I appreciated the article in Mountain Xpress about our schools [“Unequal Opportunity: Goals, Timeline Lacking in Program Aimed at Racial Achievement Gap in City Schools,” May 22]. However, it reminded me of the saying that describes insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Please consider the following.
Our children are failing because they are living in poverty, not because of their race. The color of a good teacher makes no difference in the learning of a child. When schools were segregated, there were black teachers teaching black children. While racist attitudes remain a huge problem, the problem then and now is poverty and opportunity, not the color of the teacher.
The teachers cannot solve the issue of children “failing” because teachers are not the cause of the problem, only the scapegoats. All of our children can learn if they have teachers who believe in them and have the time to show that they care. Instead, teachers are threatened and blamed and spend valuable time training children to be good test-takers. How many job applications ask about a person’s test scores, the measure that is being used for a child’s success in school?
I used to think the focus on end-of-grade standardized testing was a waste of time and money. I still do. But after reading The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, a practicing pediatrician in San Francisco, I realize standardized testing is also very abusive. Sleepless nights, throwing up in the bathroom, tears and fears of failure, all for the sake of teacher accountability?
We are allowing our children and their teachers to suffer toxic stress under a false presumption. Learning is a process, not a moment in time. I am not opposed to assessing student progress, but most teachers are fully aware of the progress and needs of their students through assessments conducted throughout the year. End-of-grade testing does nothing useful to enhance a teacher’s knowledge of her/his students.
Where is the evidence that this wholesale testing of children once a year enhances a child’s educational progress or improves our schooling system? I challenge you to find an elementary or middle school teacher who has sound reasons to continue with the expensive and unhealthy practice of standardized testing other than “I am doing what I am told to do.”
Would you want a surgeon who is told how to operate by the legislature to perform an operation on you? Probably not. The assessment of children’s learning is not within the expertise of legislators any more than surgical procedures would be. So why do parents and teachers put up with this practice?
Politicians will make many promises as the bid for the presidential race heats up, but they will not be held accountable for those promises. Why is it that the president of the United States and Congress are not held accountable while well-trained teachers are? I suggest we end this testing practice, let teachers teach children and hold the politicians accountable for their promises instead.
End-of-year, standardized testing is an abusive waste of money that does little to benefit the future of our children. The cost of this practice is great. Not just in dollars but also in the toll on the well-being of both teachers and children.
— Dr. E.L. Halsey
Member of Veterans for Peace Chapter 99