Friday, July 30, 2010

Do We Really Want Testing To Disappear?

It seems odd that this is campaign season.  At this time of the year?

I am seeing a lot of ads for the Minnesota Governor race.  One ticket wants to throw out NCLB and the testing.  That's easy to say, but can a Governor really get rid of a federal program?  Can we afford to lose the funding that comes with it?  I don't know, maybe the funding isn't that big of a deal.

Do we really want the testing to go away completely?  I don't think so.  That may be swinging too far back to where things were.  These tests have started many productive conversations in my district.  How about yours?

I do think that testing may need a little fine tuning for some schools.  Are the people who are actually doing the teaching getting the information they need from the results?  Are the teachers getting time to reflect and collaborate with others on improving their practice when they get this information?  Are the conversations about the results focussed on the learning or is they just the start of another blame-storm?

I am not a huge fan of NCLB, too much stick and not enough carrot in it for me.  If you need help with your school, you really aren't going to get it.  It can also put disproportionate emphasis on the classes that have tests.  The testing doesn't necessarily improve instruction for high performing students because it sends a "good enough" message, when should really be helping everyone move to higher levels.  You may have other reasons to dislike NCLB.

Parents are using the test data too.  It is good they care about the results, but I am not so sure testing should be the only metric for picking a school for your kid.  There are two elementary schools in my district and I wouldn't have a problem with my kids in either one. Even though the test results from either school can show one as "better" than the other.  I think it would be better to go see the school in action when you are in a position to choose.  What kind of work is on the bulletin boards?  Are teachers able to do their job? Are teachers "connecting" with their students?  Will my kids be safe there?  If your kids have these things, I bet they will learn.  It's basic Maslow.

I hope that your kids have a great school...  well rounded curriculum, focussed on learning, safe and warm.

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