Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama won in the war on students and teachers — a war that used standardized test results to hit everyone over the head. As Fox News reported:
“Obama said Thursday that the states would be granted the flexibility in exchange for implementing ‘high standards.’ ‘The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones. Standards and accountability, those are the right goals,’ Obama said. But he said educators shouldn’t have to ‘teach to the test,’ and said the new benchmarks will incorporate other factors for measuring school and teacher achievement.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I agree with the importance of standardized tests for accountability and setting general benchmarks for student achievement. However, I don’t agree those types of narrowly focused scores should be used by parents to pick a school, or as justification to close schools or in some cases as justification to fire teachers. Check out this Google page for a few examples of the war of words and actions going on in the U.S. regarding this issue.
Remember, while it may not be politically correct to say so, not all children are the same intellectually. So, holding a teacher responsible for a student who cannot or will not learn, is not only unfair but unrealistic. In other words, it is worthy to have a goal that no child be left behind. But, certain special needs may indeed mean a child is left behind. However, instead of penalizing a school or a teacher when that happens, the school system or state needs to have accommodations in place to help the teachers help that child be all he or she can be.
Look, I used to run a private reading clinic that involved a lot more than the pre and post tests that were administered to the children and youth. Yes, those tests are important. But so too is observing how well a child can scan words, how well they can phonetically pronounce sounds and words, how well they can read silently and what strategies they use to remember what the story or text was about.
For instance, when you are reading this sentence silently, you are “hearing” the words in your head. That’s called “sub-vocalizing.” Therefore, if someone can only read by moving their lips, they are not completely processing “the meaning” of what they are reading. The result is, of course, they will not have time to remember what they read and subsequently do badly on standardized tests. However, if a variety of evaluation methods are used with all children, a better picture will emerge of how well they are performing in real life, as opposed to a temporary set-up testing situation.
Anyway, my point is that I agree with Obama on this one. Yes, by all means, maintain annual or regular standardized tests. But, also include a variety of evaluation methods — methods that don’t penalize either the student, the teacher, a school or even an entire school district and state.