Mar 12, 2012

BOOK: Tested

I'm reading Tested by Linda Perlstein. Though it's non-fiction, it reads like a novel, telling the story of a principal in Anapolis, MD who deals with NCLB and other challenges.

At this point of the story, the district is dictating a change in the math adoption, and they're doing it mid-year. Already, the district has made changes without consulting principals and teachers, so the connection is made to business practices.

"In 2002, an ice cream company chief named Jamie Robert Vollmer explained how he learned to stop criticizing schools for unbusinesslike behavior. Once he paid attention, he said, he learned that schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenues stream, and they are constantly mauled by howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night'" (104).

Chapter 10 describes the conflict of tested subjects and available time--some subjects are postponed or ignored. To help, the administration encouraged the teachers to teach science and social studies through the reading block--assigning science books or sheets as reading assignments. Of course, that's a ridiculous way to teach science. 

"Child development experts frequently stress that learning to solve problems is the keystone of successful intellectual development. Working in groups, asking questions, and seeking answers is possible for even the youngest students, when given the chance and the guidance. This takes time, this often cannot be scripted, this runs the risk of a classroom that is not quiet. But it is worth it--especially for children who don't learn these kinds of skills outside the classroom" (133).

I finished the book--enjoyed it. Having politicians and the public read this book would open a few eyes, I think. It helps to illustrate the juggling act and non-education issues that plague teachers. I'm going to end this post with a few quotes. 

"The achievement gap is slave to the imagination gap and what author E.D. Hirsch Jr. calls the 'knowledge gap'; the first cannot be closed as long as the other two yawn large. It is not just because knowledge will motivate children, though that is a factor. It is because, as Hirsch points out, reading is meaningless without knowledge beyond the scope of what students might be able to decode in text" (138).

"Observers who aren't conspiracy theorists detect a symbiotic relationship among many of the private-sector beneficiaries of the school accountability movement... As several people involved in the crafting of No Child Left Behind told me, lobbyists for testing and school improvement businesses had a far greater role in the law's creation than did associations representing actual educators" (193).

"[A]ssessment experts emphasize it is merely a snippet of time, a snapshot taken on a yearlong trip, and should be treated as such. America's policymakers, eager to use test results as the basis for reform, either haven't gotten this message or choose not to heed it. They dismiss, too, the concerns of many academics that standardized tests tell you... about other factors such as family income, inherited aptitudes, a child's level of effort, or even, particularly for the emotionally disturbed, mood" (214).

"While there are analysts who so strongly believe that America's test scores predict workforce earnings that they have tied monetary value to each point, others assert that research shows no direct connection between scores and what the country ultimately wants its schoolchildren to become: well-paid, college-educated, responsible, motivated, and productive workers and citizens" (241).

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