My complaint regarding public school's torturous standardized testing, is that we are creating excellent test takers, not educating children. I have never had one supporter of the system, as currently constituted, tell me 'That's not true!' Achievement gains on standardized testing among minorities, excellent to 'recognized' status for schools are all touted but no one so far has refuted the claim that our children are not being educated.
After 12 years of education, kids graduate with little curiosity, little capacity for thinking critically and sometimes little in the way of a sense of the world in which they live. Five years ago 48% of 9th graders remained in school to receive their diplomas. In 2007-08, it was just barely 42%. Neither are great numbers, but neither can the significance of such numbers be obscured by the constant administrative drumbeat announcing 'rising test scores'. Children love to learn, but they have to stay in school to learn and they only enjoy learning when they have a sense of achievement and contribution that cannot come from a standardized test.
Admittedly, when it comes to education a lot of factors enter into this. Life in environments characterized by concentrated poverty, for instance. The challenge is for schools to reinvent themselves if they are to be effective. But presently, young people drilled on standardized testing skills to justify a politician's re-election bid, is leading us into a cultural, moral and intellectual ditch, rivaled only by our current economic meltdown.
In Texas someone has forgotten adjust school systems for a post-industrial, technological age (although, it would be nice for all students to have some antiquated learning materials like, oh let me see - textbooks!). Children don't need computers in classrooms to help the pass the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) test. They need to learn how to use computers as tools to help analyze and develop solutions to complex sets of scientific, cultural and social challenges that face our nation and the world. And they shouldn't have to wait until senior year of high school or freshman year of college.
Take a look at what works!
I mentioned that I haven't met an educator yet who refutes the notion that children are becoming trained test takers vs. educated citizens. What I do tend to get from defenders of the status quo is, 'Well, how do you suggest we assess children's mastery of the core subjects?'
I don't know? Creating opportunities for students to exercise their minds, to observe, and demonstrate the relevance between what they have been taught and life, perhaps? Perhaps if, as in Dallas, nearly 80% of high school graduates going to community college, having demonstrated 'subject mastery', yet needing remediation shows that what they have mastered was filling in bubbles with a number 2 pencil. Perhaps the successes, touted as the results of the system, are, results obtained by students bright enough, and teachers good and proficient enough, that we would have seen success if these students had been hidden in a cave from grades K-5!
The Texas legislature is getting it - well sort of - they want to refine the test!
The Dallas Morning News reported earlier this year, "Lawmakers who lead the way on education policy are warming to the idea of major changes to Texas' report card system for public schools, which already gets failing marks from superintendents and teachers.
"A new version, as currently envisioned, would dramatically alter the focus of student testing, which forms the basis for school report cards, and introduce new incentives for schools that make gains."
How about the creativity and courage to reinvent schools so that children who graduate are students who have actually learned?
I do not suggest for one second, that this is easy. But when you consider what's happening in public education currently, can anyone honestly say that the work required is not worth it?
Much of the hard work requires all of us, in every neighborhood, championing the proposed goal of public education: an intellectually well rounded, socialized, physically healthy citizen prepared to begin to make a positive contribution to the world. And this means creating a system designed to provide this benefit for every child.
If what we are doing doesn't work, then we have to create the structure that will. Unless, its in someones interest for it not to work!