Mark Binder: This IS the Test
Saturday, March 02, 2013
But threatening and beating the students with the stick of withholding a diploma based on their 11th grade scores on a test that was NEVER meant to be a graduation requirement is both cruel and ineffective in addressing the core challenges.
So let's take a test ourselves to see if we have the answers. Please read, and answer the questions below.
1. How do you think the “problem” of education going to be solved?
A) By better performance on standardized tests
B) By students and families taking more responsibility for their education and finally starting to care.
C) Smaller classes.
D) Teaching geared to the student rather than a clock or test
E) More computers.
F) Extend the school day and school year while bringing back the things students care about that don’t involve standardized testing, including more art, music, theater, sports, film making, video game design and other non-measurables.
G) A and E
H) All of the above, except A and E
Poverty Damages Education
Why do students in Barrington do better on standardized tests than ones in Providence, Woonsocket or Central Falls? It’s not because the kids are smarter. It’s because their parents could afford to live or move there for the public schools.
Students in low-income communities switch schools more frequently, worry about gangs and violence and may get less homework support from non-English speaking parents working multiple low-wage jobs to pay the rent.
It's hard to read a story to a child every night if you're exhausted. Even harder if you're working the night shift.
Also, to paraphrase Geoffrey Canada, if a student starts first grade a year behind, and makes one year's progress, she still starts second grade a year behind.
2. What inspired you to stay in school and learn? (select as many as you like)
A) My parents or another relative
B) My favorite teachers
C) My friends
D) I fell in love with books that had nothing to do with school
E) I knew that it was the best path to getting a good job
F) My performance on standardized tests
High Stakes Testing Hurts Teaching
This school, and many others across the state, have strict policies about what students are supposed to learn and when. I’ve even seen classrooms where teachers are expected to write their plans for the day in 15-minute intervals. I have been told that if a principal walks in and they’re not following the plan, “We’re in trouble.”
This isn’t how teaching works, and it’s certainly not how students learn—especially at the elementary level.
Anyone who has taught knows that teaching moments don’t happen according to a plan. Anyone who has been in a typical classroom knows that there are students of all levels. Some “get it” sooner and some take more time.
Teaching in 15 minute intervals doesn’t work, but teacher’s jobs depend on NECAP scores. Principal’s jobs depend on NECAP scores. (Somehow, however, Superintendents and School Commissioners seem to be exempt, and are rarely if ever held accountable for poor performance. They typically move to a new system, institute, blame the previous administration and institute a new curriculum.) This results in what? Teaching to the test. Teaching on a schedule, cramming, and test prep.
Teachers who are creative, who care about their students, who adjust what they teach, how they teach, and when they teach concepts based on the needs of their classes are being worn down, shut down and pushed out of the profession.
3. What do you most remember about your favorite teacher?
A) Good at managing learning in 15 minute intervals.
B) Excellent at producing results for standardized tests.
C) Only in it for the paycheck and healthcare.
D) Inspiring, motivating and unconventional.
4. Two Paragraph Essay: Would you want to become a teacher or recommend your child become a teacher in today’s public schools? Why or why not?
Testing Doesn’t Create 21st Century Workers—or Learners
Getting work today requires persistence, flexibility, and creativity.
Creating new jobs requires inspiration, innovation and the ability to persist in the face of failure.
High takes testing, especially in English, promotes short-term thinking and confuses learning with data mining. It encourages the belief that there is a “right” and a “wrong” answer.
And it punishes failure brutally.
Students who don’t read English: Fail.
Students with learning disabilities: Fail.
Students who can’t perform under pressure: Fail.
Finally, schools that have diverse levels of learners speaking dozens of languages thrown together… Fail.
5. When was the last time you solved a quadratic equation?
B) Last year
C) On a standardized test
E) I’m not good at math.
F) This wasn’t part of the material!
6. If your high school graduation was dependent on an 11th grade standardized test, and you were either hormonal, performed poorly under pressure, or know that you’re no good at taking tests, would you have:
C) Quit School
E) Begged my parents to move us to Finland or put me into a private school
The “Answer” isn’t MORE Testing
Yes, the standardized tests have shown us the problem.
What they don’t tell us is how to solve the problem.
7. Essay: How well did you perform on the tests you took in 4th and 11th grades and has it helped you create or perform in a 21st century job?
Note: If you don’t remember those tests, then you haven’t prepared for this economy, you can’t graduate, and you fail.
There will be a meeting for parents concerned with the effect that using the NECAPs as a graduation requirement on Saturday, March 3 at noon at 294 West Exchange Street, Providence. For more information, please contact Aaron Regunberg on Facebook at the Providence Student Union or log on to http://www.providencestudentunion.org/
Mark Binder is an author who frequently works in the public schools as an artist/educator. He recently ran as an Independent for State Rep from District 4 in Providence. You can learn more about his projects at http://markbinder.com or follow him on Twitter @barkminder.
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