My Societal Sunday suggestion would be to find a happy medium. High stakes testing isn’t going anywhere, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus it has turned out to be for schools, parents, students, teachers and our government. In 2012, the U.S.A. ranked 17 in a global report developed by Pearson. Finland and South Korea topped the list. “Pearson’s chief education adviser Sir Michael Barber tells BBC that the high ranking countries tend to offer teachers higher status in society and have a “culture” of education.”
I’m a retired teacher with over 33 years of experience and I saw many programs come and go, but as high stakes assessments began to take over the educational system, many other things, like Physical Education, Foreign Language Fluency, The Arts and other very important subjects were reduced or eliminated. Testing became the focus and teachers were expected to produce high level test-takers. Always a rebel in the best possible definition, I was able to still implement the Arts into my teaching in just about every subject area since I knew that Music, Dance, Art, Theater, Poetry, Choral Speaking, Performance enhanced one’s comprehension and made learning fun. I always taught my students to say, “Learning is sweet,” which is from the Talmud.
I don’t believe we have what Pearson describes as “a culture of education,” we have a culture of testing. I also agree with Pearson’s assessment that countries like Finland and South Korea truly respect their teachers. I don’t believe we do in the U.S.A. Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying to reach out to every student and better their lives, because I was born to be a teacher.
Change really needs to start from the top for true educational reform. The U.S. Government and the U.S. Department of Education must use common sense and realize poverty must be eradicated; Learning more than one language fluently to compete in a global economy is necessary; promoting respect for teachers should start at the very top; Learning must be joyful and celebrated for all students in every school; every student should receive a top quality education and have the same excellent resources at their fingertips; all teachers in every school should have the same excellent resources at their fingertips. If true reform ever took place, we would see a startling reduction of crime, imprisonment and other ills plaguing society.
In Finland, teachers enjoy a status equal to that of other professionals, such as doctors.
The solution to a better education does not rest upon test results.
“You’re a wonderful human being, but the tests don’t show it.” Educator Chuck Lavaroni to Gilbert Medeiros after telling him he shouldn’t plan to go to college as a result of his test scores. Chuck later met Gilbert at a party in Marin County, only to hear that Gilbert got a law degree, worked as vice president for a large real estate firm, owned and ran 5 different companies