16 Mar
America's children from 500 classrooms

America’s children from 500 classrooms

This is the blog I did not want to write.

Why so many tests? 

Be sure to read an eloquent post  by Diane Ravitch about saving No Child Left behind after I share a few thoughts.

People have never agreed on the best curriculum, pedagogy (methods) and materials. Programs come and go, but skills remain the same. Meanwhile, teachers and principals spend their own money to provide for kids.

How did we become a nation of testers instead of learners? Why was Dr. Seuss’ birthday party for Read Across America cancelled in some places so kids could take standardized tests instead?

  1. I believe in many of the higher level concepts of Common Core. The problem is that in the spiral curriculum, foundational skills may not be in place, as evidenced by NAEP scores. It is difficult to expect good results when there is a lack of prior knowledge (schema).
  2. I believe in the key concepts of No Child Left Behind. I think we should keep it awhile longer, just revamp it to reflect relevant research, NAEP data and classroom practice.
  3. ESEA, Title I has always been a great program, serving the “lowest of the low, neediest of the needy”. Keep it, tweak where needed. Take the strings off the money and fairly allocate it.

Here’s what we’re facing: All stakeholders must work together to get our kids reading at or above grade level, and reading daily for pleasure. Teachers need to feel safe to unleash their creativity! I believe in developmentally appropriate programs (DAP); I personally dislike scripted programs.

Trust NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress for accurate information and statistics about how America’s schools and kids are really doing. It gives a genuine breakdown by ethnicity, poverty and the factors we should really care about.

  • NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card tells us that nearly 40 percent of America’s 4th graders can’t read at a proficient level. Only 35 and 36% of 4th and 8th graders matched the ultimate goal of NCLB: America’s students ALL read at a proficient level by 2014. Target missed. Now what happens to these “gap kids” when faced with a more rigorous new set of standards and curriculum embedded in Common Core? Top that with loss of instructional time due to test prep and testing.
  • The purpose of evaluation is to improve, not prove, yet up to seventeen standardized tests (we used to give one) seems punitive and takes away the joy of learning, with nothing much coming back. In my opinion, standardized tests are not useful as “formative evaluation” and only for “summative“, if that.
  • It takes at least three years to see a school trend, and this test set is too new to count, reliability and validity unknown.
  • Teachers face a myriad of issues: large class size, lack of basic supplies and materials and children with special needs. Give them what they need to do the best job. Trust them.
  • If it’s true that 51% of America’s public school children live in poverty, are socio-economic factors figured into the testing equation?
  • What about “Inclusion” and ELL (English language learners)? Children are not cookie cutter kids. They all learn best, differently. In every classroom there may be autistic, dyslexic, or other special, unique needs. What’s testing like for these children?
  • Black children’s test scores went down on NAEP, from ’92. Why do we spend so much money on prisons, rather than educating our nation’s youth, inspiring them with confidence, intensity and burning desire for a successful life?
  • Professional development is as strong as ever with amazing coaches, principals and curriculum developers. They know what to do. Let them do it. Give them time and money to work with, for their schools.
  • Stop most standardized testing, certainly not before third. Limit what ones, reason for, and how many, to serve what purpose?
  • Teachers track individual student’s growth using tools best suited to show individual progress. Schools can decide, with parents and teachers working together, how to best measure progress while still meeting any required state mandated assessments.

As a nearly 45 year teaching veteran at all levels, I support whatever works. But I worry when rhythm sticks and pianos are replaced by reading benchmarks.

I had planned to write about syllables, but sometimes things are more important at the moment. And this is the decisive moment. Why so many tests and what do you think we ought to do about it? 

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts,


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