April 13, 2016

Learning is diminished when public schools are required to build their school days around continuous testing.  Learning has become a victim when teachers spend their time “teaching to the test.”

It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket.

 .  .  . creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path.

 Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool, but treating test scores the way a corporation might treat sales targets is wrong. Students are not widgets. I totally reject the idea that students from underprivileged neighborhoods cannot learn. Of course they can. But how does it help these students to have their performance on a one-size-fits-all standardized test determine their teachers’ compensation and job security? The clear incentive is for the teacher to focus on test scores rather than actual teaching.   (Washington Post opinion piece by Eugene Robinson, “The racket with standardized test scores”)

 Why is this distortion of the learning experience happening?

 Our public school system, under undue pressure from our government, is irrationally focused on test scores in science, math and reading while ignoring the ultimate goal of learning — retention!

Equally unfortunate is the fact that traditional subjects in the arts, history and literature have all suffered through neglect.

What is really happening, however, is an advanced curriculum that is beyond the readiness of many elementary school students.

“Love of learning” is becoming a slogan of the past.  Homework loads have increased, even on first and second graders, and constant testing has become the norm.

Short term memorization and rote regurgitation are the standards in our current classrooms — to the detriment of thinking, questioning and discovery.

Where will our future innovators and critical thinkers come from?!?

Certainly not from schools who are mired in “No Child Left Behind” and the Common Core Standards with its high-stakes testing!

In her resignation letter, Pauline Hawkins (ex-English teacher, Colorado Springs Liberty HS) said it best:  “I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students … That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed to be a proper education.”

Of course, this constant insistence on testing will eventually prove to be ineffective and our schools will return, once again, to an emphasis on thinking and learning.

But, before we finally come to our senses, we will have failed an entire generation of our children.

More on Monday –  –  –


     — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)