How the fixation on testing is erasing our efforts to provide a well-rounded education and threatening to lead to unfair teacher evaluations.
WHEN IT COMES TO TESTING, teachers, parents and even some students agree on one thing: They have had about all they can take. And for good reason. The fixation on testing is putting undue stress on educators as well as students, and, in many instances, punishing teachers and schools. It's also shortchanging vital parts of the curriculum, including arts, music and physical education.
Bonnie Cunard, who teaches eighth-grade language arts in Fort Myers, Fla., feels the pinch in her classroom, sacrificing hours to test preparation and administration. For seven of the 10 months in the school year, the entire language arts curriculum revolves around the writing portion of standardized tests, says Cunard, a member of the Teachers Association of Lee County. Students sacrifice time they could spend studying literature to practice persuasive and expository writing, because if they don't do well the school could lose its Title I status and the corresponding resources it needs to serve these children.
The system destroys holistic learning, says Cunard, noting also that it adds a lot of pressure. "The school is depending on me for the writing scores." Meanwhile, her personal evaluations (based on the value-added model) depend on reading scores—and she doesn't even teach reading; that's another teacher's responsibility. "It's frustrating," says Cunard. "I feel like I have no control."
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