Friday, October 7, 2011

What to do

In a time of cuts and a slow economy, today’s students are almost completely devoid of contextual experiences for learning. I would posit that one of the top experiences students have in school, at least at my school, is testing. Students take more tests now than they ever have, while politicians, who claim that our education system is broken, think that the solution is more testing. There are very few situations in my classroom where I can relate content to testing. We all know that learning cannot happen in a vacuum, context must be provided in order for students to absorb, understand, and synthesize the information we provide every day. If the only context is a test, learning does not occur.

Field trips and money for experiments and other experiential activities has been cut in order for more funds to be devoted to testing and test prep. Field trips are not for fun or for teachers and students to have a day out of the classroom (though they do both). They are to provide a context for learning where students and teachers share a common experience and then are able to talk about that experience in the context of the content being taught.

Instead of these rich, positive experiences, we devote our time, money, and energy to standardized testing. I can’t help but think that there is some sort of lobby money involved in these decisions. The larger testing companies (Pearson, ETS, et al) now make LOADS of money on test creation, grading, and distribution. This money is then used to “persuade” politicians and people in positions of power to push for even more testing and test prep at a high financial cost to taxpayers, and intellectual cost to our country.

What can we, the “Joe Schmoes” of America do about it? How do we explain to the American public that a finite score on a standardized test is not the best way to measure the success or failure of their neighborhood score? After all, it IS the best way to measure learning, right?

We have to educate and inform the voting and nonvoting public alike about what is happening. It is our job to make the “Joe Schmoes” understand that standardized test scores were not what made their schools “Excellent” or “Failing” when they were in school, and it still is not. What truly matters is the human capital in the building. We are not leeches of tax dollars, free-loaders, or union puppets. We, in a big way, are some of the most important people in the country. We aren’t asking for more money, less work, or easier jobs. All we want is the freedom and autonomy and respect to do what it is we know best: TEACH CHILDREN.

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