A forum for discussing what's working -- and what isn't -- in standards and assessments.

I'm mad as **** and I'm not going to take it anymore!

Erika Saunders 6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

I'm not usually one to rant and rave and complain without any solution or silver-cloud (at least usually not often, long or in public). But I've really had it with the test-centered mentality that education has become.

My school has been inundated with mandates, scripted programing, strategies, regional visits -- all in the name of increasing test scores. (Which, by the way, DID increase last year!) We need posters on the wall, student work displayed and in folders, fidelity to scripts, speed in delivery - but not too fast that it leaves anyone behind - but not so slow that your class falls behind the others - but slow down so you teach to mastery - but be sure to do at least one lesson per day.

Now, to top it off, they have just taken out Science and Social Studies so that we can incorporate more direct instructed, scripted Reading and Math. Yes ... that's right ... we now teach ONLY Reading and Math! And two-thirds of it is scripted!

We're becoming "Stepford Teachers". Why do we need intelligent, educated, knowledgeable, experienced professionals when we can have cookie-cutter, mono-toned, amateurs who can read on cue? Silly me for investing all that money in a Master's degree and becoming National Board Certified. I could have saved thousands and just taken a speed-reading course instead.

And to make it even worse, we seem to do nothing about it. Seriously, how many teachers are their in the United States? In your State, District, School? Why aren't we protesting? There are so many more of us who actually TEACH yet, it's the few at the top who are making all of the decisions.

I know times are tough. I know the economy is bad. I know how difficult it is to stick your neck out and risk your own future. (Trust me, many people would be shocked that I'm posting this.) But isn't this worth fighting for? Aren't our children worth fighting for?

Comments (14)

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Elementary Tech Teacher, Tech Integration Specialist

Times a changin'

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I loved your comment about "Stepford Teachers," sometimes I feel this way. We can do better than this. As a teacher who has been beating the drum for 21st Century Skills in our schools, I am now fighting mad about the need for 21st Century asseessment. You do not find out if students have 21st Century Skills by having them fill in bubbles on a standardized test. There has got to be a better way.
Brad Flickinger
Blog: http://www.SchoolTechnology.org

As a Canadian teacher in

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As a Canadian teacher in North Vancouver I have been following recent proposed initiatives by President
Obama to improve student learning. Standardized testing, in my opinion, is not the solution to improve
student performance. There is definitely a place for this type of testing if a school or school district wishes
to get a general overall picture of student performance and then use this data to implement new curriculum
initiatives; however, standardized testing stifles student creativity. We need to prepare our students for the 21st century. That being said, student inquiry and project based learning will enable students to acquire the skills needed to ensure their academic success in this ever increasing competitive world.

I know as a parent the

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I know as a parent the confusion these different programs and new initiatives can have on students. One year the school can be working on one program only to have that program junked the next year for the next great program. The result can leave students and parents feeling lost and confused with the inconsistency.

Teacher and ActiveGrade Partner

So many questions and not a lot of answers

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and we wonder about the rise in ADD.

Erika, I really appreciate your rant - thanks for being so honest. I find myself wanting to answer your call to action but feeling so unclear about what to do or how. How do we make a change? Politicians all have their plans and are held accountable to the data. How do you fight that? There are always new theories about the best way to teach, hence the adopting one initiative one year only to scrap it the next, as Malcolm said, so how do we agree on a good method and settle into some consistency? It's such a big project. Is it reasonable to expect a sound national educational program? Where do we start?

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

That really sounds horrible

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That really sounds horrible Erika. I remember when I taught in NYC, and it was starting to become very similar back in 2002 to 2005. "Incorporate reading & writing into every subject" they called it. "Here are all of your lesson plans for the year" they said.

What I did in my school was ignore all of the mandates and focus on lessons which engaged my students and kept them motivated and interested. I rebelled against the system and ignored it, and I knew that I was walking a line.

However during the three years I taught in NYC, I was observed by my AP 6 times, my principal 3 times, and the NYED officials twice and the only negative feedback I got was from my very first assessment of my teaching in my first 6 weeks on the job. In other words, all of those people could see I wasn't following the script, but the results I was producing in terms of student engagement (at least after my horrific first year of teaching) were obviously effective.

If what you are doing is obviously working, there isn't much they can argue about.

Technology Integrator Specialist for 1-12 Boarding School in Philadelphia

Speak when spoken to?

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"We're becoming "Stepford Teachers". Why do we need intelligent, educated, knowledgeable, experienced professionals when we can have cookie-cutter, mono-toned, amateurs who can read on cue?"

Thank You! What a perfect way to describe what's going on in our schools. I started my teaching career in a classroom of 36 students that had a gifted cluster of 7 students. I'm so grateful for those 7 students... they gave me a legal defense for going off-script from district mandated curriculum for the remaining 29. When we eventually got our test scores back, the data was great. We were a success! But the truth is, I had barely cracked the required texts. Instead we published magazines, held socratic discussions, solved weekly multi-step problems, played games and learned to communicate with each other and collaborate in a small room with a huge group. I'm proud of my quiet rebellion. I could sleep at night. :)

I don't have a classroom anymore. I am a technology integrator now. This afternoon, I had to look at "applications" from students who want to participate in a special after-school SeaPerch robotics program. One of the questions on the application was, "We will be hosting vistors and traveling off-campus for this program. How will you positively represent our school community?" I can't tell you how sad I was to see that multiple students included the phrases, "I will only speak when spoken to" and "I will do what I'm told" in their answers. Yuck. This isn't good. :(

@Michal I think you are in good company when it comes to the feelings you expressed. I don't know if you have read the book "The Courage to Teach" or not, but I occasionally return to it for inspiration and ideas.

Teacher and ActiveGrade Partner

I love all these stories of

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I love all these stories of teachers doing what works instead of just following the game plan. You guys are awesome!

Ms Greer, I have read "Courage to Teach." Great book! I too return to it when I need. One of my favorite parts is his ideas about the subject-centered classroom (as opposed to the student or teacher-centered classroom). Thanks for the inspiring stories!

I choose to hide my

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I choose to hide my "credentials" education-wise [this is also my first post in this website's forum]. But the thing that matters is that I am extremely passionate about the Education system and it's progress. Mrs. Saunders' comment is the spark in a very necessary discussion in that topic, so I'd like to thank her.

Personally, I think that the way to a better Education, spear-headed by teachers and students, not job-market demands, is to question old ideas and challenge some very calcified mentalities about Education. Assessment is one of them. It may seem radical to even ask this, but is assessment necessary? If so, why? Is it efficient?

Most people dismiss these questions because a) it is too essential a concept on Education to be changed even if it is flawed and b) they assume it is an efficient method and students need to be measured and quantified. But the hypothesis I'm posing is "what if" assessment is more harmful than helpful? Especially certain types of assessment.

If I steered this discussion to a deeper place than it was intended to go, I apologize. However, I do feel this is one important group of questions often overlooked.

Teacher and ActiveGrade Partner

Is Assessment Necessary?

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Thiago, I think this is a worthwhile question to ask. I think there is a distinction to be made between the kind of assessments that, as you said, "measure and quantify, measure and quantify" as opposed to those that help a teacher determine where students are and how best to guide them to the next spot. The former is about defining and rating each student by a number and teaches them that that number is *the* goal. The latter can help both teachers and students see what has been understood and what is yet to be understood and therefor can facilitate future learning. The goal then is on the process, on the learning, and not on the grade.
Of course, the tricky part is creating assessments that accomplish the latter and not the former, which is especially difficult what with standards and mandates and all putting the focus on the former instead of the latter.
But I think it's doable as long as we, as individual teachers, are very intentional in the kinds of assessments we create and are willing to review and revise our plan along the way. Does anyone have good stories of revising an assessment process to be more beneficial?

Let's stop talking about fixing public education and DO IT!!

My point precisely, which is

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My point precisely, which is why I'm mad!! And not to exacerbate and already tough situation, but who loses in this "race to the bottom"? Who REALLY loses when it comes to meeting state mandates and "chasing the dragon" of test scores and other labels?? THE KIDS!!! And we wonder why so many of them are dropping out or being "socially promoted" from grade to grade WITHOUT the prerequisite basic skills??? It's because many schools have stopped teaching and started to be "drones in the matrix" of the testing mandates and regimes. This madness has to stop, especially when our international counterparts are passing us by on ALL benchmarks when it comes to math and science! I could go on, but I will just tell you to stay strong and keep your head up and focused on students! Peace!

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