Testing Abuse

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

High-stakes testing makes teaching bleak

Published online on Saturday, Sep. 26, 2009


During a post-game interview by Coach Jim Mora of the New Orleans Saints, he responded to a sportswriter questioning a game decision he made: "You think you know, you really do think you understand ... but, you don't know ... you really don't understand at all."

Coaching decisions are based on a number of factors: Who is healthy or injured? What is the play that best fits this situation? What are the conditions of the field, the direction of the wind? What is the quality of our athletes for his play?
So many details and nuances that only experience and training can take into consideration before making a decision. 

These are dark days for teachers and their students. There are so many who think they know, who think they understand, but they don't.They are not on the sidelines and in the locker rooms; they do not have the experience and expertise with this team, this group of humans. Decisions are being made about individual students, teachers, and schools based on test scores that few understand and by those who are far removed from the reality of the individuals in the classroom.

Educational judgments are being made by those who have deluded themselves into thinking they know, when they don't.Frightened to speak up, teachers who want to advocate for their students are squashed at site and district levels, and are not even involved in the critical decisions that affect the very core of their life's work-love of students. Their passion to teach is being subjugated to becoming a mechanical administrator of test day facts and figures.

There will be no Bill Walsh's West Coast Offenses produced. Creativity and autonomy will become a thing of the past. Students will be considered as so many widgets to be produced at a prescribed rate and under strict quality control.
Gone will be the value in the uniqueness of each child, in the variability of human diversity on which thrives our ability to respond to our changing cultural and physical environment.

Businesses will stagnate with plenty of robotic workers. With sameness as the mantra, new products and services cannot be produced from employees who have been trained into conformity. Families will find little reason to encourage their children to think beyond the status quo.

All of this because of high stakes testing? Yes! Drop in at our colleges and universities. Ask the professors the change they have seen in their students as a result of No Child Left Behind, and soon, its more insidious replacement: The Race to the Top.
Forget states rights in educational choices. Like students, their uniqueness will be bribed away by the funds only available to states who continue with the high-stakes testing to track students, teachers and their university training programs.

Why is it so difficult for so many to see the tyranny of high stakes testing? The answer is simple; they are not in the classroom. They cannot, will not, and dare not see the expressions on students' faces and the angst in the eyes of their teachers.Day after day, week after week, sit, look and have your eyes opened. 

Those who have seen the other side of the mountain know what the classroom is supposed to be like. They know what their students should be experiencing. Because they know, they suffer and see their dreams for their students wither away. They are forced to offer students only the goal of a higher score, not love of learning.

Our children only go through school once. Their teachers cry for mercy for those who have no voice to speak it: their students.
Horace “Rog” Lucido is a retired from 38 years as a physics instructor.He is a member of Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse and also Central Valley Coordinator of the Assessment Reform Network.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

On Peace in our Schools
By Rog Lucido
            Learning is a human endeavor. Life is full of different random events. We respond-sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Fruitful actions become reinforced and failures are noted to be avoided in the future. In short, we learn from both our achievements and our disappointments.  School is a place where educators attempt to mimic the real world. They create situations that have academic, athletic, social, artistic or political ‘lessons’ attached to each. Teachers hope their students see the value in what is created and make the connection to its parallel in their lives. Learning becomes more relevant.
            Thus, the educators’ world view is critical in preparing these lessons. If they buy into the viewpoint that the world is ‘dog eat dog,’ where conflict between humans, such as aggressive consumer behavior on ‘Black Friday,’ is the norm, then they develop ways to mirror that belief in our schools. The fastest, the strongest and the smartest become the winners and the remainder become the losers. Some state and national education laws legislate ways to isolate and separate one group from another, whether it’s students, teachers, schools or districts. These laws compare and contrast to satisfy a need to validate a ‘survival of the fittest’ world view.
            The high-stakes testing regime spawned by NCLB provides invalid test scores that are then used to promote an incentive to classify and categorize students, educators and their learning institutions. This degrades and marginalizes what appears to be the weaker in favor of those deceived into believing they are superior. This establishes criteria for conflict and division, pitting one student and educator against another and one school or district above or below others.
            The truth is that this is an artificial structure not based on the reality of the human spirit. One only has to see the ways we reach out to each other in times of need like natural disasters to see the magnanimity of the human heart. We reach out to help those in need. This is when we are at our best in making our world a more peaceful place.
            In the plant and animal kingdoms life is not about ‘survival of the fittest’ as common lore would have it, but rather survival of those species better able to sustain the symbiotic relationships with other organisms in the ecosystem. It is more a give and take proposition where one species seeks out its needs while providing a benefit to others. This process is mutual to the advantage of both.
            I am glad ‘survival of the fittest’ is not the paradigm from which I base the most meaningful relationships in my life. I seek out common ground from which deeper understanding and appreciation of likenesses and differences can be cultivated. We humans seek peace in our relationships. One of the main purposes of the United Nations is to foster peace between countries: ‘to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors (from the UN Preamble). Here at home from the preamble of our Constitution: ‘We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility…’
            We need peace in our schools-peace between students and teachers, teachers and administrators and schools and the community. One of the steps of peace is to eliminate the weapons with which we attack each other. We can go a long way in establishing this peace by eliminating high-stakes testing.

            Students and educators come to the common ground of school already altered by the aggressive aspects of our culture. Our schools should be a place where a redeeming society of peace is fostered. Countries thrive with peace. Families thrive with peace. Schools will thrive with peace. Anxiety will be reduced and productivity will increase. Let the symbiotic relationships between humans without the need for winners and losers become the model for our children and a better world.