I read an article yesterday in the Washington Post. In Texas, approximately 100 school districts have joined together in a sort of revolt against high-stakes standardized testing. They were inspired by comments from their State Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott. Highlights are as follws:
1. Scott said that “testing has gone too far”, and that it has become more like a “military-industrial complex”.
2. Scott then postponed a requirement that student’s test scores count as 15% of their final grade.
3. The superintendant of Hereford Independent School District is now considering withholding her system’s test scores from the State Department of Education.
4. Dozens of other districts joined in and drafted a resolution, demanding the state legislature create new and better assessment requirements.
While reading the article, I had two reactions: “Finally!”, and “Why couldn’t I do that?”
I am convinced more than ever that every time I hand out a state test, every time I turn in my data analysis spreadsheet, every time I offer ways to improve student test scores, I am doing the wrong thing. For a while I thought, “At least I can still teach”, but even that has become more difficult. I lose weeks worth of instruction to testing – testing that measures the instruction that I lost. My class routine often centers around practice tests and drills rather than seminars and critical thinking exercises. I leave school frustrated, feeling like I did not teach anything. And I don’t think I am teaching anymore.
I am encouraged by the beginning of a movement in Texas. Instead of talking about the woes of testing, why not do something about it? For years educators have been forced to work around standardized tests and schedules, which has meant that students have not received the best possible education. It’s time for that to end.
Once a month I receive an email from the teachers association in my district. “Don’t forget to wear black on Friday!” it says. We’re supposed to bring awareness to the plight of public school teachers by wearing black. What if instead we wore a common color to show our opposition to high-stakes testing?
What if hundreds of school districts around the state and country did the same thing?
What if the teachers in my district asked our superintendant to do the same thing as the school district in Texas and not turn in our scores?
What if we stop looking for ways to “improve the existing assessments” and start finding ways to end the way testing is done altogether?