Read this Wall Street Journal article by the Associated Press. It is about cheating on standardized tests and the policies New York is putting in place to stop it.
Well, hello? Are U.S. education officials so close to the situation they can’t see what they are doing to an entire generation of teachers and students? I mean, are they reflecting on why cheating has become such a problem? And, no I am not making excuses for cheating. I simply see what is going on as desperation. There but the grace of God go I!
I mean, think about it. You have just spent four to six years of your life getting qualified to teach. Then, you are finally hired to do what you love doing. However, all your success is wrapped up in the misguided view that teachers are 100% responsible for what each and every child learns. Look, I’m not making excuses for poor teachers. But, most teachers are doing their best and there is such a thing as individual differences.
Remember the old-fashioned Bell Curve? Well, out of every group of students, some will get A’s, a few will get D’s or F’s and everyone else will be in the middle with B’s and C’s. In other words, unless you are teaching a gifted class or a special education class, the children will not all pass with the same approximate score. In fact, even in those exceptional situations I mentioned, there will be a standard distribution of grades.
I know lawmakers and parents want accountability in the U.S., just as they do in our Canadian provinces. I get that! But, no matter where standardized tests are being used, the results are just one indicator of how a child, a teacher or school is performing. I mean, there is so much more that goes on in a school — athletics, clubs, music groups, the visual and the performing arts, to mention only a few.
Think down the road. What will post-secondary institutions, the trades and other employers get when the current crop of students — those familiar only with “teaching-to the-test” instructional methods — graduate from high school? Will they get creative, innovative and inspiring learners? Will they get the type of risk taking behaviour needed to be an investor or entrepreneur? Not if school districts keep up the current punitive policies. Rather, they will not only get rote learners who are afraid to take any chances whatsoever, but those who require constant feedback and supervision.
In my opinion then, the crux of the matter is, if the current U.S. policy on standardized testing was put in place by the Bush administration so that no child would be left behind, what they are doing instead, is leaving the notion of a quality education behind.