Monday, February 16, 2015

Schools Worshiping the Idol

A Timely Rant on Standardized Testing:

IDOL: Any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.
“Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.”

The idol gains power and control through building fear in the worshiper. I can tell you through communication with many teachers and administrators, there is a real fear of the ramifications of this test. The result being much teaching to the test and administrators spending endless hours preparing teachers and students for them through tutorials and practice.

So what is controlling our education system? It’s not the local administrators, certainly not the teachers, unfortunately not the communities.
It’s Standardized Testing. Noam Chomsky suggests that it has caused all involved to “achieve a rank.” Districts want an “Excellent” report card, teachers want an “accomplished” status, students want the “advanced” label.  

Are schools the place to have people working toward a rank? I believe this is the reason so many young people walk out of their education into the “real-world” with insecurity and confusion. Students don’t spend their time in our schools discovering themselves and their world through authentic interactions. They spend their time memorizing content specific skills that move them closer to a meaningless rank.

If you are working for the purpose of achieving a rank or title then you are actually moving away from that goal.

Seeing this disease in our schools, Seth Godin explains the following result:
Let me be really clear: Great teachers are really wonderful. They change lives. We need them. The problem is that most schools don’t like great teachers. They’re organized to stamp them out, bore them, bureaucratize them, and make them average.

The tests are limiting a child's education by restraining the teachers instruction to a strict list of skills and items.
It limits us by causing each person involved to work in a selfish manner, pinning each cog against the one’s around him/her.
Some might say that competition is healthy and motivating, but not when it causes one to undermine the system for personal gain.

The bottom line is that the purpose of the standardized tests are not to move teaching and learning forward. The purpose is for big business to feed off of our children while providing government an increased control of its education factory.

What if assessment looked like this:
The teacher and student collaboratively create a narrative for that pupil displaying their exploration of their unique abilities, their growth in specific content skills, areas of mastery, and areas of needed improvement.
I’m pretty sure we could do this with the hours students are spending currently on testing.
Although the state probably wouldn’t like this, as they prefer subjects that are easily measurable and comparable (precisely the opposite of human nature).

So "Assess for Growth with Patience and Persistence" (a previous post).