I have been a teacher in the public school for the last twenty five years. I have always prided myself on doing what is best and providing the safest and most conducive environment for my kids ---- one that encourages critical thinking and reasoning, good and pointed questioning, leanring and practicing skills that will help make them better thinkers, doers, and citizens. I love what I do and am good at it!
The last ten years have worn on me, as I have seen the adverse effects of standardized testing, and how it has negatively impacted instruction and curriculum. We invest almost four weeks total, testing kids in the areas of math, scinece, writing, and reading. And more and more and time is spent in the classroom simply drilling and practicing for the test, ignoring those "other" things that aren't tested. I no longer have the time or inclination to work with my students on things like debate, drama and theater arts, rhetoric and oratory. At the beginning of this school year I spoke to my building administrator. lamenting the lack of time spent on social studies and American History. I was aghast when she responded, "If its not tested, don't teach it."
We spend $47 million on testing in the State of Washington alone, that doesn't include the $billions on test taking prep materials and programs that classroom teachers, school districts, and even parents buy from private companies. An entire industry have cropped up around test taking and test prep. Our district has contracted with a company (NWEA) for testing students two and three times a year in preparation for the state tests they take at the end of the year! That ensures that our students will formally test four times a year, in multiple subjects, taking over 32 hours or more of classtime doing so! And we have failed to meet AYP the last two years, this after having received an "Apple Acheivement Award" four years ealier for exemplary scores! All the while, our free and reduced rate has increased from the teens when I first started some fifteen years ago, to over thirty five percent today ( I can only imagine how difficult it must be for schools and districts whose rate is considerably higher!)
Now, the Washington legislature (in their infinite wisdom) has made changes to the teacher evaluation system which would include state test scores as a part of that evaluation criteria. Don't get me wrong, I am all for accountability, for teachers and students, but all the research I have seen shows that enacting such changes does little to improve instruction and performance. It only encourages less coordination and copperation between teachers, increases the amount of time on test prep and teaching to the test, and dicourages the kinds of methods that stress creativity, innovation, risk and critical thinking and reasoning.
I took my place in the classroom because of my passion for learning and love for children, and because I wanted to affect positive and lasting social change and progress. Teaching has been my joy, and I have made a cosiderble difference and had apositive effect on so many lives. I hear from students weekly about the progress they have made, and how I, even in some small way, enabled that. But if this obession with simplistic solutions to really, really complex problems continues, I don't think I will be in he classroom much longer --- and not because of me, but because of the injustice bing done to the kids I love and serve,
If you care about the quality of education being offered to our students. If you desire for each student to be equipped with the necessary tools for personal success and fulfillment, as well as the awareness and understanding of infromed citizenship, I beg you to call your legislator, congress person, andteh President (who, bu the way is one of the biggest advocates of this trend and reliance of these tests), and let them know that there are other, more effective and reliable methods for mearuing student progress, and with funding, we could employ a wide variety of those in identifying strengths, weknesses, and the proper and constructive ways to address them. I do't know how much longer I can do this! I need your help!