I’ve worked in the field of education for the better part of the last decade and over the past eight years I’ve heard the staff room talk shift heavily from more supply oriented complaints to the sort of complaints that are steeped in fear, confusion, and desperation. Teachers are frightfully worried about the course of their profession, the security of their jobs, and their ability to be creative in servicing their charges. Their control over the planning of their classrooms has been stripped from them, but the stakes of their performance has never been higher. America’s War on Education is soldiering on, and caught in the crosshairs of an adept sniper is the art and science of teaching, and by extension the teacher. The adept sniper is the “Teach to the Test” mentality spewing forth from the bowels of the No Child Left Behind Act’s mandate of standardization as a mark of quality in field of education.
I’ve many times expressed a, shall we say discomfort, with the practice of standardized testing as the panacea solution to the woes of the education process. The reason for this is because of basic education philosophies and common sense: people aren’t standardized. With that said, I will acquiesce that testing and standardized testing have their role to play in the assessment of students. They create baselines, they measure general knowledge, and they prepare and exercise specific sets of skills through English Language Arts and reading/written comprehension that are indispensable in the work place and adult life. The problem that I have is that standardized tests are being used as the only measure of success, and to a fault. Somehow the powers that be have been convinced that the tests are infallible and examine all the possible skills and knowledge gained by a particular student, imparted by a specific teacher within a particular year.
The top-down regulation of the field has stripped the profession of its creativity in a misguided effort to enact a change in the educational values of our country. One of the many problems inherent in this initiative has been to treat teachers as the ineffective piece of the puzzle rather than the myriad of disrupting and interloping forces in education—along with a schism in mandate that simultaneously calls for students to be treated as individuals and be assessed as heterogeneous. The push for boxed curriculum that eventually either nationalizes or federalizes the education system in this country has been apparent for some time because of a business minded, quantitative reformation on an undeniably human and qualitative field.