Educating in a time of “accountability”
On the heels of my post last week about the nature of educating, the New York Times has released a couple of articles talking about the successful education of children in poverty and the mixed performance of charter schools. As if on point, the articles focused on standardized test performance. No data from schools seems to be able to compete with “standardized” tests; any portrayal of a successful previously low-performing school zooms in on almost military-like precision around preparing students for the test.
Preparing for standardized tests often requires developing skills in pattern recognition and lower-level thinking mastery. But we deal with a lingering question: how else would we know students are learning?
Too often we let multiple-choice tests tell the full story of assessment. But equally, we assume that military rigor and drill is the only path forward to achievement for students in poor households.
I think the path towards being educated involves engaging students. To be sure, it can be very difficult to engage students adequately when working with 30 students at a time. Keeping so many people focused on developing themselves can be exhausting work. Teachers can use any array of things to gain a sense of where students are at. Empowering teachers to exercise professional judgment means embracing the uncertainty of some non-traditional assessments. Yet it is novel to require teachers to use standardized tests as the exclusive means of assessment. We cannot let a drill-focused approach that seems to be working in some environments kill another teacher’s professional creativity.