I believe the drama of the current moment in education is a conflict between two opposing forces attempting to take the country’s education system in two different directions.
On one side, you have the movement toward standardization—of curriculum, standards, assessments, teaching methods, and ultimately, students. On this side, testing is the way forward. It’s a way to apparently control a multitude of factors that affect teaching and learning. It’s a way to make teaching a simple matter of learning techniques to get results. It implies that success looks the same for every child, that we can count on “if…then…” scenarios to work every time, and that the arts have no value.
The movement toward standardization means lots of money is needed to fund the creation and administration of more tests, the development of test preparation materials, and stronger data tracking systems. These endeavors add up to a booming industry funded by our tax money. This movement also means less money and time is needed to prepare, support, and retain quality, professional teachers, since most curriculum and assessment decisions are made without teacher input and creativity.
On the other side, you have a powerful movement working to create a real teaching profession, something we’ve never really had—due in large part to sexism inherent in the way the teacher’s job has historically been structured. Teachers are taking on more leadership at all levels of the educational system, revealing the complexity of teaching and child development and bridging the huge divide between the ed policy world and the classroom. Parents are speaking up about the value of their childrens’ teachers and the diverse needs of their children.
Lately there are forceful attempts by the standardization movement to take control of the professionalization of teaching by defining great teaching as that which causes the greatest rise in student standardized test scores. Will professionals and taxpayers allow this false idea to guide the education of America’s children?
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