It’s not ‘the tests.’ It’s us.

I often hear educators say…

We could be teaching differently if it weren't for ‘the tests.’

Or…

We could do a better job of meeting our students’ needs if it weren't for ‘the tests.’

I emphatically dispute these assertions. We must take ownership of our own culpability.

Our prevalent instructional model that emphasizes low-level, decontextualized, factual recall was dominant long before ‘the tests.’ Our challenges of providing higher-order thinking experiences, opportunities for authentic collaboration, and real-world connectedness existed long before the No Child Left Behind Act. Our inability to effectively facilitate empowered technology usage, true cultural/global awareness, and other necessary skills for a digital, global, information age is a byproduct of long-held, deeply-rooted cultural and pedagogical norms, not recently-acquired beliefs and behaviors.

Is anyone willing to argue that achievement gaps were smaller before evil NCLB came along and messed us all up? Does anyone think that we were doing a fine job of meeting the needs of underserved populations before ‘the tests?’ Have we all forgotten that school has been boring for generations?

It's not ‘the tests.’ It's our unwillingness and/or inability to do something different, something better.

It's not ‘the tests.’ It's us.

 

UPDATE: There are some phenomenal comments below. I hope you'll take a few moments to read them. Be sure to also read Greg Thompson's reaction to this post.

35 Responses to “It’s not ‘the tests.’ It’s us.”

  1. I have to agree with you, Scott.

    I think that NCLB, tests, presidential administration (past and present) have become easy scapegoats instead of looking at the real issue…..

    For me, the real issue is What Kind of Teacher am I? Not what kind of teacher does my admin expect, my politicians support, my peers applaud — but what kind of teacher am I — to and for my students.

    Though testing has become a hurdle and a hindrance…..though funding has become scarce…though administration is not always proactive at praising their teachers….though, though though…..

    the bottom line is….that is my decision each day what kind of teacher I am going to be. If I fail, I have no one to blame but myself…..if I succeed, then I remember tomorrow is another day — with another decision to make on what kind of day it will be in my classroom.

    Just my thoughts on your post.
    Jen

  2. Wow… short, sweet and to the point. I totally agree… nicely said…

  3. The tests are not at fault, per se. They are designed to measure whether standards are being met, although I do not like the fact that this is the only way standards are being measured. Not all students do well on standardized tests, while others can do incredibly well without really understanding the content (knowing how to take the tests). I would love to see a combination of standardized tests and a project-based application assessment of content.

    If a mistake is made in a standardized test, there is no partial credit. If a mistake is made on a project or a problem, there should be a way to make it better.

  4. Scott,

    I think this line of argument predates NCLB — I remember hearing it when I first started teaching, long before NCLB or much in the way of standardized testing.

    The problem as you say, lies in ourselves. We have content responsibilities, yes, but we also have the responsibility to help students think and to become independent thinkers.

    And who is to say that learning what is tested can’t be interesting, challenging, or fun in the first place?

    Does it have to be taught in a boring fashion because it is “on the test” ? Does rigor = boring teaching? I don’t think it has to.

    So my question is, since this excuse/reasoning has floated around for a long long time, how do we shift it?

    How do we help our individual teachers and entire schools shift it?

  5. Shift what? To what? What exactly is it that is being complained about? School ‘is boring’? To whom? Everyone, all the time?

    Well, there are a lot of teachers posting here and, since US education is apparently in such a perilous state, I assume the people posting here are at least partly responsible. So, teachers: why are you so boring? Why don’t you ‘get it’? Why don’t you change everything so that it’s all better? Can’t you be more passionate? What are you waiting for?

  6. I agree, and think this points to the larger issue of the structure of school itself. As kids move through our systems, everything they do becomes more compartmentaized and discontinuous. The seven period day (or something like it) still the dominant structure in HS. Each class is a separate, unrelated experience for most. Testing sometimes becomes the only way we try to find out what kids know and can do.

    Many teachers still find engaging “21st century” work for their students to do that addresses standards and provide them with alternative means of assessing their knowledge and skills.

    Educational leaders needs to get this too. If our administrators are mired in an archaic model (or, to be kinder, the model they grew up with), thngs aren’t going to change in their schools very quickly.

  7. I didn’t find school boring when I was in it. (Canada based here) What I see here is a shift in need to meet student needs to need to cover the curriculum to meet the test expectations and directives from on high. It has made much of my son’s education more sit and listen than mine was. I do think the problem is in part the standards movement, not necessarily the tests themselves but the overall push towards a business mentality. We don’t control the inputs in our education ‘business’, we can’t be expected to have the ‘outputs’ be identical either. I have to disgaree here Scott. I think testing is part of the problem.

  8. I really find this interesting and it truly made me think.

    I think it is really important to teach test taking strategies/skills, but not to teach to “the test” or base everything on testing standards. Students are always going to have tests and if we teach them how to take them, then I think there is less anxiety, etc.

    On the other hand teachers/education really does need to change. I always have a hard time understanding why educators have a hard time with change if they truly like learning. Isn’t learning about change?

    I believe that teachers need more support and time to actually plan innovative lessons. They are not only trying to educate our future, but often times are being students’ parents, mentors, etc.

    Maybe if more teachers would create “tribes”, there would be more change.

  9. I agree. To truly prepare a great lesson, unit, semester, requires a great deal of time and energy. And of course the reflection and editing at the end. I find little yellow stickies on all of my notes saying “Fix this, or change this”, but never get to it, because I have to get ready for the next class in 10 minutes.

  10. I am an amateur educator and the mother of two children, one who went through elementary school before NCLB and one who went through after. Let me give you one small snapshot of how things changed. When my daughter was in 4th grade each child was expected to complete a state history project called Tennessee Notebook. This was by-and-large an independent project completed out of school. Students had to research and write about important people, places and events in the state’s past and present. The information had to be collected and bound as an attractive presentation. Tennessee Notebook was required when my daughter was in 4th grade, but by the time my son came through, three years later, it wasn’t. Why? Because state history didn’t show up on standardized tests.

    Yet of all the material she studied and projects she completed not just in 4th grade but in all of elementary school, Tennessee Notebook was one of the most useful. It required her to locate information and learn it; write in complete, grammatically correct sentences; and share it professionally in both written and oral presentations. I can think of no better preparation for the real world. But the project is gone from my county’s curriculum because it “isn’t on the test.”

    We have since left the public school system. In my opinion, No Child Left Behind really means that No Child Gets Ahead.

  11. In my state, students don’t take standardized tests until third grade, but test preparation was a major focus in K-2.

    Students did little but complete worksheet after worksheet in kindergarten. The block corner was gone, there was no snack time, the dress-up box was taken away, and recess was reduced to just a few minutes. My son and his classmates sat at their little tables and silently filled out worksheets for the majority of the day. Talking, laughing or getting out of your seat was frowned upon.

    In first grade, the timed math tests began. Shortly after students learned how to add and subtract, they were given daily math facts timed tests in order to “prepare” them for the ITBS math computation tests in third grade. Those lucky enough to pass the tests had their names posted on the winners wall in the classroom. Those who couldn’t pass, were sent to the hallway to do flashcards with parent volunteers.

    In second grade, the timed oral reading tests began. Each week, all students were required to read aloud as fast as they could while they were timed with a stop watch. Those that could spit the words out quickly enough to meet the benchmark number were rewarded with free reading time. Those that were deemed too slow, were given practice pages to read aloud, over and over again.

    In third grade, they started timed writing tests. His classroom held a weekly contest to see who could write a paragraph the fastest using that week’s vocabulary words. The vocabulary words were test prep for ITBS. The fastest child’s paragraph was posted on the wall for all to admire.

    Kids learned very early on that faster meant smarter and that slower meant stupid.

    NCLB plays a part in the way school has been reduced to test preparation, but teachers chose to use all of these truly awful methods in the classroom. Teachers could have chosen different, more engaging, and more developmentally appropriate teaching methods, but they didn’t.

  12. Who is the “Us” in your last sentence? That will have a lot to do with whether I have a point of disagreement with you. At least in the experience of my school and in my district we were not given any choices.

    In at risk elementary schools at least (not true for our secondary schools for the most part), we were trained in VERY specific reading, language and math programs (some that were totally scripted) that we were told over and over we must follow to the letter or face disciplinary action. Worse, teachers were told that to do otherwise was to not have students’ best interests in mind (sleep on that one for awhile). Our rooms were stripped of any other reading, language and math support materials so that we would only have the prescribed program materials to use.

    Real science and social studies lessons were not to be taught, especially in the primary grades, but only covered as part of the reading program. Art was to be done only minimally. Our PE teacher was taken away, but we did keep music. We lost recess time though, and most field trips, and teachers were encouraged to do test prep and practice whenever they could fit it in and were reminded repeatedly that there was money available for test prep materials if you wanted more of them.

    To say that teachers made the choice to use these methods is not true or for some at least not entirely true in many, many cases. I have the scars to show for it and so do others.
    Brian

  13. Scott –

    The answer, of course, is more complex than that. Certainly, some of what you say is true, but then you also have to look at the effects of NCLB and high-stakes tests on schools that were working to do it differently. If you look at how the Coalition of Essential Schools have had to fight to stay alive since NCLB, you see a group of schools that were anything but boring, that were real world, experiential and doing right by kids, and they have had to fight to retain much of they do.

    Just yesterday, I spoke to the principal of a former CES school and when I asked her why she’s no longer a CES school, she looked at me and said, “My teachers couldn’t do all the project-based learning when there are so many mandates about the tests.”

    When schools make that Faustian bargain, we all lose.

  14. The teachers from whom I hear the kinds of sentiments you pointed out, Scott, are the teachers who *want to do something different*, but can’t because they are handcuffed by NCLB (more specifically, administrators and their fear of NCLB).

    I think you went to far lumping all educators together saying it’s “our unwillingness and/or inability to do something different, something better.” It makes for a good quote, but it’s simply not true. Our willingness has been stifled, and our abilities pushed aside.

  15. I’m not going to comment on the post, but rather on the comments. I think the range of comments illustrates our most difficult issue in education. Even at the most elite level of education professors, school administrators, teachers, and or support personnel, one is unlikely to find a consensus on what good instruction looks like and on what learning is all about. Most importantly, there is definitely no consensus on what the product of education is (the child, the knowledge, the output at the end of an instructional unit, all?) and who the consumer of education is (the child, the parent, society?).

    While I don’t want to understate the disagreements that occur within the medical profession, it would appear as if doctors and nurses have a much more common definition of best practice. The difference? Scientific research, probably.

  16. @Jason

    The difference between education and medicine is not ‘scientific research’, the difference is ‘what can be researched scientifically’.

    Sure, you can ‘scientifically’ evaluate whether a student is proairetically literate. But does that mean they ‘understand’ a poem?

    You can ‘scientifically’ evaluate whether a student is physically and cognitively ‘able’ to read a text. But what does it mean to ‘understand’ a text?

    My personal problem with standardized tests has always been the insult they imply regarding the capability of the human mind to imagine things differently.

  17. I agree with you that we have to stop blaming the tests. I believe your statements about our system show where the real problem lies. Our system has created such a hatred for standardized testing that kids are taught that the tests are the problem before they even get out of junior high or even elementary school. By the time that a prospective teacher gets out of college he/she has been indoctrinated to believe that if we don’t teach to the test, the kids won’t pass. I don’t think that standardized tests are the best indicator of student achievement, but I realized some time back that I could teach the way I needed to and still have my students pass.

    I don’t think that the problem lies just with teachers, though. Teachers are teaching the way that they were taught and the way they have been conditioned to teach. They are reacting the way they have been conditioned to, seeing the tendencies they have been taught to see and are feeling horribly restrained while they do it. A large problem is the campus and local administrators that try to encourage good instruction, but then turn around and push out benchmark tests throughout the year and test preparation books or software. The old saying that actions speak louder than words applies here. I believe that if these administrators would declare their districts test prep free zones then their message about quality teaching practices would be heard.

    The tests measure the minimum. We have to set the bar higher than the tests and until that message gets out, our system will be mired in the state that it is in. That starts with administrator training and a shift in administrative philosophy concerning tests. It has to change in the universities that teach teachers that the only way kids can pass the tests is if you teach testing skills. Then it has to change in the way mentor teachers guide their proteges. As complicated as that all sounds, I believe that we can change that before we will ever get rid of the tests. And I don’t know if we ever should get rid of the tests.

  18. Scott, thank you, thank you, thank you for being brave enough to say what I have been thinking for years now. I try to help College faculty integrate technology into their classroom and professional lives and the vast majority of them want no part of anything “new”. They go right along with their bullet ridden PowerPoints day after day, month after month, and semester after semester. I can’t even get them to change the look and feel of their PPTs let alone any of their teaching methods, use of other tools, etc. They tell me their students need all that info for assessment later on (i.e., a test). How does this prepare students for life after college?

    You line sums up years of frustration I’ve been experiencing:

    “It’s not ‘the tests.’ It’s our unwillingness and/or inability to do something different, something better.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I work with a faculty member who says almost immediately, “I can’t do that”, or “I’ll never remember how to do that….” when I show them a simple technology tool they can use for or with class (Wordle, Bubbl.us, etc…). They would not accept this immediate sense of failure in their students, yet they immediately “experience” failure and put up barriers to learning even before trying.

    Bravo on being brave, and wise, enough to state the true root of many educational problems. Quit blaming systems, tests, parents, administrators, etc. and look inward.

  19. I would argue that the tests serve a purpose. If one uses them wisely as a guide rather than a focus they can aid in the overall improvement of our schools. The problem we have in our profession is that we are hoop jumpers. We think that if we can just anticipate which hoops our students will be asked to jump through we can improve their achievement on the tests. The focus is on the test rather than on learning and then blame the tests when they reflect a lack of success. I started education in the era of Outcomes Based Education which immediately was replaced/repackaged as Standards Based Education. Both initiatives gathered a group of content specialists to select the facts (identified as benchmarks) that each child should learn by the end of each grade level. The science teaching experts identified the science benchmarks, the math experts the math, etc. These experts came up with enough “essential” information to fill about 24 years of education and then encouraged teachers to try to cover it all in 12. Stressing that we needed to cover less with more depth. Then tests were developed tests to ensure that students knew these “essential” facts. Throughout our extensive efforts, duplicated in 49 states and 321 different school districts in Iowa (I am from Iowa and so I feel justified in this critical comment). While educators focused on what specific content should be addressed, the world was changing. Our focus in education is on preparing students by identifying facts hoping we get the right ones so the students can be successful on a test.
    We are critical of standardized tests because they point out our inability to show gains with all students. We in education have known for years that we have not been meeting the needs of all students. The tests just point this out to everyone else. We then expend a great deal of time and energy trying to make the test scores look better rather than improving our educational system. To make things even worse, we then make excuses about the lack of achievement demonstrated by students of color or low socio-economic status. I am not sure that this is news to anyone, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that being from a poor family or having parents who have not attended college equates to an inability to learn. We complain about how the students are ill prepared to be successful in our current system, but don’t do much to change the system or even acknowledge that what we need is a new system. We have had students failing in the current system for years. It is just recently that this has been bothersome to us because many of the jobs which those who left our system prior to earning a diploma are disappearing. Throughout the twenty years I have been in education we have made attempts to tweak the system. To create a gradual evolutionary change when what we really need is a revolutionary one.
    We continue to teach in content specific silos when we should have broken down those curricular barriers long ago and engaged students in learning which mimics the world the students will face in their future.
    We continue to operate in ineffective and inefficient ways. We know that there are natural alignments between curricular areas, but still lack the willingness to capitalize on these. How often do social studies and language arts courses each ask students to engage in research projects? How often do they discuss or even look at similar time periods or literature?
    In teaching physics I spent time teaching vector addition and methods of graphing despite the fact that these topics were also covered in their mathematics courses.
    The schools of the future will not require English and Social Studies credits for graduation but rather literacy and research skills. They won’t require science or mathematics credits, but rather that students demonstrate their ability to engage in scientific inquiry and the ability to communicate in the language of mathematics. I truly believe that students should be allowed to demonstrate mathematical skills and concepts in vocational like coursework. They should graduate based on their ability to demonstrate skills and concepts rather than an accumulation of credits with grades that communicate little to anyone.
    The tests are not the problem, our inability to make a significant shift in our educational system is.
    Efforts like those of you who post on this and other sites like it are crucial to enact the needed changes that will allow all students to enjoy success. The current system is leaving students behind, the tests are just reminding us of that fact. We can blame the tests all we want, but they are not what is keeping us from making the needed changes. If our students all were graduating with the skills they need to be successful, no one would give a crap about how they were all doing on some standardized tests. The sad fact is, they are not all graduating with the skills they need nor are the needs of all children being addressed in our schools.

  20. @ Scott
    I give you credit for not only pointing out the problem that has been there for quite some time but also for helping shape what the future can be. The latter is a much more difficult task.

  21. I’m working overseas, but I was back in the US for the 2005-2006 school year. In my elementary school, the computer lab is unavailable for learning 13 weeks of the year due to the online standardized testing. There is another lab, but the computers in it are so old that they can’t run a web browser that can handle java and Shockwave and Flash. — My students learned to read to Moodle discussions with one browser and reply in another one because neither old browser could handle both tasks.

    Yes, it is possible to teach in powerful ways without technology, but that adds yet another lay of difficulty.

  22. Dave Keane – the key point is that tests can be useful if the right ones that give the best information are used. Most standardized tests give you almost no useable information other than my student is reading below grade level, almost no info on what skills and concepts they are weak in. Same in math and science and every other subject. Teachers are not so much against “testing”, it is the choice of test and the amount of testing and how the data is used and the assumptions made from it (often wrong) that is the problem. I am forced this year to give my students over 25 different tests, (an average 1 every 6 days) many of which give me no useful prescriptive information, or give it to me so late that it is useless.

  23. Brian Crosby
    I am a high school principal in Iowa. We access our students with a battery of tests each year using the Iowa Tests of Educational Development along with district developed criterion referenced tests in mathematics, reading, writing, and science. These tests do allow for us to monitor individual growth, but would agree with you that they are far more useful in assessing our school than they are in assessing individual students.
    We also have an abundance of chapter exams given by each teacher in each subject matter. I would contend that these assessments used in individual classes would be of little more use in actually telling us what our students know or do not know. When a student earns an A what does that actually tell us when so much of the information is aggregated to determine this grade.
    Data from all of these assessments need to be reviewed annually to aid in school improvement. We discuss the results of the assessments and try to determine what changes are needed in both curriculum and in instructional strategies to address needs of all children. The tests results in many districts or buildings are the focus. I stress to my staff that there are other measures we will look at along with those from the standardized and criterion referenced exams to measure our success. We will look at graduation rates, post-secondary success information, student completed climate surveys, attendance rates, and disciplinary information to set goals for improvement. Standardized testing is not taking nearly the time in our district that it would appear it is in yours. I would agree that a standardized test every six days with little access to the results is a foolish practice. I would stress, however, that teaching without both internal and external monitoring of student progress or simply relying on teacher directed or teacher self-assessment is what has brought us the results we currently have. We need to spend the time we currently spend complaining about assessment educating our public, particularly our legislators, on how the testing process can be improved. In your case part of that improvement would be reducing the number of assessments and providing more timely feedback. In our district we are looking at training teachers on better use of formative assessment this upcoming year. We are also exploring the use of student portfolios and report cards which will more specifically report a student’s current level of performance on essential concepts and skills.
    I agree that there are a large number of incorrect assumptions made based on the testing results. The media perpetuates much of this misinformation. In Iowa our largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, often ranks schools based on our standardized test scores and graduation rates (which is misleading as all schools do not have the same requirements). We report this data comparing one eleventh grade class to another and then look at percentage changes which, with the small class sizes, can fluctuate greatly based on the performance of just one or two children. We have the ability to track individual student growth but do not tend to report what percent of our students demonstrated growth from one year to the next. Often the way in which data is reported can also effect the public’s perception of how effective their school may be.
    I advocate for the development of performance assessments designed to assess skills and concepts which would provide not only teachers, but students and parents as well, valuable information concerning the development of these skills and concepts.

  24. I’m enjoying this conversation even though I’m coming to it a day or two late.

    I think my question—spoken as the Devil’s Advocate—would be why should I even bother to develop classroom experiences that are innovative or meaningful for students?

    After all, I can drill-and-kill-’em and produce pretty solid results on the end of grade exams that parents and policymakers seem to value. I know that I’d be failing students in the long run, but my employers would be happy, wouldn’t they?

    I guess what I’m saying is that until “society” is willing to change the way that they assess student—and thereby teacher—performance, why should I be expected to change “the flaws in the system?”

    I guess I’m just tired of trying to fight for responsible instruction and assessment when no one else seems to care. Sometimes I’m tempted to dumb down my instruction to increase my test scores, giving parents and policymakers exactly what they’ve asked for.

    Maybe then, they’ll finally see that change in student assessment and teacher evaluation are needed.

    Any of this make sense?
    Bill

  25. @Bill Ferriter,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve been found wanting in the classroom more than once for the grades my students get on standardized tests. But I get letters back from those same students who are profoundly grateful for what they got.

    The problem described here is filtering rapidly into independent schools, too. Private schools used to be an escape valve from the difficulties of over-testing. Now it’s becoming the norm in all American education.

  26. Bill,
    I’m afraid what you said makes too much sense. There’s no motivation toward innovation when the measurement is miles behind the innovations we come up with. The farther and more authentic we get away from fill-in-the-blank tests, the less prepared students are when it comes to taking the “tests that count.” Which makes us look worse to those on the outside — who also make the decisions…

    Yikes.

  27. Bill,
    You have made an excellent point. A point that is scaring the hell out of me.

  28. Dead on, Scott. There are many problems with education, and testing may be one of them them in that the tests we use to measure are not great assessments in their current form. But teachers have a far greater impact and a far greater influence. Teachers are what makes or breaks their part of the Equation of Accountability (as I call it.) Parent + Teacher + Student + Government= Success. Each has a role, a function, and a responsibility. Each needs to invest in the student’s success for the good of our future. I don’t see tests anywhere in that equation.

    Accountability and reflection alludes even the best of teachers at times. But it seems to be that too many in our profession are pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Perhaps they should study their own history books, as you say, look at the past in the eye, and know that disengaged learning has been around far longer than NCLB.

    Thanks again for your honesty.
    -Heather
    aka Tweenteacher

  29. @Bill Ferriter, well stated. I would argue that teachers ‘should’ “…develop classroom experiences that are innovative or meaningful for students”, becuase…well…the last 3 words you use sum it up. Because those experiences are meaningful for students. Not because they will help students score better on a test, but because it helps them learn, prepares them for life outside of school and exams, and makes them well rounded citizens. IMO, that should be the motivation behind changing classrooms, incorporating technology into daily activities, etc., etc.

    You are right though, for most teachers if the employer is happy with the status quo, then so be it. Nothing changes. I work in a college and it is even worse here than in the K-12 world. These students are heading out in the workforce with just ‘book knowledge’ and at least here, they don’t even know there is a world online outside of Facebook. All because their professors are afraid to do something different and change their ‘lectures’.

  30. sandshell@nbn.net Reply June 8, 2009 at 7:33 am

    One thing I’d like to add – it’s not that tests that are limiting our teaching methods, it’s the administrators need to justify our methods by insisting on scripted programs and required pacing. There is no creativity and art left to the science of research-based teaching and it’s boring for both teacher and student.

  31. Scott:
    I’m sorry I’m coming to this great conversation so late. You make some great points, and perhaps the most significant is that, whatever we may say are the faults with schooling currently, kids DO think it’s boring. Most of the comments accept this and concentrate on where we can turn this around. Brian Crosby highlights a situation often found here in the UK: schools that are deemed at risk or failing are more likely to concentrate on boring, but standards-effective, teaching. Once a school starts to claw it’s way back to security, teachers are often discouraged from being more innovative for fear of slipping back.

    But Bill Ferriter points to perhaps the real problem: until ‘We’ (as parents, employers, citizens) end our obsession with standardised testing – when choosing schools, potential employees,and what education is actually FOR – we can hardly expect school administrators to encourage teachers to be the creative, innovative practitioners I believe they came into the profession to be.

    Here in the UK, there is a very real looming election choice when it comes to the two main parties education policies. For a glimpse of what might happen visit here: http://davidpricesblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/is-this-really-what-educations-for.html
    It might make us yearn for the good old days of NCLB!

  32. Teaching to the test feels like it can take a lot of creative energy away from some teachers. Other teachers may appreciate very clear guidelines in creating their curriculum. I believe in the idea of educating the whole person. I think teaching to the test can create a clinical atmosphere that takes away the human side of education. It is important that there should be some clear learning objectives in any school year. I also believe that teachers need the space to create curriculum where they can shine based on their strengths. Many of the best memories from my own education are not from a focus on grammar and arithmetic. I appreciate the teachers that created a classroom environment where it seemed they were part owners of the curriculum they were teaching. Teaching to a test seems like it could create capable academic clones. Teaching from the strengths of the teacher and interests of students in combination with specified learning objectives would seem like a good balance. It would be ideal for students to graduate with high levels of humanity and skills and to be able to look back on their education as an overall positive experience. Teaching to the test should be a part of the educational experience, but only a part. Some of the most important treasures of humanity are found in the arts. The creators of these works needed more inspiration than what is found in preparing for academic tests. This is not to say that an aeronautics engineer needs to know their math if they are creating an aircraft wing aileron that needs to function in 500 mile an hour winds at -63 degrees Fahrenheit.

  33. I think you make some great points here, but I also think your analysis is a little too simplistic. You’re right that we as teachers ultimately have control of our classrooms and what we teach, and I’m sure there were many boring, low-level-focused teachers before NCLB just as there are many today. However, I think the tests have had many subtle impacts that have made the situation worse than it was before. For example, teacher education programs seem to be focusing more on best practice to ensure measurable results rather than best practice to ensure our kids grow and develop into the kinds of kids we’d want our own children to be. I think NCLB has definitely narrowed the focus of education (and teacher education), and unfortunately, with most teachers having entered the field in the past few years, the people teaching our children don’t know any better. NCLB had created an environment (framed by an unhealthy approach to education) that is much bigger than “the tests.”

    • I don’t disagree with anything you said here, Julie. I do think it’s important for us to remember that ‘there were many boring, low-level-focused teachers before NCLB just as there are many today’ instead of acting as if AYP and other accountability measures are solely responsible for our low-level teaching today…

      Thanks for the comment!

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