Reader Feedback

Following my two posts (here and here) on opting out of standardized testing, I have received numerous emails from educators. With permission, I am going to start posting them here, sometimes including whole emails and other times just excerpts. Because these people have much to lose, I’m removing identifying information and changing names to protect the letter writers. These voices are being discounted and demonized. And yet, these are arguably the most important voices for parents and policy makers to be hearing right now.

And so, here you go:

Aaryn,

Just wanted to say thank you so much for what you’re writing about high stakes testing.  I applaud your decision to extricate your kids from it.
I will disclose at the outset that I am a public high school teacher [...].   I appreciate that you’ve done your homework and understand what’s really behind so much of what is called “reform” and “accountability.”
This all plays out in the classroom in ways even more crazy than people suspect.  Here’s one example:   I work for a high school district [redacted] that prohibited novels in the language arts classrooms for several years.  We were told that since the standardized tests were made up of multiple choice questions and short reading passages, time spent reading literature would be time taken away from appropriate test-readiness activities and therefore an inappropriate use of instructional time.  (I was “written up” for teaching The Great Gatsby to high school juniors in defiance of this curriculum mandate)
And all of this takes place while I watch closely the rich humanities curriculum prepared for the children of privilege.  (My wife teaches at [a private school]).   The so-called “achievement gap” is quite small when compared with the “exposure to culture and art” gap that has widened obscenely since NCLB.  If this all continues apace public school kids not exposed to literature at home will read and write only well enough to fill out a credit application so that we can inflate the next wealth-transferring bubble.  (See “College, Inc.” documentary of PBS Frontline)
Thanks again.
Nick Carraway

3 Responses to Reader Feedback

  • Patience says:

    A school district that banned novels? I have no words. Thanks for putting these emails out there.

  • Kristen says:

    Protecting the identities of the writers is the appropriate thing to do. I simply despise a journalist who ‘outs’ people simply because she has the power of the pen. It really is the mark of someone whose writing cannot stand on its own merits.

  • I’ve been sharing my thoughts. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2011/nov/07/education-letters/?print&page=all

    I certainly hope we are rethinking school assessment. Test scores are driving instruction rather than reflecting instruction. The following anecdote proves my point. I was subbing in a seventh-grade classroom. The teacher had left a story for the students to read and a handout with comprehension questions. A student asked me where in the text he could find the answer to the question, “What do you think the author was trying to tell you?” I asked the student what he thought the story was about. His response? “I didn’t read the whole story. My teacher says we just need to find the key words to answer the questions.” This attitude is commonplace today.

    In addition, if we suspended testing for one year we wouldn’t have had to lay off teachers and raise class sizes. Given the cost of testing it is my firm belief that testing, the way we are currently doing it, is lowering both the quantity and quality of the education students receive today. The current system is insane.

    Jennifer Ouellette

    San Diego

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