testing what? pt. 2

i by no means intended to convey that the educational system, its successes AND failures, should not be measured. i as a taxpayer also would like to know exactly how my dollars are “working”… much like the fee usage signs around the national parks as of late, which i do stop to read every once in awhile…. short descriptions of how this new project is helping a certain national forest or wilderness area… while the logging truck passes by me, and another, and another…..

but back to assessment. i guess what i intended to communicate was the fact that standardized tests, although cost effective? expensive? – (and i take this moment to make a correction since i did have to take a series of standardized test called the CSET in order to prove my competency in the subject matter of social studies… hurt to pay for those) should not be the “chief determiner” of the success/failure of neither the students, teachers, or the system in general… although i do feel that you can make substantial inferences about an educational system that expects quality yet is obsessed with measuring quantity. this article on the PTA national website brings up some good points for the benefit of parents. the parents being one of the chief determining factors of student achievement. for a less “fair and balanced” perspective, this article by Alfie Kohn speaks about the implications of our nation’s perception, treatment, expectation, and support of our schools and students.

what we should focus on is varied assessment, that may provide more information about what and how our students are learning. assessments that measure not only recalled facts and one mode logical reasoning to bypass trick test questions, but ones that measure students ability to think critical about an issue, analyze and evaluate it, and most importantly create and communicate the fruits of their ideas. we need more ways to see these things. or maybe i just need to read between the bubbles?

testing what?

this rant cannot be original. i can not be the only one to have felt these feelings. as an educator, student, member of the work force, and common sensed person (or so i like to think)… i still cannot for the life of me understand the logic behind the testing craze. what are these 3 day long exercises in tedious, bubble filling measuring? what is the so called quantitative data produced when 23 sixth graders are forced to remain seated and silent, despite all the hormone biology working against one’s “natural” inclination to do what seems so simple to adults? wait a minute… it is impossible for me to sit silently for so long and do tedious and meaningless work…

perhaps it is because i chose a profession that does not require me to sit at a desk all day long doing that type of work, although you wouldn’t know it from the amount of “highly qualified” teachers and substitutes who do surf the internet, read the paper, and conference on their blue tooth wireless devices while delivering “high level and rigorous” instruction to the students seated before them… but getting back to the bubbles. i still have yet to be thankful for the days i spent taking tests… they have not provided me with skills that make me more fit for my work place, and my profession deals with more standardized tests than any other i know of. standardized tests have provided me with no opportunities in my life. i hold a bachelors, and masters degree, neither of which were the result of any standardized test. i did not take the SATs, CASHEE, or any other acronym… what has gotten me this far is my ability to express myself thru both written and non-written verbal communication. never have i communicated to any degree of success (meaning i have never been clearly understood) by filling in bubbles…

perhaps they teach our students how to manage stress… yet i doubt that any one of my students, many of whom have directly experienced some of the most horrifically stressful events need practice in stress management… i however may need it. for as i observe my students cooperatively sharing a limited amount of markers and art supplies after completing the test, communicating non-verbal with much success, creating art and expressing themselves…. all i can do is stress out about the noise level from the creaky, sub-standard furniture and the old wood floors that might be making it difficult for the few who have not finished to concentrate on FILLING OUT BUBBLES!!!!

education has truly become irrelevant… no wonder there is so much frustration from our students in inner city schools, see Locke article

Father, where have you gone?

for weeks i have not posted anything… lord knows i have tried. apparently writer’s block begets those who are not even writers, but under a more common name i would say… overwhelmed. i have been overwhelmed as of late. for various reasons, obviously. i say obviously because the nature of the word suggests various reasons… too many things to handle efficiently. and i feared too many to express eloquently. so i waited until, perhaps one day this block would pass. but i realized that they never pass, just like being overwhelmed by things never goes away until you deal with some of the issues overwhelming you… one at a time.

some of the things i attempted to write about; wilderness trips, rites of passage, school reform, thought reform in communist China, graffiti, youth violence, union chapter building, high school football, hegemony, use of public space, critical literacy, the wire (the season i am currently watching), the rant of reverend wright, the deaths of 50,000 plus and 70,000 plus….. and one father…..

what do all these things have to do with each other? everything… if you are me right now. this is what overwhelmed look like. a bunch of thoughts that are not adequately explained… left for you to search and sort on your own. kind of like the death of a father. just as many if not more (definitely more) unanswered questions, unorganized thoughts, uncontrollable emotions, unforgettable memories, unintelligible dreams….

yet it is in the dreams and in nature where all these things have made the most sense to me. losing my father has put me in several places all at once. many of which are juxtaposed, not seemingly plausible in coexistence. yet here i am. strong yet vulnerable. found but lost. it baffles me to realize that so many of my students are going thru this and yet i rarely ever address it in my curriculum. how do i help them? how do i help the two students of mine whom were shot this past year? and their families? friends who are still in my class? all of the links of life have to be connected by those of death. and if i am ever to teach in an interconnected way i have to remember that.

i think the only thing to do is to embrace this feeling and maybe begin to express it, talk about it, write about it. something besides think about it. i know where my father has gone… i helped to bring him there. by the side of his favorite lake, under the shadow of his favorite mountains, in the company of those who loved him…. that is where he has gone. and i am here. still overwhelmed….. but confident that i will find my way again. rest in peace Dad.