Schools need a timeout…….

Feb 22, 2013 by

Schools need a timeout…….

I recently found this opinion article through the Race to Nowhere Facebook page.  “Schools need a timeout on standardized tests”

This is an opinion piece by Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.  Sometimes others say the exact things you are thinking.  There are three sections in his article that really struck a cord with me.

“Most U.S. public school systems are attempting to implement at least three things at once right now: revamped accountability measures, reforms as part of the federal Race to the Top program and the Common Core State Standards. This is simply too much at one time.” 

I’ve worked in a few different school systems the past 7 or so years and all the changes are just too much at once.  When, not if (in my opinion) the new reforms fail there will be no way to figure out which parts work and which parts don’t.  This has been the history of failing education reforms.  Schools tend to change things dramatically rather than work the problem.

“But these same state-level departments have been hurt by the recent fiscal crisis. Moreover, they are beholden to legislators and executives whose assumptions about public education make them more likely to endorse a continued over-reliance on standardized tests to evaluate schools and educators.”

Schools have not been given the funding, time or training to make many of these changes possible.  The people making the decisions on curriculum, funding and judging success probably have little background in child development and education.  In my opinion, child development is hugely overlooked and that’s one of the reasons our special education numbers are so big.

“This includes teacher evaluation systems that rely too heavily on individual student performance on the current state standardized tests — a practice I vehemently oppose.”

Classrooms and kids are more than just numbers and data.  If one teacher has more special education students, more kids in crisis or more kids without home support,  their scores on any classroom assessment are going to be lower no matter how gifted the teacher is.  There has to be a better way.

I’m not happy with the changes I’m seeing in education and I know it is affecting our students in a negative way.  In general, I see a lack of memory skills, lack of automaticity with facts and general information, poor phonological skills, decreased processing speeds, poor critical thinking skills and a general lack of background knowledge with typical students.  Schools are so worried about taking data (because they have to) that key teaching opportunities are missed or there is no time in the day to take them.  Changes are needed, but across the board and all at once isn’t the answer.  Students and schools in different areas of the country have different needs and different problems.  Some school systems are actually dumbing down their curriculum to meet Common Core Standards, others are trying to figure out how they can do this all at once and a few schools are just saying we can’t do this and handing themselves over to the state.

Schools need good curriculums to turn out good productive citizens.  Losing time to practice test taking and learning a curriculum based upon a test is not going to improve or prove anything.


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