In the song, Tis of Thee, Ani DiFranco sings, “We’ll never live long enough to undo everything they’ve done to you,” and I believe this is the mantra we should associate with high-stakes testing. Standardized tests have plagued our education system since the 1920s and associated with the results of these tests are decisions that impact our students’ futures. I am not telling you something you probably haven’t realized. You probably want to change the system, but…..
and that is the killer word for all education reform is the “but” because this means that very soon you will enter this school year and have to subject our students to another year of this well-known enemy that has plagued us for decades, high-stakes testing. Testing results are what determine our future and our students’ futures.
It’s 2010, soon it will be 2020 and that will be a century of standardized testing, yet we will continue to never have changed this system.
The Damage to Educators
Educators are judged by the scores and that is the language that talks and makes decisions. Depending what scores our students make determines how our district leaders who never stepped in our classroom determine if we are good teachers. Depending on what scores our students make determines how politicians, parents, and the media evaluate if we are good teachers. Now it determines our school funding, how much we get paid, and what and who we teach the next year. This is why teachers teach to the test, because in this type of system it is easier to conform and make sure kids pass than to keep fighting year after year. I’ve seen some great teachers get burnt out this year. They were incredible mentors but they don’t want to be part of the school system anymore.
The Damage to Students
The saddest part is what these test results determine for our students. They determine if they get scholarships and in many cases the lowest achieving students come from the poorest families. If they don’t receive these scholarships then they can’t afford college. The test results determine if students pass to the next level. They determine which classes they have access to, what colleges they get accepted to, if they are taught by experienced teachers, and what privileges they receive in school. If a student fails and hates school then they are forced to stay for more grueling hours in either their summers or before and after school. In some cases, I have found these students have learning needs, but still forced to take standardized tests. The test results determine if their schools which are already the worst in the country are provided funds not to receive technology but to receive air conditioning and enough staff. In three of my Master’s classes I had different teachers tell me their schools in the US could not even afford toilet paper. The parents would provide this for their children or they would ration the toilet paper.
I visited a DODS school and they had a speech pathologist, a counselor, a psychologist, a special education teacher, a technology specialist, a nurse, and an English language teacher. I cried. Every teacher I met I told they were fortunate and so were their students. I cried because in Texas I spent a semester doing a reading program for a middle school with the lowest reading levels in the state. They didn’t have any of these positions and they needed them. The special education students were placed in general education classes as were the ESL students.
It makes me ill to believe some statesman who more than likely went to the best schools in the country and not any of these schools will look at the test scores and decide the faith of that school. It makes me ill to believe the media would rather make stories of teachers getting fired viral than to deal with the issue of the condition of the worst schools in our country. I went to these schools and so did my cousins and parents and their parents. It is sad that the same schools with the lowest achieving scores have existed for generations in my family. It is sad that this is the same for many of my family’s friends. It is sad that my family members for generations seem to continue failing at these schools and are stuck in cycles. It’s time to revolutionize schools. We need to step up and finally change them because I don’t want to have to see the same students stuck in these cycles of poverty and failing at the same schools generation after generation due to a century of standardized testing.
The only way we can break a century of the status quo is by first getting fed up! Not until we are disgusted, fed up and passionate to make a change will education reform occur. In my next post, we will tackle how we can try to change the system. For now, I hope you’re as fed up as I am!
This was inspired by a comment from Deven Black to this post, Children and Cardboard Boxes.