I don’t believe myself to be much different than other parents in my wishes for my kids’ education. I expect my kids to learn age-appropriate subject matter and grow their social skills. Going to school is one facet of learning to be an autonomous, productive citizen. We put a measured amount of trust in our schools that our kids are being nurtured in a respectful, safe environment.
Unfortunately, our state and federal governments are using all of this trust and blind assumption to make money for the wealthy; the wealthy that keeps them in office. Yes, we’ve all grown up on tests. We also rode bikes without helmets to the grocery store/gas station, drank water from a garden hose, took rides in the back of a pickup truck, hung out in smoke-filled bowling alleys, and came home from school to an empty house with no adult supervision for hours. How many of those things do you let your kids do now? Not many I would guess. And why is that? We know better now. We know the possible negative outcome of these things.
Fortunately, we also know the outcome of high-stakes testing.
-These tests are currently only testing a narrowed curriculum (mostly Math and LA, some Science). This deemphasizes the importance of other subjects in the class by way of instructional time limits.
-Teachers are forced to “teach to the test”. Their career standing is at least partially tied to the results of the tests. State and federal officials are pushing for a greater weight being put on the results for teacher accountability. What incentive, outside of personal achievement, do teachers have to teach anything else if their job doesn’t depend on it. But if they lose their job, then what’s the point?
-The pressure put on those teachers is then projected onto the students. Do not underestimate the perceptiveness of children. If a teacher is stressed, they know it.
-Good teachers are leaving the profession. A more narrowly-focused curriculum prevents creativity and discourages teachers from teaching outside the box of what is being tested.
So what do our kids get from taking these high-stakes tests? Nothing positive. The tests do not teach them age-appropriate subject matter. They do not allow them to grow autonomously. They get to become the number that the test says they scored. School districts and real estate agents use the scores to portray the geographic placement of high property values. These tests are used by our leaders to compare with other countries with many different educational philosophies and goals. They will attempt to persuade us that we are falling (or have fallen) behind the leading countries. If you believe that, how many sweatshops do we have in the United States that China uses to produce goods for their country’s economy? We are NOT falling behind.
We send our kids to school to learn. Testing is NOT learning. Our teachers are constantly assessing their students. They know where each one stands. They don’t need a national test to tell them where each student needs more attention and where they need more challenge. The teachers know this. If our Governor or our Secretary of Education wants to know how our kids are doing in school, they should just ask a teacher.