This week, most children begin to endure standardized testing. It will linger through the remainder of the year. Few teachers avoid the notion of or argue about testing and accountability. Rather, it is how we measure it, how children are to show it, how results are used, and how much we do it.
I despise testing season, especially for our most fragile learners. We could all list examples where our mistakes ended up leading us to success. We want kids to take learning risks.
Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield, refers to the “dinner table test” where you ask your child, “How was school?” Then, we measure by the sparkle in a child’s eyes and the overabundance of talk about learning.
Ask children over the next few weeks, “How was school?” Do you think any will be overjoyed with testing?
We live in an age where messiness and failure aren’t in school mission statements. Col. Francis W. Parker, a progressive educator and civil war veteran, said, “The road to success is through constant blundering.”
Can we find a way back to blunder some? I’m not suggesting a free-for-all environment, teachers be willy-nilly, or banishment of testing. That stance would fall out of what is acceptable.
However, current world circumstances suggest some freeing of educational thought might help. Can you name people in your life who were teachers but not “formal” educators? A book titled “Loving Learning” (Little & Ellison) has me thinking about how we can learn from educational mistakes to improve schools for ALL children. Join me in thinking on that!
Back to the prompting of this letter, as an educator who travels to schools, classrooms were rather depressing the last few days. Teachers covered learning charts, strategy boards, alphabets, anything that might “help” students gain answers to test questions. Some teachers used newspapers for this. Others used colored paper to cover “the learning material.”
We wouldn’t dare want students to use the strategies or be reminded of content or see a map or a mnemonic device or a cueing card or for goodness sake, even be comfortable in the classrooms they have learned in throughout the year.
A particular student in a school I visited asked, “Why is our entire room blue?” The teacher tried to explain, ”It’s part of the testing procedures that have to be followed.”
In exasperation, he said, “Well, I don’t like it. Who do I need to talk to get that changed?”
I love the social action residing in his statement. The teacher referred him to administrators.
When will we as citizen ask the same? Consider how ludicrous it is to teach strategies, give kids tools, ask them to work as teams and then test them individually by stripping away those tools and resources they’ve been taught to use.”
It is time. Now, it is time. Do it for the children. Write your legislators. Be a social activist like this young man.