“The Thief of Joy” standardized test!


Learning From Lyrics
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
By Johnathan Chase
April 16, 2016

“All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.”

~ John F. Kennedy

Learning is about discovering your purpose and passion in life. Schools should provide diverse pathways and opportunities for students to develop and unleash their special abilities and unique talents…not standardize them.

The school experience should be about ENCOURAGING and SUPPORTING students in their pursuit of  diverse INTERESTS and personal ASPIRATIONS instead of RATING and SORTING students according to how well they master a set of common learning STANDARDS and one size fits all EXPECTATIONS.

Education reformers are more concerned with comparing how students perform on a standardized math and reading test than actually preparing our students for lifelong learning and providing a diversity of  experiences so that every child has the opportunity to achieve their cognitive, creative, kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, intrapersonal, naturalistic, interpersonal, potential.

Testing and training students to meet common standards does not prepare them for the uncommon challenges of living and lifelong learning.

“All students should master a verifiable set of skills, but not necessarily the same skills. High schools fail so many kids partly because educators can’t get free of the notion that all students — regardless of their career aspirations — need the same basic preparation.

As states pile on academic courses, they give less attention to the arts and downplay career and technical education to make way for a double portion of math.Maintaining our one-size-fits-all approach will hurt many of the kids we are trying most to help.

Maybe the approach will just lead to another unmet education goal. But it won’t resolve the already high rate at which students drop out or graduate without the skills and social behaviors required for career success.”

Robert Lerman, “Are College and Career Skills Really the Same?” – The Business Desk / PBS NewsHour

It is well documented that students learn differently and they most certainly test differently. Teachers honor and respect the cognitive, social, and emotional differences in their students by differentiating instruction and that same approach should be applied to testing students.

Considering the diversity of student skills and abilities represented in our classrooms, it is foolish to define and predict student success in life based on a narrow and shallow set of testable math and reading skills.

A standardized test does not measure the diverse skills and cognitive abilities of our students in a reliable or respectful way.

A standardized test does not provide a reliable or comprehensive measure of student learning or the skill level they have attained. A standardized test measures a students ability to apply the testable skills he or she has learned at a particular moment in time and in a standardized way.

The fact that a student does not demonstrate the ability to properly apply a numeracy or literacy skill during the administration of a standardized test is not evidence or proof that the students has not acquired that skill.

A standardized test may reveal how a student performs at a moment in time, but it cannot determine and tell you why this happened or predict how the student will perform in the future.

There are so many factors and variables beyond the classroom that impact student performance on a standardized test that is misleading and false to claim that student scores are a reliable means of predicting “college readiness” or measuring teacher quality.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

~ Peter Drucker

A standardized  test does not provide meaningful information to support and improve student learning because the score only reveals what questions the student answered wrong, but not the reason why.

It would be foolish for a teacher to adjust or modify instructional practices based on a standardized test score when the new group of students they teach the following year have different cognitive abilities and disabilities.

The real time data that is generated by informal and formative classroom assessment ( informal + formative = informative) is the gold standard of effective student-centered classroom instruction, while the data generated by standardized and summative testing is about as useful and valuable as “fool’s gold”.

“Effective” teachers understand that actionable and meaningful feedback is essential to guide and support student learning, and this data should be provided “in the moment” while the student is actively engaged in a learning process.

Teachers should strive to meet the individual needs of their students, not the “needs” of standards or tests. There should be high academic expectations for all students, but to expect everyone, regardless of ability and disability, to meet those standards simultaneously and in the same way, is silly and inherently unfair.

Governments create an intolerable situation when they couple standardized tests with national standards and then impose sanctions or “high stakes” on schools and teachers when their students do not meet these standards on time and in a synchronized way.

Education reform programs, policies, and practices would certainly benefit from a lot more common sense, and a lot less Common Core.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”

~ Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

There appears to have been a data-driven hijacking of the Common Core Standards.

The use of standardized tests to compare student performance devalues and ignores the most vibrant and vigorous components of the standards and abandons the promise of “deeper learning” which often leads to classroom instruction that is primarily test-centered rather than student-centered.

Standardized  tests measure only specialized and discrete skills called for in the Commmon Core but they are not a comprehensive ruler or appropriate metric for measuring student agency and a wide array of essential non-cognitive skills.

The unfortunate decision to use standardized tests to evaluate student mastery AND teacher quality means classroom instruction is focused primarily on rigorous and standardized lessons that prepare students for assessments at a time when many would be better served by vigorous and nonroutine experiences helping them learn how to properly manage their attitutes, behaviors, and emotions.

K-12 education programs should focus much more instructional time on helping students acquire and practice soft skills, if they expect them to master and apply hard skills in appropriate and effective ways.

Preparing our students for the challenges of adulthood and employment is so much more than aligning classroom instruction with Common Core Standards or predicting their readiness for college and careers based on a standandardized test score.

Student engagement is essential for learning to occur in and out of the classroom and students are more likely to be engaged when they participate in nonroutine classroom activities and meaningful learning experiences that stimulate both their hearts and minds.

Common Core emphasis on a narrow and shallow set of measurable and testable hard skills rather than cultivating transferable and work-ready soft skills means our students will be as well prepared for the real “tests” of college and careers as a contractor with a “fully loaded” tool belt who lacks the confidence, courage, ability, or DESIRE to climb a ladder.

Mastery of content may help a person get hired, or accepted to college, but it is content of character that ultimately determines who keeps their job and who will graduate from college.

While it certainly is important that a recently hired worker can read and understand the employee manual and quarterly reports that will be of little consequence if the person doesn’t possess the self-discipline and decision making skills to abide by the company’s email, texting, and computer use policies.

Focusing education programs on a narrow and rigorous set of measurable hard skills at the expense of vigorous social/emotional learning experiences that cultivate essential interpersonal and intrapersonal skills will leave our students ill equipped and unprepared for the real “tests” in life.

“Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.”

~ Doe Zantamata, “Measuring Up.”

Written by

Johnathan Chase


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