03 August 2009

Back to School

Lately there has been a lot of talk about accountability in education. Governments seem to like the idea of using standardized tests to measure student achievement. Critics claim that using tests to determine achievement forces students and teachers to focus on the tests at the expense of true learning. Now there is talk of the federal government requiring states and districts to tie teacher accountability and evaluation to test scores. I have several questions on this issue:
  1. How do you evaluate teachers who teach subjects that aren't tested? Are they automatically bad teachers if there is no test by which to measure their success?
  2. What do I do about the hungry kid (or the one who witnessed violence in her neighborhood or home last night or the one who doesn't have a home) in my class who can't focus on day to day events in the classroom, let alone a test? Am I responsible for that?
  3. What about the students who just don't try (or know that a teacher they don't like is being evaluated by their test scores)? I've seen scores that indicate a student tried on one test, but not another. If someone has a different explanation why a student would score near the bottom on an language arts test, but at the top on a history test dependent upon a students' ability to read, please let me know. I also had a student tell me once that she blew off the test because she didn't like her teacher in that subject.
  4. What happens to real learning when we are SO focused on the test? How are we benefiting our students by teaching them how to take tests? Okay, so they DO need to take tests for some licenses and credentials or for professional advancement, but taking a bubble test is not what life is about.
Finally, this cartoon got me thinking about this subject. Is this what we're turning into? How miserable for us all if it is.