One Size Fits All Never Works

The reality is tests aren’t bad. Nor are they good.
Tests are instruments to be used in the collection of data.
It’s a major problem when they become the be all end all of education. Or when they’re seen as potential saviors of a system believed to be failing.
It’s what’s done with the data that counts, and it’s how we get that data that matters.
If students spend all their time working toward mastery of the test, we end up where we are now with everything in education decided by a number on a test made by multi-billion dollar businesses with lobbyists working to keep the test the all-mighty of edu-speak.
The test that has resulted in students who college professors universally say are far less prepared for post-high school work that the students who made their ways to higher academia before the test.
But it’s not the test’s fault. It’s politician’s fault and those in charge of education who want easy answers when there are no easy answers to be found.
Our nation is changing.
Poverty is on the rise. Homelessness is running rampant. Immigrants who speak languages other than English and special needs students are in every classroom.
On top of that major budget cuts are shaking our very foundations.
A test can’t help educators figure out solutions to those issues. It can only measure data.
Other countries educate their best and brightest. We educate all students. And then we come under fire when our numbers don’t match up.
This week several states have announced they’ll be awarding merit pay based on a test average. If this becomes the norm, on what exactly will we be awarding merit pay? Is a true master teacher one who is lucky enough to teach the best and brightest students who easily ace the skills deemed worthy of inclusion on the test? Or is a master teacher one like Sandra Scheller? Sandra was my mentor when I started teaching 16 years ago. For years she’s voluntarily taught seniors who’ve never passed the test. If the students show up to school and work with her, they’ll pass. It really works. I taught the test class once and used her curriculum. My students passed, too.
However, that IF part of the equation is a pretty big deal.
Often, seniors who haven’t passed the test are in that position because of truancy issues.
A test can’t measure that.
Sometimes the seniors are in that position because they don’t speak or read English. Sometimes they’re in that position because their mother OD’d in the car they were using as a home when they were freshmen, their dad is a meth head and somehow they’ve ended up caught in the prison of drug use themselves, and they want to get out, but the euphoric forgetfulness of one more high is better than facing the reality they find themselves in day after day after day.
She was one of my students. She failed the test. I saw her a few years ago working at a local grocery store. She was clean, she was healthy and she was going to the local community college. She didn’t graduate from high school. She didn’t pass the test. But she said thank you to me and thanked God for all the teachers she’d had over the years because they were the reason she wasn’t dead.
Again, she didn’t pass the test.
But she sure was educated.
And that education doesn’t amount to anything if all that’s measured is the pass/fail rate on a one size fits all test driven education.

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