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 eleventh and twelfth 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)
11. We are undermining and losing our best people.
As an educator, I can attest to the increasing levels of frustration and dissatisfaction within the ranks of teachers. We are losing fully 50% of new teachers in the ﬁrst ﬁve years of embarking on what they hoped was a lifetime career.(54) We are also losing a staggering number of veteran teachers, some through retirement, others through the frustration of seeing what has happened to education.(55) Think about it: are we really supposed to believe that a teacher comes home at the end of the day and says to her husband—“Honey, it’s been an unbelievable day at school; our reading scores just shot up 2 percent over last year.” The real truth is that educators are made from a complex conﬂuence of personal factors, and principal among them are a love of learning and a kind of reverence for making a difference in the lives of youngsters. By subverting that, by elevating merely routine performance to the front of what makes for education, we are actively undermining the very rationale for why good teachers want to teach.(56) And slowly, over the course of a generation, if we lose enough truly inspiring educators, we will lose their students too—the ones who see no particular reason to want to go into teaching themselves.
12. We are undermining essential American values.
Last, but not least, and perhaps most insidiously, high-stakes standardized exams support a very dangerous world-view. Jim Cummins, the intrepid advocate for literacy and second language acquisition, calls the NCLB mindset “an ideology.”(57) It is one that believes there is a single measure of human excellence, that conformity to the designs of those in authority is mandatory and that deviating in any way from the norm is wrong and to be punished Had it been our principal educational impulse since America’s inception, I believe there would not have been developments like Jazz and women’s suffrage, or ﬁgures like Anne Sullivan, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony or Franklin Delano Roosevelt—that we would be today a much less conﬁdent, innovative and resilient people.
At its core, the high-stakes standardized testing movement is asking students not only to not think for themselves, but to passively accept that all knowledge is controlled by authority. That you exist only as an individual, not as part of some larger social whole, and that you will be successful or fail based upon your individual ability to do exactly what others expect you to. If you step outside of that and try to do something based upon conviction, creativity or critical insight, your academic record along with a raft of social opportunities will be damaged. In fully embracing a high-stakes standardized testing regime, we are subverting a substantial part of what makes America unique and productive: our ingenuity, our self-reliance, our faith that we make a better tomorrow through creativity and collaboration, not conforming to others’ ideas about what we ought to know or be able to do. Instead, we are being asked to stay passively in our chair and make a selection from answers provided, obey all commands and regulations—no matter how punitive, ridiculous or restrictive—blithely accept the accuracy, fairness and lack of transparency surrounding the exams, and voice not a single word in opposition to the entire noxious enterprise.
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