Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tests and Other Cheap Schemes to Avoid Real Educational Reforms

Tests, tests, tests. Teach the tests. Cheat on the tests. Use all class time for tests. Revise the tests. Make the parents take the tests. Make School Board members take the tests. Make Mitch take the tests. Test State Superintendent of Education Bennett. Test Larry Bird. Test Big Bird. Test Republicans. Test bloggers, test editorial writers, test radio talk mouths . Test middle-line backers. Test point guards. Test school bus drivers. Test the test makers. Test the test scorers. Test babies. Test nursing home dwellers. Test cops. Test criminals. Test preachers. Test sinners. Test preachers who are sinners and cops who are criminals. Test the poor. Test the rich. Test tax payers. Test tax cheats.

Ah, there, now we have an educated community.
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I'm not being entirely facetious. Testing and its high falutin' siblings "outcomes" and “accountability” and “measurement” fill every discussion of so-called school reforms. All assume that which we call education can be added up, plotted, graphed, and bottled. It can’t.

We spit in teacher’s faces at every convenient point in our frustration with children, teens, and adults who do not know what we think they should know. We use tests and “merit (sic) pay” tactics to justify our frustrations. School boards put serious money into dodges peddled by computer and textbook hustlers who, get this, guarantee their costly mechanistic fixes are “teacher proof”!

Ah, isn’t this a good way to attract the best, the brightest, the committed to the teaching profession?

Testing measures what is known. Testing cannot instill in students, or more than impressionistically calculate, curiosity, imagination, a love of reading, intellectual adventure, critical thinking, security in the face of the unknown. Test scores are arid and hollow artifacts of time wasted. Test scores are without lasting meaning.

As George Orwell wrote in 1984, his famous distopian novel, “Sanity is not statistical.” Testing as an end in itself is not sane educational policy, practice or philosophy.

You love your kids? You think real education is important to their and their nation’s life? Then pay the price. That price includes paying for the best prepared teachers, paying for teachers prepared in their subject matter, paying for small class size, paying for lighter teaching loads, paying for pre- and after school support of students, paying for Master teachers to mentor beginning teachers. In short, paying for what we say we want from education but try to find through cheap, misguided short-cuts in tests, gimmicks and “merit pay” schemes.

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