Testing Abuse

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

It's not just kids who hate tests-Bee Article

Fresno instructor Rog Lucido thinks there's a better way.
By Doug Hoagland / The Fresno Bee
(Updated Sunday, February 19, 2006, 7:06 AM)

Rog Lucido blinked back tears of frustration as he sat outside a Fresno coffeehouse. Surrounded by a dozen strangers talking, laughing and warmed by a bright winter sun, Lucido focused on one thing: a conviction that standardized testing in public schools is destroying teaching and learning.
The Fresno physics teacher believes the tests carry too much power and should be thrown out of schools.
"When you know what it can be like in classrooms and you see what it is today, it causes you pain," Lucido says. "If I'm a rebel, I'm a rebel in pain, and I'm in pain for what I see is happening to students and teachers."
Lucido says teachers scrambling to raise test scores can be so stifled in class that their students lose interest in learning, and he's looking for allies to join his cause.
He started a fledgling group, Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse, which is sponsoring a two-day conference March 24-25 at California State University, Fresno. Educators will speak against what they call high-stakes, standardized testing.
It's high stakes because important decisions on students and schools are made from a single test, says Elaine Garan, associate professor of education at Fresno State.
For example, some students may miss out on graduation if they don't pass the California High School Exit Examination. And teachers and principals at schools getting federal money can be replaced in the fifth year their schools fail to meet goals on another standardized test, Garan says. Government accountability programs set the goals.
Garan, who opposes such testing, will speak at the conference.
Fresno County schools superintendent Pete Mehas is not a conference speaker. He believes testing, while not the only way to evaluate students, has a place in schools today.
"Testing is the one of the most efficient ways of finding out whether a large number of students have mastered a body of knowledge," says Mehas, who knows of Lucido but has never met him.
Lucido, 61, retired two years ago after teaching in the Fresno area for 18 years. He is the grandson of Sicilian immigrants, the first in his family to go to college, a father of five and grandfather to three. He remembers being a boy who wanted to learn because good teachers ignited his curiosity, and he worries that is being lost today.
"We were tested when we were kids, but there wasn't the insanity associated with it," Lucido says.
He believes the emphasis on testing teaches students something insidious: "They get the message that the reason for learning is to do well on the test."
Mehas asks, however, "What's wrong with that? If a student has mastery of something, it builds their self-confidence."
And the effect of testing on teachers? Says Lucido: "It kills their creativity, it kills their spontaneity and it kills their enthusiasm to teach. It tries to sanitize learning. Learning is very messy."
Mehas counters: "Good teachers … don't simply focus on the test. It doesn't stifle their creativity."
But, Lucido says, some teachers are being told exactly what to teach on which day: "It's the one-shoe-fits-all mentality."
Lucido started teaching at 21 in the mid-1960s. He left the Bay Area in 1986 to teach physics in Fresno, where he didn't give written tests and he asked his students to call him "Coach." He wanted kids to think of him as being on their side in learning physics, not someone they had to endure.
Lucido tried to emphasize learning, not testing, in his classes. He would divide students into teams of four to work on written assignments and class projects. Every four to six weeks, teams would meet with him to "master." He would pose questions on key concepts; teams would answer, and could go away and learn more if they didn't get the answer right or they didn't know enough. Students could try to master as often as they wanted. Final grades were based on the number of units mastered.
"In the classroom, we have to create an atmosphere where students keep trying over and over and over again until they get it right," Lucido says. It's what athletes do, and it builds "an attitude of persistence," he adds.
Bouakham Sriri of Fresno, one of Lucido's students in the early 1990s, says she valued mastering: "We took ownership of the learning process and we had a sense of responsibility. We didn't want to let our teammates down."
Sriri now uses mastering at Fresno's McLane High School, where she teaches physics. She says the system works even under the pressure of standardized tests.
Lucido works with Sriri and other Fresno Unified physics teachers as one of his part-time jobs with the district. Off the job, he tries to spread his views on testing.
Says Lucido: "My goal is not just to change things in Fresno. This is a national experience. I am one of many, many people across this country working to change the insanity."
The reporter can be reached at dhoagland@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6354.


  • At 1:21 PM, Blogger alpinair said…

    The well written article is just a tip of an iceberg and introduction to the real world of an outstanding type of educating students.
    I have had the privilege of mentoring with Rog Lucido @CART a few years ago in his Physics/ Engineering classes. He taught me about "constructive" teaching and saw that it "really worked" in a world of "academia" type teaching where: I stand-you sit, I speak-you listen, I say-you do...etc. Students today want to be involved with the process of learning and learning together with /Brainstorming/Teamwork. This activates the mind and grey matter and involves everyone. Curious students seek to find answers and alternative/perhaps other and sometimes better way for them to master the subject.
    That is what Mr. Lucido is all about...inquisitive minds over nausea stuff that they may remember if learned for an instant or two (maybe even "THE TEST".)
    Students will then be PREPARED for working in the real world industry with substantial contributions while multiplying upon their skills.


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