Excuse me. Does time spent clapping and rapping really raise test scores? I naively thought that a teacher would teach a subject to the best of his or her ability. The students would be assessed for a minimum level of competency. If a significant number of students did not reach this minimum level, it would signal the teacher or the curriculum needed to adjust. However, this approach throws the entire education establishment into a frenzy. Because the students’ performance is actually a test result for the teachers and school system, the focus shifts from teaching the material to teaching the test. Like kudzu vines along Southern roadsides, these tests have swallowed the curriculum.
In Texas they are known as TCAT’s. In Florida they are FCAT’s. In Maryland they are MSA’s. Here in Virginia the assessment tool is the SOL. (Standard of Learning) Do you think there is a subliminal message in this name choice? One must pass a minimum number of SOL’s for high school graduation. My oldest son transferred into a Virginia high school from Florida during his junior year. There is no reciprocity between states. The FCAT’s he passed with flying colors in Florida were not sufficient to satisfy the Virginia SOL requirements. For one week he was pulled from his junior level classes to take SOL’s on courses he took his freshman and sophomore years. Of course that meant he had to learn the junior level material on his own since checking off the SOL box for his past school work was more important than receiving instruction in his current classes.
For an interesting contrast, please read this article from the Atlantic online.
Tooley is a professor of education policy at England’s University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Several years ago he was working as a consultant in Hyderabad, India, for the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank. One afternoon, while wandering around the alleys beside the Charminar (a sixteenth- century monument and Hyderabad’s best-known tourist attraction), he came across a school for the children of slum dwellers. To his surprise, he found that this was not a state school but a private one—providing education to the extremely poor and collecting fees (of a few rupees a day, or less than a dime) for its services. Intrigued, he kept looking, and found other, similar schools. They were typically small and shabby operations, sometimes occupying a single classroom, staffed in some cases by just the teacher-proprietor and an assistant. Yet they were busy—crowded with eager pupils—and the teacher was actually teaching.
The point of this is that when teachers are there to teach and students are there to learn, learning occurs. The challenge is to ensure accountability without the assessment tool becoming a distraction and hindrance to actual learning. Is this really that hard?