Cheap Shots

August 15, 2010

I actually already started another update that I will finish and post later, but upon reading this, I was so stirred up and outraged that I felt the need to address this issue immediately.

I have made it no secret that I am not a huge fan of standardized tests, but it really opened my eyes to be in a few graduate classes these past three weeks (hence my prolonged absence from blogging).  In the schools I’ve taught, it’s pretty much been the standard for “the test” to be a dreaded part of every school year.  I never really thought about the fact that maybe there were teachers out there who actually liked the standardized tests.

I suppose that my viewpoint was simply ignorant, as my own views were so strong that I wrote off the possibility of even a remote affinity for the dreaded “test” that seems to have taken over the American educational system.

But I was wrong.

Some like seeing the scores to see a concrete example of their hard work…to see a concrete example of student learning.

My argument:  It’s not student learning that you’re seeing, and it’s not necessarily your work that you’re seeing.

What do standardized tests tell us other than how well a student can concentrate on and manipulate a multiple choice test?

Who is to say that you’re the reason for the extra multiple choice questions that the student answered.

Maybe it’s more valuable for math teachers, but for me (as an English teacher), I see no merit in the scores that are returned to me.  They seem to indicate what I already knew: that some students are good test-takers, some aren’t, and then there are the kids who actually don’t know the material.  But is the material on the test what I want them to really know anyway?

Whatever the answer to those questions may be, I don’t really want to be judged by those scores.

I teach in the humanities, but I don’t feel liberated in what I can teach in that realm.  I have to concentrate on the terminology.

When I have a class of 32, and a class of 7 within the confines of a school day, joined by 4 more classes in the high 20′s, I think that judging me by a compilation of my students’ test scores is not necessarily a good indicator of how I’m doing as a teacher.

Some of my students live with grandparents because their mothers left them to move to another state all the way across the continent.

How is it fair to judge that student against anyone else at all?  They are unique and deserve that treatment…that’s what I give.  If I don’t get to focus as much on the test with that student, so be it.  My goal is to teach students, not a subject.

I recently read a quote in 21st Century Skills: “I had to unlearn the idea that teaching was about my content; I had to learn it was about their thinking and their skills.”

Education should have little to do with me and everything to do with the kids.  It is absolutely disheartening that this ideal is not the pervading viewpoint in many of America’s schools.

The people that are reading this post are, in all likelihood, the teachers who don’t need to read this at all; however, there is a group out there that refuses to meet the needs of students.  That group will probably always exist (scary), but I hope it lessens over time.

Judging educators by the test scores that they supposedly elicit is unjust.  I am a fan of merit systems, just not if they are connected to standardized tests.
And that is my problem with the LA Times.  Merit is not based on a test score.

My prowess as a teacher has nothing to do with my score on a praxis exam.  I scored quite well, but I have had some terrible days in education thus far.

In the paper’s defense, they did celebrate the accomplishments of some of the teachers of more successful students, but they should have stopped there…

I am all for the elimination of those who don’t teach well (after a time for correction), but throwing names to the wolves of public opinion is not a good route.

Those wolves, or many of them, already dislike the “cushy” jobs of teachers and our summer vacations.

Do we really need to fuel the fire any further?



Leave a Reply

See also: