Is It Really All That Testing, or Is It You?
If you want to rile up educators, tell them that it’s not
standardized testing, and it’s not No Child Left Behind.
It’s them. They are to blame for boring schools and underachieving students.
That’s what Scott McLeod wrote recently in his blog
Dangerously Irrelevant. In his post, “It’s not the tests. It’s
us,” he challenges educators to stop looking for scapegoats
and start being creative:
Our challenges of providing higher-order thinking
experiences, opportunities for authentic collaboration,
and real-world connectedness existed long before the
No Child Left Behind Act. Our inability to effectively
facilitate empowered technology usage, true cultural/
global awareness, and other necessary skills for a digital, global information age is a byproduct of long-held,
deeply rooted cultural and pedagogical norms, not
recently acquired beliefs and behaviors.... Does anyone think that we were doing a fine job of meeting the
needs of underserved populations before “the tests”?
Have we all forgotten that school has been boring for
It’s not “the tests.” It’s our unwillingness and/or inability to do something different, something better. It’s not
“the tests.” It’s us.
The post prompted Greg Thompson to think long
and hard before he responded on his blog Constructing
Meaning. In the end, Thompson agreed with most of
what McLeod wrote:
The testing culture is symptomatic. I would suggest the
disease is a failure of the education professional
to stand up and “be heard.” I wanted to argue
Dr. McLeod’s point, and I remain an avid anti-standardized-testing professional, but in the
end, the conversation in my thoughts led me
to the same place. This is not an indictment
of the teaching profession. Society bears a
good portion of responsibility in not moving to a paradigm where teachers are
viewed as “practicing professionals”
like doctors, lawyers, nurses, etc.
However, we can be in control of
the issue if we step up and
make our voices heard.
Many educators who commented on McLeod’s blog
agreed that teachers could do more:
If our students all were graduating with the skills they
need to be successful, no one would give a crap about
how they were all doing on some standardized tests.
The sad fact is, they are not all graduating with the
skills they need nor are the needs of all children
being addressed in our schools.—Dave Keane
For me, the real issue is what kind of teacher am I? Not
what kind of teacher does my admin expect, my politicians support, my peers applaud, but what kind of
teacher am I—to and for my students.—Jen Wagne
Who is to say that learning what is tested can’t be
interesting, challenging, or fun in the first place? Does
it have to be taught in a boring fashion because it is “on
the test”? Does rigor = boring teaching? I don’t think it
has to. —Carolyn Foote
Not every educator was willing to take the blame,
I do think the problem is in part the standards
movement, not necessarily the tests themselves but
the overall push toward a business mentality. We
don’t control the inputs in our education “business;”
we can’t be expected to have the “outputs” be identical
either. I have to disagree here, Scott. I think testing is
part of the problem. —Susan Ens Funk
Why should I even bother to develop classroom experiences that are innovative or meaningful for students?
After all, I can drill-and-kill ’em and produce pretty
solid results on the end-of-grade exams that
parents and policy makers seem to value. I
know that I’d be failing students in the long
run, but my employers would be happy,
I guess what I’m saying is that until
“society” is willing to change the way that
they assess student—and thereby
should I be expected to change
“the flaws in the system?”
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Diana Fingal is the senior editor for L&L. She has been writing for and editing periodicals for more than 20 years.