Charter school teacher speaks out about testing at her school.

The following is from a comment from a story about the Washington D.C. cheating scandal which was posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  This D.C. Charter School teacher explains how her school is creating a generation of test takers.  This is what happens when the emphasis in education is test scores and not student learning.

I teach Kindergarten at a “no-excuses” charter school in Washington, D.C. The accounts of cheating on which you report are certainly appalling and unsurprising, but – as you’ve mentioned – they are only the tip of the iceberg. Even if scores were left unaltered, and even if these tests measured knowledge that we as a society deem important, we mustn’t forget that these assessments are so poorly designed that they lack validity or reliability. One telling example: my school has adopted the TerraNova as our indicator of choice. Our status as a DC charter, our funding, our esteem in the reform community and our enrollment all hinge on the TerraNova scores that we report out. Since the start of the school year, administration has drilled staff on the importance of this one test. Teachers are pressured to study copies of last year’s test (legal? ethical?), instructional coaches design unit tests to mirror exactly the questions that appeared on last year’s TerraNova, students are prepped extensively on the importance of filling in only one bubble, and all dialogue about student learning has been framed around what they “need to know for the TerraNova.” Of course none of this is uncommon in schools such as mine. However, today I was informed that this year’s test will be *identical* to last year’s. Apparently the test makers only revise the test every few years. So we are quite literally training our students to answer this one set of questions correctly. And schools across the country do the same thing, resulting in higher and higher scores, despite lower and lower levels of actual knowledge. What sort of game our we playing? It’s like we’re stranded in the desert, racing toward a well of water that turns out to be nothing but a mirage. We as a country need, first of all, to have a national conversation about the purpose of public education; perhaps then we will come to realize that putting all our energy toward scoring well on a meaningless test is doing our children nothing but harm.

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About dublinea
President - Dublin Educators' Association

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