How has the current test driven culture helped public education? The only data driven results I see supporting a test as a solution to our education ills are results gathered and disseminated by testing companies and those with interests in testing companies. Average SAT scores have remained somewhat steady since the 70s. Professors across the board say our students are more unprepared for college than they’ve ever been and business leaders say we need students who understand how to problem solve, work collaboratively and think outside the box. I don’t know when you went to school, but I graduated in the 80s. I didn’t take honor classes. I took the required curriculum, graduated somewhere in the middle of my class and went to my local university, where I started my freshman year with bad grades due to poor decisions but learned through trial and error how to make the grade. I am a successful, productive member of society. I graduated with others who went on to be nuclear engineers, Peace Corps volunteers, CPAs, Cadillac driving Mary Kay Directors. NONE of them took and passed state and federal mandated tests to become successful. Come to think of it, neither did any of the leaders in the US who happened to make their way through public education before tests took over in 1998.
I wrote the above on Facebook today. I’m so tired of hearing how the US has a failing education system, and the test is the only way to see that failure and correct it.
I’m all for using best practices in the classroom: vertical and horizontal alignment, project based learning, portfolios, scaffolding, the list goes on and on and on. Instead of spending so many billions on tests, perhaps public school systems would be better served training teachers to excel on their fields. I learned more from watching master teachers like Sheila Curlin, Anne Patterson, David Knight, Lori Oglesbee and Bobby Hawthorne at work in the classroom than I ever learned from a textbook or a canned lesson courtesy of a textbook supplier. I get more from honest student feedback on evaluations than I do from the 1 or 2-day observation from my admin. Aside: My administration team rocks. They are the BEST ever, but those evaluations aren’t all that helpful. I enjoy their visits to my classroom because I like to hear their thoughts on my lessons. What would be more helpful: visits from master teachers and novice teachers in my school, and then time for us to share observations from those visits.
My district’s Leadership Academy challenged me to be a better teacher, inspired me to do more in the classroom, gave me tons of tools to use on more than teaching to a test.
Back to my original Facebook post: I went to school in the time before the test. To hear a test is the only way to keep teachers accountable is a slap in my teachers’ faces. I remember four teachers from high school who didn’t do much to challenge me in the classroom. A test wouldn’t have fixed that. What I remember more are the amazing teachers who left a lasting legacy at Burkburnett High School. If I had grown up in the testing world, I’m not sure I’d remember those teachers because I’m not sure they would have lasted in the classroom.