Monday, June 02, 2008

A point-by-point critique of Jarvis DeBerry's latest column on school vouchers by Coozan Pat raises an important point about standardized testing:

In order to teach at a public school, I had to take a training course. I had to take certification classes. I've been around Master of Education classes and I took certification classes waay back at UGA for my first major. Every single one of these "how to be a teacher" programs stressed the idea that not every child learns in the same way. They all stressed that there will be students in my classes who are not on the same level. Every single class drilled into me that there was no "one size fits all" model in education. Every. Single. Class.

So, why the f**k do we force our students to endure "one size fits all" testing? No comparison in the world would be 'apples to apples.' Hell, comparing the testing results from the school I taught at this year to the testing results from other schools wouldn't even be considered 'apples to apples.' More like 'apples to orange soda.'

These tests aren't even designed to compare apples to the same apples! They exist in a vaccum of assuming every student shows up in the 4th or 8th grade with the same amount of pre-knowledge from the 3rd or 7th grade, regardless of their 3rd or 7th grade iLEAP scores.

And Princeton Review keeps makin' that money!!

Well, yeah, they are....despite needing to do their own financials a tad more carefully, and even then, they came out well. It's a bottom-line gain that must be great for company stockholders, and it makes for an interesting twist on the arguments against all the standardized tests - it's not just about privatizing the schools, it's also about who's really raking it in in all of this mess.

Let's see who else might be profiting off the standardized testing frenzy:

* Tutoring provisions divert money from classrooms that most need it, giving assistance to the few at the expense of the many. Tutoring focuses on test preparation and rarely connects to the curriculum. Student attendance is often low. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) paves the way for private firms to reap huge profits but does not hold the firms accountable.

It works this way in Canada too, apparently.

And then I came across one teacher's test protest, which highlights everything that is wrong about what is going on in the schools today. The whole thing is a must-read....just replace the WASL with the LEAP, Texas' TEAMS test, or any other high-stakes test you can name, and it still rings very true. I've quoted some sections of it below:

On April 15, I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my sixth-grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.

It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year.

Though my act of civil disobedience was individual, I do not stand alone in my strong beliefs. Any Internet search for high-stakes testing will reveal highly regarded educators, distressed parents and sensitive teachers with a wealth of thoughtful writing and case studies supporting my views.

The WASL is bad for kids.

To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem and sadness for our children....

  • When I was a teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle, a number of my students received their WASL scores to find that they had "failed". When I looked at the notices being sent to their parents I saw that each student had come to within just a few points of actually passing and that their scores were well within the gray area, or "margin of error," for the test. The "test scientists" aren't sure whether the student passed or failed, yet the school tells the student he or she failed. These students cried when they saw the results.

  • When I first started teaching, Graham Hill could afford Americorps tutors, numerous classroom aides and had money for field-trip busses and ample supplies. By the time I stopped teaching there, Americorps was gone, there were no classroom aides except for parent volunteers, and everything else was in short supply.

  • Teaching and testing during my last year at Graham Hill was challenging. I was on my own in a room with 29 students, 10 percent did not speak English, 50 percent of them spoke another language at home, several of them were homeless, and many of them had severe emotional challenges due to parental pre-natal drug use, violence and abuse.

  • No one ever asked me or any of the teachers I know whether high-stakes testing was a good idea. In fact, we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops to prove our worthiness to be professional, certificated educators. Public school teachers are responsible for the educational lives of over a million students in Washington state, yet, in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care.

  • Oh, and don't miss the EdWeek online chat tomorrow at 2 PM CST with Pauls Vallas and Pastorek (info courtesy of G-Bitch). Got any questions for 'em? They are accepting submissions...

    All questions are screened by an editor and the guest speaker prior to posting. A question is not displayed until it is answered by the guest speaker. Due to the volume of questions received, we cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, or answered in the order of submission. Guests and hosts may decline to answer any questions. Concise questions are strongly encouraged.

    but who the heck knows if they'll even be asked? Or answered? Submit some queries and find out!

    Update, 4:34 PM: Ms Maitri, in her sick-as-a-dawg state, alerts us to the nifty New Orleans Public Schools mashup map put together to help monitor the recovery of the schools. Feel better, madame! Perhaps a special spoon might help...

    Anudder update, 7:39 PM: If this measure to LEAP test the kids who are in private schools with the help of school vouchers goes through, everybody might want to explore an en masse opt-out...but then, we probably ought to just educate our kids in another state or country, since the LEAP is required for promotion in the public schools here. Ugh.

    1 comment:

    saintseester said...

    These two quotes are very indicative of the problems all the way from K through college: "we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops"

    I've been tasked to deliver online courses and MAKE IT WORK. Regardless of whether the students can handle it, regardless of whether the subject matter is appropriate. Imagine taking Calc online with no interaction with a professor. I have asked repeatedly for help in making it work.

    "in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care."

    Those of us lonely voices crying out AGAINST certain forms of teaching and especially AGAINST standardized testing are being drowned out by people telling us we are not invested in success.

    I am so against standardized testing that I am going to investigate the "opt-out" rules in my diocese schools. I am hoping we can opt out, because the last round of testing harmed my daughter's self esteem in the very ways mentioned in the article you quote.