Posts Tagged 'accountability'

Teachers and Tests…Scandals and Surveillance

Yesterday, the story broke: widespread irregularities in standardized test scores in Georgia schools.

As an educator, this breaks my heart. It doesn’t make my profession look ethical or responsible. I have no idea what happened, and I hope there is a reasonable explanation for these problems. But when I think about the remedies that are being recommended for these issues, I cringe.

Because of testing irregularities, our governor is calling for a detailed analysis of the results and considering more monitoring of testing in sites suspected of cheating. That may all sound great, until we remember that budgets are falling.  Class sizes are likely going up, educators (including several of my colleagues) are being fired or reshuffled, and Perdue suggests test score analyses and on-site monitoring of testing, which will surely cost money. Really?

We are on a path toward relaxing expenditure controls so that library programs and professional development don’t have to be directly funded. But our governor can consider further funding for the testing industry, which already takes up too much of our education budget? Instead of ensuring learning opportunities for educators and updated library materials, two expenditures that might boost scores and give teachers the support they need to teach, Perdue wants us to consider investing in people who watch kids take tests and ensure that teachers handle the test forms ethically?

Mr. Perdue, how about reconsidering the unreasonable expectations that may tempt honorable people to compromise their integrity? We don’t know yet what happened, but it does not take a genius to see that the testing pressure is breaking our education system; indeed, it is breaking many of our educators themselves. They don’t have to cheat for us to know it is broken. The fact that irregularities lead so quickly to suspicion tells us enough.

And our governor thinks tying teacher pay to test scores is going to be a positive change? Will tying our livelihoods to test scores create less temptation to cheat? I wonder if Mr. Perdue would have passed a standardized test in inductive logic.

Shifting gears to my parent self, this quote from the article linked above also fascinated me…

Ben Scafidi, director of the nonprofit Center for an Educated Georgia in Norcross, said the findings are likely to upset parents.

“I’m a parent, I’m mortified,” said Scafidi, who has two children in public schools. “I think parents are very concerned about how their children do on the CRCT, and now they don’t know how their children are doing.”

I’m surprised that the reason Mr. Scafidi was upset was not because of the possible unethical behavior of teachers or administrators, or the testing mania that created this mess, but rather because without CRCT scores, we don’t know how our kids are doing.

Do we have to wait for a sheet with bar graphs and numbers on it to know how our kids are doing? Is that what we have come to? I sit down with my Kindergartner and read with her almost daily.  I know how she is doing. I talk to my children’s teachers often, who also help me know how they are doing. I check my children’s schoolwork and homework, I talk to them about what is happening in school, and I encourage them. I know much more about how they are doing from our daily interactions and communicating with their teachers than from their CRCT scores. Their CRCT scores may give me a fine-grained analysis of whether or not my daughter has mastered punctuation, but it doesn’t tell me if she loves writing, or enjoys learning. By no means does that test alone tell me how my kids are doing.

Most parents I speak to don’t feel this way either. Parents are concerned about the tests because it represents so much of what their kids are taught, unfortunately. Our students have internalized the rhetoric of testing. Parents also know that the tests can be used to make decisions about their children’s education. So, they have to pay attention. Tests matter because we have made them matter, not necessarily because they tell us something critically and infallibly important about our kids and their learning.

Parents are also concerned about tests because they see their kids getting sick before test days. Kids grow sleepless, nauseous, anxious, ill. I hope, when the state starts selecting monitors for the testing sites under scrutiny, they include “cleaning up after sick kids” in the job description, because the increased pressure will only trickle down to the teachers, and then the kids. I, for one, am already sick about it.

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