@alansitomer tweeted this article today, and I am eight kinds of worked up. Let me count the ways.
1. Any article about standardized testing has a pretty easy target in me. I am less concerned about how well my students do on standardized reading tests and more concerned with their ability to read EULAs, propositions on which they are asked to vote, and books of choice. What I haven’t faced–until this article–is the horrid reality surrounding how my students perform on writing tests. I naively believed they were scored with at least a fraction of the care I take when I grade writing.
2. I can barely read 10 essays a day. I’m simply not effective when I grade more than that. So, as the article reports scorer quotas of 200 essays a day, the futility of my writing instruction becomes so clear. Why do I spend a whole day teaching word choice, if their words won’t really be read? Why do I spend a whole day teaching sentence fluency, if complicated syntax is ignored? In short, why am I teaching kids how to write to a particular rubric if their essays will receive only about 5 seconds of attention? I’d much rather focus my writing instruction on how to write an effective letter to the editor or letter of resignation or letter of interest in a job opportunity.
3. I teach media studies. I expect all kinds of cronyism and conflict of interest and the almighty dollar making decisions about the news and entertainment I consume. I never imagined the same elements that make me a cynical cultural critic would apply to education. But to learn that standardized testing is a $2.7 billion industry? I have no words. Pearson (a standardized testing/data reporting behemoth) posted $652 million in profits two years ago? Abhorrent.
4. A tangent to the money: how many teachers every year lose their jobs? One number from 2010 estimated that 58,000 teachers nationwide lost their jobs. Yet in the year prior, Pearson made $652 million. Perhaps there’s a flaw in my logic here, but doesn’t it stand to reason that the money districts and states send to testing companies ultimately factor in staffing decisions?
Now, I may have been mildly worked up prior to reading this article, as I watched Waiting for Superman Friday night. I agreed with quite a bit of the film’s premise, except for one glaring omission–aside from villanizing high schools in urban areas as “dropout factories,” very little attention was paid to the plight of high school teachers and students. The subtext I took away was this: by the time I get them in high school, it’s too late.
But I don’t believe it’s too late–I can’t. Otherwise, what point would there be to getting out of bed in the morning?
This post has been a bit longer and more negative than I like, so in the interest of balance, an offering. Today was a a down day for me, completely unrelated to issues in education. As I drove around my city, I listened to this TED Talk, which smacked me out of my pity party. If you’re ever feeling as hopeless as this standardized testing article made me feel, remember that in everything we experience, the only element we can control is our reaction to it.
So I’ll head to school tomorrow, get to know my students again after a hiatus (student teacher), and look for 1,000 awesome things about my job.
I’m betting I’ll eventually find 1,001.