Is this appropriate? Necessary? What has the U.S. Education System come to?

I am unclear how or why Heather Wolpert-Gawron considers herself a highly qualified teacher:

“But I don’t think you should have to abandon your teaching philosophy in order to tackle standardized tests. I believe a few simple strategies, combined with solid teaching, can result in some high bang-for-your-buck test prep without sacrificing quality classroom time. “

If we need to work through this much with students to ‘take the test’, perhaps the test makers are not testing knowledge, rather ability to have fine motor skills, coordination, coloring inside the lines, spatial awareness and deconstrutio of ideas.  No test should be so complicated that some one needs to ‘practice’ how to take it, be it filling in the bubbles or anything else.  Clearly there is a problem with the test delivery mechanism. I should not have to give up one minute of class time to practice anything if the test delivery mechanism is such that it does not DQ what is being tested. Students START with a 25% built in automatic guess and get it right.  The test delivery mechanism should not be so sophisticated that any student needs to focus on the mechanism rather than the test.  I believe I learned this when I was working on my undergrad degree in Speech Pathology. It was so long ago maybe I learned this idea incorrectly and need to work on filling my bubbles.

Teaching students how to speak test language: refer to comments above. No test worth anything is accurately testing that which is indicated  if one must learn a  specially coded language to take the test.  Again, I should not need to ever use class time to teach another language/conveyance/system for my students to adequately perform on an indicator of depth of understanding. I teach science and the language science uses is math, which is already apparently a foreign language in most of America based on test scores.  Cramming a new language does nothing but create crazymaking.  May I suggest  quality  tests are constructed to observe and quantify what we want the test to evaluate.

“Don’t be scared to analyze your own data. Use it to make test prepping more efficient.” 

I believe this is done to impress administration and clearly demonstrates ‘TEACHING TO THE TEST’. If a student has LEARNED and UNDERSTANDS  a concept, you need not do even more ‘test prep’.  Concepts should be generally reviewed over time as students learn more so they can see the relationship to  concepts they have already learned.

Showing students data and setting goals is just a bit over the top.  I would rather focus on telling my students how wonderful they are and I am POSITIVE they will be successful.  I do not need test score data to determine my self worth and I would never inculcate that to a child.  In seems somewhat counter intuitive to ‘believe’ in a childs abilites, yet send the more subliminal message – you are only as good as your test sores; further more, your teacher is only as good as the test scores they ‘produce’. Tests are a specific measure of understanding of something at a point in time.  Tests are not indicative of the ability to learn, the willingness to learn or a teachers ability to teach. 

We, as a society have gone far over the top in ascribing more value to test scores than what they can truly represent.  I would imagine when statisticians take out the variance for the bubble factor/following inane directions, there is a deviation in the score. Cramming for a test (as I learned in elementary school) proved I had great short term memory – learning and understanding something actually took time, repitition and persistence.

Arne Duncan also is pushing for new benchmarks that would use international standards to compare American students with those overseas.

He faults No Child Left Behind for standards that he said don’t accurately monitor some children’s progress.

“When you’re told you’re meeting those standards, you think you’re doing OK. You’re really not,” Duncan said.

“Our children are not competing for jobs down the block or in the district or in the state — they’re competing against children in India or China, and they need to know how they stack up.”


Ms. Wolport-Gawron pinpoints what is wrong with an education system focused on test scores rather than educating students.  When some one writes an article such as this, it makes all teachers appear as if we do the very things we complain about and often vociferously state do not help students learn.  Pandering to administration does not take ability or moxie, rather it demonstrates ones own ‘fear’.

What Arne Duncan is suggesting is comparing our students to the rest of the world – the stakes are higher and you can not so easily compare spring test scores.  I believe this is the true yardstick we need to use to measure our success and take pride in the results.

Updated 4/29/09


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