TELLING WHAT WE KNOW

PART III

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE TESTS

 12/21/05   

            What if teacher unions were to embrace the No Child Left Behind Act.  Sure, let’s work politically to fix the absurdity of permitting states to meet their progress targets by lowering their standards and requirements.  Maybe, we even ought to fight yearly testing in favor of some more realistic interval, given that spending too much of the school year preparing, taking and scoring standardized tests robs time that is better spent teaching and learning, to say nothing about the expense.  Let’s do all of that, maybe even support national standards, but let’s stop the inane bellyaching about the horrors of testing to see if students are able to perform at minimal levels of competency in reading, writing and mathematics.  Railing against testing only earns teachers more public mistrust.  Besides, if our nation's public schools were doing better on them, we wouldn't be talking about how awful they are.  If the public actually looked at some of the exams, they would be shaken by the ridiculously low level at which students are expected to perform.  Posted on the New York State Education Department’s website I found this sample question for the 4th grade math assessment.  Students are given a picture of a sign which reads, “Now Serving 379.”  Students are then asked, “Which number will be served next?”and given four numbers to choose from.  While this is one of the easier questions on the sample test, shouldn’t we be embarrassed to be asking such questions to 9 and 10 year olds?  What excuses can we make for students of this age not knowing the next number in a sequence?  

            We simply have to get off this idea that tests are not important.  They are only unimportant to schools and districts that attain high scores.  Just let one school in one district with high end real estate and high property taxes land on the list of schools in need of improvement, and we will see how quickly we no longer hear all the educationist bull from the  leaders of it about how test scores aren’t important and how we need “authentic assessments.”  Ironically, that’s when the tests will become the be all and end all.  In Plainview-Old Bethpage, having a school on the state list of those in need of improvement would so shake the confidence of the public in our schools that the entire leadership of our district would be washed away in a tidal wave of public anger and teachers viewed with suspicion for years to come.   

            A healthy fear of that scenario has caused our union to urge its membership to make sure their students are prepared for our state assessments.  We’ve cautioned them to reject the false choice between solid test preparation and stimulating, exciting classrooms. We easily can and should have both.  We’ve urged them to accept the fact that while all of the responsibility for the performance of our students is not ours, we are the only ones likely to know how to improve it and that we must do so not only because it is the professionally correct thing to do, we must do it if the community we serve is to trust us and take us seriously. Ultimately, we will be held responsible for the poor performance of our students no matter how hard we try to deny it.  

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED PART I  & PART II IN THIS SERIES

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