Monday, May 23, 2005

Teachers condemn standardized, mandated testing as overemphasized and superficial --

Published Online May 22, 2005

This is important. A math teacher resigns publicly and eloquently. Here are some excerpts but the whole article is worth a read.

Smith, an award-winning mathematics teacher, resigned from her Central High School job very publicly, reading her protest about the direction the district was headed at a televised Unit 4 board meeting May 9.

"I find myself constrained by a mentality that says all students will learn the same material at the same pace and prove it by taking the same multiple-choice test within a given time frame," she told the board. "I can't do that. I know all students don't learn at the same pace. I don't believe a student's understanding of mathematical concepts can be assessed by a multiple-choice test nor do I believe such a test is fair for all learners."

"I tried," Smith said last week of her talks with district administrators about her concerns. "But I have a choice, and I'd rather move in a direction I know is best for students than in one that's not. I told the kids it had nothing to do with them. "I said, 'I don't want to teach you to take a multiple-choice test. I want to teach you math is the language of the universe, the most powerful tool. With math, you can do anything.'"

"Some really good, solid teachers are just fed up," said Kris Hightshoe, who retired last year from Edison Middle School and estimates she lost 25 days of instruction the last year either preparing youngsters for tests or giving them. "Testing and the consent decree are driving everything, the way principals run their buildings, the way the school board operates, the way the administration works," Hightshoe said. "It's superficial education, not real learning."

Smith has taught 18 years in Champaign, the last 11 years at Central's Academy, a creative, college-bound, school-within-a-school that focuses on technology. "We've had to give up all integrated projects that tie together math, biology, English and reading," she said. "Now we teach those subjects in chunks so students are ready for tests. We used to pursue innovative teaching methods. Now there's no time." Smith figures she has lost 10 to 15 instruction days a year preparing students to take standardized tests and giving the tests.

"We don't have time to cover our material because we're getting ready for assessments," said Dan Reid, a Central science teacher. "We lose at least two days every quarter getting ready for tests. That's almost two weeks of classes."

"We've lost units of material in junior English," said Pat Johnson at Central. "I figure I've lost 15 instruction days preparing for and giving tests. Accountability is fine, but it's made for a difficult situation for kids. I know teachers who are leaving Champaign to go to smaller districts with less diversity so the testing doesn't count as much."

"There's absolutely too much emphasis on testing at all levels in math and no time to focus on interesting applications, critical thinking, content, open-ended problems," said Anne Munroe, a Central math teacher. "Last year I felt like I was shoving in material to meet a deadline. We used to try to gauge what students had learned and where we should start, but now we have to assume everyone's in the same place and carry on from there."

Does anyone know kids? Does anyone know human beings? Why would we expect everyone to be at the same place at the same time? I don't know why, but I do know that that is what is expected by these grade level high stakes tests. And more and more people are realizing that this isn't right. Thank goodness!


Superdestroyer said...

If the math cirriculum was so vigorous then the students should easily be able to pass a math test that is aimed to measuring the performance of inner city kids.

I wonder what would happen to a baskbetball coach who complain that getting ready for games is distracting his teaching of basketball or a band director who complain that the concert and sight reading contests distract of music teaching? I believe that such educators would be laughed out of a job. The same thing should happen to teachers who complain that they are too busy teachng complicated subjects to have their student take remedial tests.

NO said...

Get you analogies right Mr. Destroyer. If a basketball coach had his team practice only dribbling and jump shots because he knew the basketball test was heavily weighted there and ignored things like team play and defense do you suppose they would win games?

And that band director concentrating on sight-reading because that is what is on the state test and there is no time to emphasize listening and playing together as a group to get to the core of what the composer was trying to say. They might pass the test but what would they sound like?

The point is these tests are narrowing our view of what education should be: learning how to learn and developing a love of learning that will serve us well for the rest of our lives as citizens. Did you get that? Citizens, not automatons for corporate America.