Education Will Be Resurrected From Death Caused By Standardized Testing

I do not believe in divine intervention, synchronicity as an indicator of good fortune nor quinky dinks – the universe is far too random.  I do believe that eventually something will reach the lowest point and the only other option after gravity sucked it down is to rise. In order for something to rise, it must have enough force to overcome the pull of gravity. For some reason I can not even remember, I ended up looking at the NAEP website and in looking through various categories randomly, found the following, a report regarding teacher retention and satisfaction.  The next morning the following  article was posted in The New York Times

Apparently American education finally reached the bottom (it may have even become stuck and submerged in some silt deposits) and is going to, at some future point, with great effort, rise above the force of gravity. There are multiple issues surrounding how the American educational process eroded  for the last 40-50 years, most dramatically in the last 10-20 of which we are now a second tier country at producing educated socieity members.  This is good as the data from the folks at NAEP have indicated people are leaving the profession of education (public, charter and private) in droves.  I hesitate to make a connection yet I believe there may be one.

Although there is no correlative data which I can find, my hypothesis of causality  is based on  the following: Many good teachers began to leave teaching and continue to leave teaching due to the lack of  being challenged to think, be creative and/or innovative and pursuing education in the classroom with passion.   In the last 10-20 years, teachers have relied more and more on a narrow set of text books, narrow testing regimes which used multiple choice format and graded by computer, narrow science and/or math kits which have pre-constructed, canned labs with specific outcomes and narrow writing prompts such as the five paragraph essay (which does not really exist – it was an invention to get to the minimum of what a student needed to do to demonstrate knowledge).  With all of the scenarios of the last sentence, most felt by teachers in self contained classrooms, it is any wonder they want to come to school and play robot.  In support of my hypothesis, I spoke with many of my educator friends who are between the ages of 28-50 and have taught at least five years in a public school. I merely asked them what they disliked most about their job. Once we got past the parent conferences, abundance of paperwork, obnoxious children who had not fallen far from the parental tree and administrators who can cite the party line of what has to happen and how, all the while  refusing to engage in thought requiring independent volition, the truth came out – education as it stands right now is boring, most especially if you have to teach an intervention class for math or literacy.

While many people lack the insight to appreciate how grueling being an educator actually is these days, they can at least appreciate the redundancy factor. There is nothing as boring as reading a script day after day or setting up a multiple choice test which can only have one possible right answer instead of grading a paper where a student has to engage their mind and explain, analyze information and apply the information to a new situation.  Clearly the advantage to standardized testing is it does not require some one to read it…… just run it through a machine.   Standardized testing is inherently fraught with all manner of issues – two of which include the 25% random chance on a four answer test or 20% on a five answer test and the fact that there is a limited style of how you can ask the question- Which of the following is correct, incorrect or which combination is right/wrong.

  Text book companies and various ancillary companies make big dollars off of designing questions for quizzes and tests so a teacher merely do the Chinese food order process – one from column A, two from column B and one from column C or D, depending on what the script says.  There may be five questions per column, each uniquely calibrated to a very specific standard. The teacher picks the question they like, think their students will best understand or answer correctly and go their merry way. Even better, these companies have set up the algorithms to analyze the data from the Chinese food order process and the teachers merely need to analyze what needs to be re-taught so the students can pass the test.

Needless to say, all of this is boring, redundant, lacking in any creativity and continues on the same from year to year without change, hence the word standardization. 

I personally look forward to the day when I will be required to think and challenge my students to think in the classroom again. If as the article from The New York Times states, all of this will be in place by 2014, that will be a great year for teaching. Until then, I forsee many more bored out/burnt out teachers who may have been the one to ‘make a difference’ leave the profession for something slightly better – the ability to think and use reasoning skills and be a self actualized professional.