by Peter Henry in the Fall 2007 issue of the Minnesota English Journal.
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...
[The seventh and eighth 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)
7. More anxiety = less learning.
High-stakes standardized tests increase the levels of fear and anxiety of young students, and it is a well-documented fact in education that the higher the levels of affective interference, the less able students are to complete even low-order thinking tasks—not to mention the more reﬂ ective, higher-order skills which are crucial for brain development and future employment. The stories coming in from around the country, even around the world,(44) of students unable to sleep at night, acting out, exhausted from stress(45) and generally working themselves into emotional wrecks(46) as a result of hype surrounding exams(47) is truly disgusting. These are children, some as young as eight years old, being put in highly stressful situations where their test performance may have extremely serious repercussions for their teachers, their parents and the fate of their school. Why are we doing this again? Oh, right—for the good of the children.
8. Narrowing the curriculum to a lifeless skeleton.
Fact: 71% of schools(48) report having to cut back on important electives like art, music and gym class in order to ﬁnd more time for remedial instruction in math and reading. Some critics might consider this a step in the right direction, more like our highly competitive adversaries in China, India and Japan. But, as previously mentioned, in terms of brain development, pedagogical excellence, real-world skills and fostering intrinsic interest in learning, this is a huge net loss for children and our society. Doing more and more of what is not working does not equate with an effective educational program. We are asking children to do the metaphoric equivalent of bang their heads against a concrete wall for hours every day—and when we discover that it isn’t working, we are urging them to do it harder and for longer periods of time.
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