Reformers convinced kids, all that matters is the test.

By Greg Sampson 
Education
reformers have been working for decades to convince the public, parents, and
educators that we need a standardized test to tell us how well students have
learned their lessons. Teacher judgment, irrelevant. Work portfolios, who needs
those? Project-based learning, ridiculous. Where is the rubric? Teacher-created
tests, well, teachers don’t know what they’re doing, do they?
It takes a
once-a-year, produced-in-secret, not-subject-to-outside-review test to measure
student learning.
It’s all
about the test.
Teachers
resist because they know the process of child development and learning is more
than what can be measured by a standardized test, which is mostly
multiple-choice even when it is disguised in drag-and-drop, drop-down box, or
multi-select formats. They see how students know the answer but can’t put it
into the computerized format so the answer will be scored correct. Teachers
tend to think that means there is something wrong with how the test is administered.
Parents
resist because they know their children, assist with homework, conference with
teachers, and reject the labeling of their children by the tests. They see the
stress the once-a-year standardized test places upon their children and they
know how that stress prevents their children from demonstrating knowledge and
skill on the test.
Principals
resist … well, they can’t show it can they? Being on annual contracts, they
have to play the game.
But the
resistance is futile because students have bought into the test. They are not
concerned with acquiring knowledge; they are not concerned with understanding
ideas and the world around them. They are not concerned with mastery of a
subject. They want to know how to choose the right answer when they are given
choices A, B, C, or D.
A typical
conversation in my secondary math classroom this fall:
Teacher,
concluding the lesson, “And that’s how you do it.”
Student,
“How will I recognize the right answer choice on the test?”
Teacher,
“The test is not important. What is important is that you understand how to
solve the problem.”
Student,
“You have to tell me what answer choice to look for when I get that kind of
problem.”
Teacher, “We
are not about how to pass the test in this classroom. We are about learning and
acquiring mathematical skills.”
Student, “I
have to pick the right answer on the test.”
Teacher,
“This is why I hate multiple choice tests. It’s not about picking the right
choice. It’s about showing that you can find a solution.”
Student,
“Why won’t you help me pass my test?”
Teacher,
“SCHOOL IS MORE THAN PASSING TESTS.”
Entire
Class, “OH, NO IT’S NOT. OUR ONLY REASON FOR BEING IN SCHOOL IS TO PASS — THE
–TEST!”

Congratulations,
Reformers. You haven’t convinced the adults, but you have brainwashed the
children. They have one job to do and they know what it is.

One Reply to “Reformers convinced kids, all that matters is the test.”

  1. The brainwashing has trickled down to students in k-2, who see themselves as failures if they do not pass enough lessons on i-ready. A parent actually asked me if our current curriculum will help our students improve on i-ready. How do you respond when you know the curriculum itself is also brainwashing our students to retain inappropriate information and failing them in mastering the standards?

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