The Other 98% of the Time…

The Obama Administration recently issued support for limiting testing time for students to 2% of their school year.  Critics have already pointed out that this is more testing time than many students already face. While I appreciate the administration showing concern for students who sit for 9 hours of testing in only a few days, I think most people are still missing the real problem in education today.

What needs to be addressed is the other 98% of the time in school.  If you think that’s not being spent preparing for these tests, you are either incredibly naïve or in denial.  Until high-stakes standardized testing is untied from public school teacher evaluations and charter schools’ survival, 98% of students’ in-school time will be spent in some way preparing them for these tests.  You cannot expect decent people who educate as a profession to risk losing their job.  Even the most experienced, well-meaning educator is ultimately influenced by this testing threat.  Charter schools that operate on the premise that students will choose to go there (therefore supporting their business venture) need high test scores in order to stay viable.  You bet their primary goal is to teach to the test.

High-stakes testing used to be high-stakes for the student.  It was referred to as this because students’ class options and grade advancement were based heavily on these test results.  But with states legislating high-stakes testing as an indicator of teacher effectiveness (50% of a teacher’s worth in New York State), the fundamental purpose of education has shifted from educating the child for the sake of educating the child to be a contributing member of society to educating the child in order for the teacher to maintain a livelihood.  Now, these are high-stakes for the teachers.

When charter schools, which operate as private businesses (while using public funds), are dependent on test scores in order to survive as a business, they, too, abandon the fundamental purpose of schooling.  Children are merely pawns used for their potential to score well on these tests.  The recent “Got to Go” list scandal is a perfect example of this shift from viewing all students as our responsibility to educate to viewing students as being either valuable or damaging to the bottom line.  These tests are high-stakes for businesses.

Let’s get back to the fundamental purpose of school, which is to educate the whole child.  Let’s get back to valuing content matter other than just math and language arts (especially at the elementary school level).  Let’s get back to nurturing the child instead of pressuring the child.  Let’s get back to project-based exploration that doesn’t include worksheets with multiple choice questions.  Let’s get back to school environments where students and teachers are working collaboratively without undue stress.  Let’s get back to assessments that are given in order to actually inform instruction.  Let’s get back to moving forward and progressing teaching and learning through reform that is informed by educational research and educational leaders.  Let’s get back to fully serving the child instead of prepping high-stakes tests in order to preserve jobs or make a profit.

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