can do well on a test.  

Race to the Top and the Common Core have people and educators thinking of how to push students to strive harder, and increase their expectations of themselves and what  they can accomplish  in school, but we are still falling back on expensive testing and not funding the very programs that would allow these students to achieve more in the public schools.  As a nation we are too fast to blame the teachers and students for lack of achievement.  What we need to do as citizens is to take a greater interest in our public schools and look for results in our community, not in test scores.  
For those who follow the testing debate, I encourage you to check out the following websites.
Last fall ,the following two sites were brought to my attention again:  Fairtest.org and Timeoutfromtesting.org.  The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial. You may also want to follow Harvard's Graduate Education Studies Newsletter where one can find recent articles on the subject of testing, (http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/548).