I think educational leaders (I have been making my voice heard in a few venues, most recently this morning) need to begin to challenge these assessments due to the issues of inequality for all children. We have moved from testing endurance to testing technological proficiency. When will the powers that be consider the best way to assess learning of content? And content exit exams are not the answer…
What I think we really need is to have a more realistic approach at the center of the argument. If what we need to do is better prepare our students for a 21st century workforce, we need to provide them with a 21st century education. That is one that does not espouse archaic Carnegie units for graduation and standardized assessments as measures of achievement. We need classrooms without walls; we need project based instruction and project based assessment; we need personalized learning plans for all students that appeal to their interests and their talents while they support their areas of need. We need students who can read and write for a variety of purposes, make change and leave a tip without use of their cell phones. We need to have our students play and exercise more and take advantage of more authentic learning experiences and get them out of INDUSTRIAL age K-12 assembly line classrooms. We need to offer “Option Two” type programs to ALL students and forget about the way we are used to “doing” education in the country. We need to move towards a system, like Finland, where they have virtually NO standardized testing and very high international academic achievement.
We aren’t preparing our students to work on farms and in factories any more. We aren’t preparing them to work in a suit and tie, in a bank, or in a shoe store for their entire lives. The youngest billionaire in the world (Mark Zuckerberg) goes to work in cargo shorts and flip flops. Most work places offer creative outlets for game playing and relaxation. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and even the banking industry aren’t looking for “schooled followers.” They want creative leaders and problem solvers with original ideas! We are NOT preparing our students for an uncertain world five years from now. What is the federal government doing to help us get the students where they need to be? Reauthorizing ESEA? Supporting National Standards and National assessments? It isn’t enough. What we need is a TRANSFORMATIONAL OVERHAUL in the way we “do” education in this country. And I’m frightened that the “powers that be” (including a whole host of non-educator politicians) think that common standards, national assessments, and holding teachers accountable for student achievement will get us there. They won’t!
We need to redefine the role of the teacher and the training of the teacher. We need to redefine the definitions of achievement, of learning and of preparation. We need to celebrate creativity, teach independent and collaborative work habits, demand ethical behavior, model service, foster leadership and promote a love of learning in our children. None of that can be assessed on a standardized test! We need to cut the crap, and do what is GOOD and RIGHT for all students. We need to embrace a new type of education in this country, and neither political party gives me much hope today.
I am all for improving education and student achievement. However, current reform efforts miss the mark, as the end result will be the transformation of schools into testing factories. Will this prepare our students for success in today's society? Is this what we want for our schools?