Today’s Washington Post Education Section features a great letter from a veteran teacher on standardized testing, which you will find reprinted below. The letter refers to a piece in the Washington Post (link provided), that states that “significant gains” have been made with this approach, but no research is cited. In the recent Alliance for Childhood’s report on Kindergarten, the research does not point to lasting benefits of testing at this age, and questions the validity of standardized test scores prior to the age of eight.
The letter below joins many voices calling for education reform, and eloquently illustrates the impact of “teaching to the test” on the ability of teachers to do exactly what they went in to the profession to do — TEACH. To work with students and share their love of learning. To help children learn to love to learn and how to think critically — not tell them what to think. Veteran educator Glenn Fay discussed active learning in yesterday’s post. It is hard to imagine teachers having the time to dedicate to this student-centered, one size does not fit all approach when standardized testing rules the schools and the learning lives of today’s children.
Without a doubt, there is a lot of work to be done to improve the education system at every level. Again, it must take place at the curriculum, pedagogy, and evaluation levels — not simply one or the other. It must target pre-service teachers, as well. Quality education reform must address the needs of the whole child — including character development and physical, mental, and emotional health. There are not really any higher stakes than that.
See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru
High-Stakes Testing Really the Answer?
Dear Extra Credit:
You said that introducing high-stakes testing in kindergarten “appears to have produced significant gains in reading and math achievement for students in this age group.” ["The Pressure Is On, and the Kids Suffer in Kindergarten," March 19].
As a 33-year veteran of an urban school district, I think it is necessary to point out that high-stakes testing, translated into real-world practice, has completely taken over the instructional methods used by public schools. Passing a quantitative test requires that facts be given precedence over reflection, analysis and creativity, because facts are easier to measure.
Teachers and schools have become so test-driven that even though we know what type of teaching methods foster creative skills, we have no time to strengthen these practices because we are racing through a state curriculum guide that dictates the content that will be on the test.
Many of today’s students are not interested in knowing what is not on the test. Teachers who have been in this business a while know what can go wrong with this notion of using high-stakes tests to determine success. Virginia has had the Standard of Learning tests since 1998, and so we have seen the long-term effects of a “good idea” that focuses on only part of the story in a child’s overall education.
Tests have always existed, and they are valid and necessary, but many of our children are not able to read, write or compute. We need more than just high-stakes testing. We also need time — time to collaborate with other teachers who are role models and who can share their successful real-world practices; time to develop instruction that encourages and demands more than just choosing a, b, c or d and helps strengthen curiosity, reflection and flexibility; and, of course, the time to develop relationships with our students, communities and parents or guardians.
Patricia J. Lewis — Alexandria, VA