Legislators are quick to say, 'look how much money we're spending on education.' They don't tell you, however, that much of that money is not going to public education. Instead, it's going to vouchers and charter schools...as well as to a huge bill for poorly constructed, inadequately researched, overused, and misused standardized testing.
Indiana legislators just passed a budget which many are touting as containing a substantial increase for "education." Unfortunately the increase is going for more expensive testing, private school vouchers, and charter schools. Also, the legislature has decided that schools in high income areas ought to get more...and schools in high poverty areas ought to get less.
"When you take the virtual schools, the charter schools and the vouchers and add them together at their most optimistic prognostications of enrollment you have 8% of the total student body of the state of Indiana. They are getting a third of that $474 million, a third. Those 137 school districts are losing $500,000." Ann Delaney on Indiana Week in Review (start at about 2:40) this week when asked to comment about the "education session" of the indiana General Assembly and the 137 public school districts that will lose money even though the average increase is 2.3%.
Ask a teacher about Indiana's state assessment, ISTEP+.
- Is it aligned to a developmentally appropriate curriculum?
- Does it really give teachers any more information about how their students learn?
- Are results returned in a timely fashion with useful data for guiding instruction?
- Why are we spending so many millions of dollars which could be (and should be) used for instruction?
Assessment is an important part of education, but teachers assess students every day and a teacher's assessment of a student, through grades, observations, quizzes and yes, even tests, is more accurate than standardized tests.
"Don't label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test...You didn't devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do." -- Candidate Barack Obama, Summer 2007
How much of our education budget is being spent on something other than the students? Testing is one of the biggest thieves of resources from the classroom. We're holding schools with minimal resources -- lack of books and materials, poor technology, large class sizes, leaky roofs, poorly supplied bathrooms -- to the same standards as schools in wealthy areas with state of the art science labs and computer access.
The corporatization and privatization of public education is hurting the most vulnerable students. The reason is profit. Testing companies are stealing billions of tax dollars which should be used for the benefit of students.
COLLEGE AND CAREER READY
President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the usual gang of "reformers" -- who mostly know nothing about education, even less about public education, and virtually nothing about urban public education -- have been obsessively focused on international test scores. We have to raise our nation's test scores and the way to do that is to make sure that every child is "college and career ready."
Test scores, according to the "reformers," are the only things necessary to make all children "college and career ready" so all we have to do is make the tests better and all our children will succeed.
That is, of course, wrong. We have known for decades that there is a direct correlation between school achievement and poverty. We learned in the 70s that programs targeting children in poverty helped improve achievement. We also know that best practices for early childhood education and young children must include play, hands on learning, and multi disciplinary projects. Worksheets, and paper and pencil activities have a place early on, but a very small place, and testing certainly should not be the focus.
"College and career ready" academics are something that ought to wait until children are closing in on college and career ready chronologically! This quote from a Bloomington, Indiana mom is simple, yet perfectly on point.
Support Teachers of Conscience
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
Stop the Testing Insanity!
Vermont State Board of Education: Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability, Adopted August 19, 2014