Slice of Life Story Day 13 Today I Feel Testy!
I read an article in my newspaper of choice this morning and it encapsulated all that I have feared for so long regarding high stakes testing.
Australia has followed the lead of and gone down the path of high stakes testing in schools. Since 2008 national testing (NAPLAN) has been part of the educational landscape in years 3, 5,7 and 9. It is therefore no surprise to find a 2010 survey of Secondary schools found more than two thirds spent more time on test practice since the Federal government went public with the test results on a dedicated web site called My School. Some schools have begun spending increasing amounts of time and energy ‘preparing’ students for NAPLAN. The outcome of this is the narrowing of curriculum options and more time devoted to teaching to the test. The problematic ‘test prep’ becomes the panic button by which many teachers operate. They abandon teaching in ways they know to be effective and begin a regime of practices that are soul destroying and just dont stand up to scrutiny about what we know about student engagement. America
Pressure from education bureaucrats to improve results begins to mount. Accompanying this is an ill informed political imperative to ‘fix’ schools. Politicians are the worst thing that can happen to a school system. This sad rhetoric starts to dominate the conversation that surrounds education. Too much reliance has been placed on a highly questionable assessment and schools are being judged on the outcomes resulting from this one off testing. Formative assessment is devalued or worse still not even considered. External assessment reigns supreme.
During my six years living and working in the
I saw nothing that convinced me that this approach works. Decades of testing don’t appear to have improved US ’s international educational standing. It has however skewed the curriculum in the direction of literacy and numeracy while narrowing student options in the arts, sciences and humanities. Schools in poorer areas tend to be stigmatized and punished by this testing regime, and this further entrenches disadvantage. Testing reigns over the educaitonal landscape like a schoolyard bully. America
The publication of league tables presenting lists of the ‘worst’ schools are great fodder for Rupert Murdoch’s New Limited media outlets. When I first saw this practice in the New York Post, in 2004 I was horrified. I was at that time working to support teachers in one of the middle schools so named. The efforts of that school community to improve the learning outcomes for students received a mugging that particular day. They were angry, demoralized, hurt and totally gutted. They needed a hand up and all they got was a kicking.
the federal government promised that this type of simplistic comparison between schools would not happen, but it is happening! Last week Murdoch’s Herald Sun newspaper (here in Australia, ) without compunction, published lists of NAPLAN results that compared the top five schools and the bottom five schools. Absolutely no consideration was given to their different profiles, their different needs. Many uninformed people will read this impoverished data and draw erroneous conclusions about the circumstances surrounding these diverse school communities. They will elevate the results of NAPLAN to a position it does not deserve. Melbourne, Australia
I recall Professor Richard Allington, eminent educator and researcher stating in a talk at
, ‘Thirty years of research have revealed the startling fact that kids are different and yet we persist in making them fit the curriculum instead of the curriculum fitting their needs.’ How true is that? Columbia University
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I will return to cleaning our new windows and then enjoy the remains of the day…
Link to news article from the Melbourne Age