by Peter Henry in the Fall 2007 issue of the Minnesota English Journal.
The first thing to do is to read the entire article. We just finished the first of several standardized testing sessions for the 2008-2009 school year. In our school system we give the ISTEP (the official test of the State of Indiana) and NWEA, a computer based standardized achievement test. NWEA is typically given twice a year, and in some schools three times. ISTEP, this year will be given twice...Fall and Spring.
I am amazed at the excessive reliance on these tests as a means to judge students, teachers, schools, and school systems. They are overused and misused in a manner which has rightly been termed "educational malpractice."
Read and share this award winning article by teacher Peter Henry, one of the founding members of the Educator Roundtable. The article won an award from the Minnesota English Journal in 2007.
From the article...
[Here is the first of twelve principal harms which] ﬂow from the high-stakes, measurable accountability movement in U.S. education policy. Each contributes its share to making schools a less than welcoming and dynamic place for young people, but, taken cumulatively, they are conspiring to make the experience of school something that children learn to hate. (References - in parenthesis - are available in the original document)
Harm Number 1. In the trash-bin of history: low order thinking skills
Standardized tests, typically multiple-choice and lacking in breadth and depth, tend to measure low-order thinking skills, the kind of short-sequence logic operations which are routine and involve immediate recall of discrete but obvious facts. There are two problems here: ﬁ rst, these types of questions are often abstract, with no connection to a student’s life and are therefore inherently uninteresting and unable to pierce through to their real-world concerns. We know, or should, that connection to a student’s identity is one of the surest ways we can bring him or her into the world of academia.(31) In a word, students ﬁnd these problems unimportant and useless, and many don’t care enough to put forward a good effort. Second, the kind of skill-set that these questions build is rapidly becoming obsolete in today’s economy. When you look at jobs that are being outsourced to Asia, it is exactly this kind of rote, sequenced operation that workers in India and China are able to do much more cheaply than the best-trained American workers.(32) Bottom-line: even if American students master these kinds of short, logical operations, executing them over and over again, the reality is there won’t be much demand for these skills in the world of work.
[Peter Henry is in his 20th year of teaching, having worked at De La Salle (1988) and Park Center High Schools (1992), and since 2003, at the Urban Outreach site for Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College where he teaches Native Americans. A graduate of Carleton College (1983) where he majored in Comparative Literature, Mr. Henry has studied in France and Mexico and taught both French and Spanish before moving into English and Humanities in 1994. He received a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas in 1990. He is the founder of the New Teacher Network (www.newteachernetwork.net), an online learning community for new teachers, and consults with school districts on new teacher training and induction programs. He lives in a frontier era log cabin on the banks of the Apple River in western Wisconsin where he grows vegetables, raises chickens and serves as a board member in two local environmental organizations.]
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