When Testing Really Harms.

I’m a bit behind on the blogging class, so I’m making a mad push tonight to get all caught up. First step: read an educational blog from Teach 100 and write about it. I was ecstatic to see Diane Ravitch’s blog was an option.

I first encountered Diane Ravitch many years ago when I was on a non-fiction kick and I read her book The Language Police–a book about how textbooks across the country were being bastardized and diluted in the name of political correctness. While I didn’t agree with all of her premises (and at the time of the book, she was a champion of NCLB), I still enjoyed her writing style.

Almost a decade later, Ravitch is now a passionate advocate against NCLB (all standardized testing, really), and the corporate influences on public education. This post links to a story that describes the devastating effect of NCLB when applied without a modicum of mercy. My brother-in-law teaches at the Iowa School for the Deaf, he IS deaf, my sister is an interpreter for the deaf, so I have a cursory knowledge of deaf culture.

As I read that story, my heart did break–not only for the students and staff of the Rhode Island School of the Deaf, but also for the hundreds of other schools across the country under scrutiny for not meeting capricious benchmarks mandated by people whose own children attend private schools. I thought of my brother-in-law, and how hard he works with his students, and the unique challenges deaf students encounter as they seek education. I thought of my own students, the past three weeks missing classes to engage in Nebraska state testing. And I thought of the long wait to see their scores, and the sadness I’ll no doubt feel when our school is measured against all other Omaha area schools–a number that means absolutely nothing to the public, a number intended to say School A is so much better than School B; the subtext that School A’s teachers care so much more than School B’s.

I’m not teaching English next year, and barring deep, devastating cuts in the future, I probably won’t teach English for a long time. But I’m still responsible for making sure my students can read and write, and yes (sadly), do well on those mandated tests.

I hope I’m still teaching when the pendulum swings a little more back to center, so I can spend some time in a profession I love, out from under the scrutiny of politicians, pundits, and philanthropists who all seem to think they can do my job so much better than I can.

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