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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reality Check: To Test Or Not To Test (or what to test or why to test) etc.

http://interacc.typepad.com/.a/6a01053596fb28970c011571241546970b-400wi

Let me start with some things I think we must come to grips with:

  1. Testing isn't going anywhere, and is likely going to increase.
  2. There will always be an unfair advantage for some students when all students are tested with the same measurement instrument.
  3. There will always be those who use test results for purposes the tests were never intended to measure.
  4. The arguments for and against testing in education (like many things in education) sway too far to the extremes.
My Situation:
  • I teach in a school whose city at one time had the distinction of having the most millionaires per capita in the United States.  We also led the nation in divorce rate and Coca Cola consumption at that time.  We (Dalton, GA) are the Carpet Capital of the World.  We no longer hold any of those "honors.
  • When the flooring industry was growing, the need for workers increased (basic economics and human capital). This created a dilemma for the community.  There were young people available to do the jobs (according to one of the wealthiest men in the business), but because the young people came from millionaire families, the jobs were "beneath them."  Therefore, workers from outside the area were needed.
  • The decision was made to recruit people with textile skills.  They came from Mexico.  There was also a rather large poultry industry in our area, which made it more appealing for Mexican families to migrate to our community.
  • When I began teaching in Dalton in 1996, and did my student teaching in the Spring of 1995.  During my student teaching the Hispanic population was listed as "other" meaning it was less than 2% of the total population
  • I received my rosters for the upcoming school year, and at the time of this writing I have 126 total students.  80% are Hispanic, 11% are White, 5% are African American, and 4% are Asian.  I teach on the ELL team, so I realize my numbers are skewed, but not much.  We are a school system of about 68%-70% Hispanic, and we are growing because we are a city district, and in hard economic times people move into the cities (not to the suburbs or surrounding counties).
My Dilemma:
  • I love my students.  I have taught over 5000 students in my 15 years (spent 5 years teaching an Exploratory Computer class and taught nearly every student in the school for those years).  I am teaching little brothers and sisters of earlier students.  I actually will be teaching a child of one of my first students in a year. 
  • I want the best for my students, and I want them to gain those "unfair advantages" when it comes to opportunities.  I want them ready for college (if they choose to attend).  I feel bad for my students who want to become mechanics or home construction workers (contractors), and other high level "service" careers because most of these classes have been removed from our offerings.  So I believe I have the obligation to begin preparing my 7th graders for the likelihood they will need to attend technical college to get the job they want.
  • I also want my students to enjoy their school experiences.  I like school.  I liked school, though not everything about high school was good for me, it was still a good experience.  I want my students to enjoy learning, and to get that opportunity they need to get in classes with the better teachers.  It's a reality anywhere. I suppose that's the argument for firing "bad teachers" that is all the rage among the Michelle Rhee types.
  • It would be naive to think that student test scores do not influence scheduling, and in order to decrease drop-out rates I have to do what I can to get my kids' scores as high as possible.
  • It would be a derelict of duty to neglect the task of preparing my students to take tests (not just the 7th grade CRCT) but their future tests that will determine their opportunity to get into college.
  • So I have to prepare my students for testing.  I have to be sure that they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to score well.  I have to motivate students, not by test scores, but by helping them see that without high test scores they will be systematically and intentionally denied opportunities to pursue their personal happiness in life.
My Approach:
  • In order for me to accomplish my goal of preparing my students for the best they can attain in life, I have to prepare them for tests I don't believe in.  I have to get beyond this fact.
  • I have to get my students to believe and understand that in order to win they have to play the game better than the ones who created the rules. To me, that is the sad state of education in America.
My Hope:
  • I hope that one of my students will one day have the influence on policymakers, or become a policymaker who will have the outlook and sense enough to know we are working with children, and we are stealing their innocence and love of learning because of what adults think education is.

Posted via email from Murry's World

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