Do you know what’s wrong with education today? Yeah that too, but I’m referring to testing. To be clear I do not mean assessing whether or not something that you have taught and the students have sufficiently practiced has been mastered or not. I mean publisher tests. The ones that go with the curriculum we are forced to teach with written by people who have obviously bitten off more than they can chew. To add to the mediocrity of prewritten/scripted curriculum is the added pressure of a data driven bureaucracy. You see once the scores are in the judgment begins. Not necessarily administrative judgment, but peer judgement and self judgement. We all know who we work with. We listen to each other’s struggles over lunch on a daily basis. So how did so and so’s class score so much better than my class? Why did so many of my students not master the material? I know I am a good teacher, so what happened? I’ll tell you what happened. So and so taught specifically to the test. Asking questions with the same format, the same wording, the same necessary skills in the same order. Not the specific test question, but a mirror image if you will. So and so’s students were well trained to pass the test. Whereas in my room, I am teaching to the standards. Pacing guides limit how much time I can stay on a topic, not allowing for actual mastery. But I certainly expose my students to all the math they need to know. They don’t succeed on these tests because they have not had time to master the material, They know enough to save themselves from failure, but not enough to ace the test. How could they? They didn’t have a chance to marinate in the material and fully understand the concepts before they were assessed. But we have to use theses scores as grades, we have to test at certain times. It seems the data is more important than the achievement of our students. The data is more important than taking time to teach social skills and problem solving skills. The data is so important we are sacrificing our children to make sure we have numbers to compare at any given time. A snapshot of how ineffective teachers are. Screw the tests! If I was simply allowed to teach at the pace of my students’ learning I might be able to help produce productive members of society on a larger scale. And better yet society at large might be better off if we could simply get rid of these tests, or at least the pacing guide that forces when to give the test. What’s wrong with education today is not really the test, it’s the powerlessness of teachers to do what they know to be the best for their students.
It is an exciting time!
I am welcoming the change coming down the line with Common Core and here’s why.
1. The script is changing!
I am no longer chained to the teacher manual. I get to deviate from the plan. I get to create! I come from a district where everyone must teach the same page at the same time in the same way. it is such a relief to see the beginning of the end of the robotic lock step I have had to teach in for the last 10 years.
2. It makes sense!
The flow of ideas from one grade to the next, especially in the math standards, make so much more sense than trying to cover everything every year with no mastery. Mastery is now a possibility. That makes sense. As does the focus on learning from content based text. Being able to decipher facts and bias are key skills in this day and age of pulling the wool over our eyes and spinning things to be what they really aren’t.
3. It’s Deeper!
I look at the breadth, depth and speed of what we have to get taught in a single school year and I get the image of a large very shallow lake or puddle, spread out in many directions. There is no time to really cover the entire thing and there is not enough to really go deep. If you are thirsting for knowledge, there is not enough to drink only drips and dribbles. With the Common Core it is more streamlined. More focused, deeper, more a stream. One you can dive into and get a good drink of. I will be able to get students to think deeper. And more exciting, students will be able to articulate their ideas and what caused them in the first place.
I’m looking forward to it. Now how will get assessed? That may evoke an entirely different emotion.