Today my daughter will sit for an exam that has no correlation to what she has been learning. She's in GT Geometry, and there's no test for that yet, so she'll be tested on the algebra curriculum she learned two years ago. I mean, they have to take some test, right? It doesn't really matter what, right?
Yesterday I saw a five year old boy sit in a chair while he was assessed by a staff member. He sat, away from his classroom, and the adult followed a script in an even tone, pausing only to mark down his responses. It was an oral assessment of phonemic awareness skills. It seemed to go on a very long time. I found out later that the assessment is given four times in the year, plus a pre-assessment at the beginning. When I talked to the para-professionals later about the assessment, none of them felt it was developmentally appropriate.
Today my husband takes his choral groups to an adjudication. It's an assessment for choirs. There will be ratings, points given and added up, a number given which is supposed to stand for some level of proficiency. For my husband, music is about learning, doing, experiencing, sharing. Ratings and competitions are completely beside the point to him. The growth of his students is what matters.
And, do you know what? I think that most teachers feel this way.
Testing students in something they aren't even learning will not make them college and career ready. Making young children sit still for extended periods to endure inappropriate assessements will not make them college and career ready. College, career, and, let's face it--life are about learning, doing, experiencing, sharing.
Teachers know this. Parents know this.
In his speech in Selma this past weekend, President Obama said,
Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word "We." We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.
How we educate our children is a task that belongs to everyone. It is not simply in the hands of the Department of Education, or Arne Duncan, or the Superintendent of Schools or the Board of Education. We know better. We must do better.