Standardized testing in schools

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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!

geoduck85's picture
Apr. 24, 2010 10:15 pm


I have a good friend who is about to walk away from teaching for much the same reasons you expressed. He's right now in the midst of that horrendous, mind numbing national testing procedure, which he complains he has to waste far too much time teaching towards. The result of forming minds in this nationally calcified manner is too much for him to take part in any longer.

If I expressed my own disgruntlement with a system that's designed to produce competitive "workers" for the world economy instead of aware, critical, and intelligent citizens who can act flexibly as part of their dynamic, supposedly democratic societies, I'm sure I'd only make things even more confusing. These cumulating effects from conservative's hatred of teachers and what they might do in this nation to develop an awakened citizenry is more than enough to deal with.

.ren's picture
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

All this concern about "standards" and "achievement" has come without an ounce of respect for those doing the achievement. They have no narrative and no inherent curiosity to nurture. They just have heads to fill up with what is needed to "compete" and get the "good jobs" that will let then have "higher incomes" and "success."

Teachers become catechists and disciplanarians of any who protest or don't perform. Teachers are judeged by who plays the game, not who learns anything of real human value. This is very hard on educators in the teaching profession, as well as on the students. To succeed is to give up the personal to obey and meet the expectations of others. There is never time to pause, reflect or rethink the path without "falling behind" with all the anxiety that produces.

In this small sense, those who think that the answer is not to just throw money at education have a point. Were those making this claim advocating for students and learning, however, instead of just trying to take the money away from public education to reward the privateers, we could respect it.

I think there are very few teachers who do not want their students to succeed and be happy. But there are a lot of people teaching who have been taught to catechize and others who feel the need to do what gets approved instead of objecting. I want to honor those who teach, not joing the crowd of critics, but they will have to stand up for teaching and learning and why their students matter.

Apr. 26, 2012 12:15 pm

Gooey Duck,

You should read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance if you haven't already. It's a cult classic and considered to be one of the most popular "philosophy" books in American history. Robert Persig was a philosophy teacher at a Minnesota University and became very frustrated with his dean and faculty because of their emphasis on testing to the status quo curriculum. He basically had a mental breakdown and the story is about travelling across country with his kid on the back of his motorcycle. This was in the mid-70s. He takes on an alter ego, Phaedrus and the prose is interspersed with describing the scenery, mulling over his semi-dysfunctional relationship with his kid, musings on the meaning of value of life and so forth.

The part that you might be more interested in is when he talks about his university students. He says his best students were more often in the C to C- range because these kids were seriously fretting about understand the roots of the subjects and needed to understand the concepts completely before moving on. He had some misgivings if not disdain for some of his A students because they were gearing for the tests and he knew they didn't know our understand the depths of the subjects.

You are not alone.

Below is a guy who appears in Thrive Movement, the Official Movie. I think he's onto something.

The major premise here is that American schooling has been dumbed down to provide mindless, loyal workers who cannot think for themselves. At least this is the schooling provided to the masses. This was a deliberate act with roots in 19th century industrialism. He shows how the Civil War demonstrated to industrialists and financiers how a standardized population trained to follow orders without significant thought could be made to function as a money tree. Moreover, the proper schooling could be used to strip the common population of its power to cause trouble. You see, our global power and corporate wealth is based on a third-rate educational system that actually works against developing men and women of true character and intellect. The mindless bureaucrat and worker who follows a system without thought or question is the pattern that our "efficient" system depends on. That is what schooling produces. One should never confuse schooling with true education- and definitely not with intelligence.

I've been saying here that careerism is perhaps the worst 'ism of them all. Careerism, consumerism, materialism, are all very closely related and produce cowards who allow tyranny to fester.

Choco's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Conservatives supposedly hate freeloading. So why are they trying to legalize it?

Conservatives supposedly hate freeloaders.

So why do they support right to work laws - which literally legalize freeloading?

Our nation's nine unelected monarchs on the Supreme Court are poised to deal yet another blow to organized labor.

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