Dave Zweifel on high stakes testing in Madison:
“David Wasserman, the Sennett Middle School teacher who was threatened with firing when he refused to administer one of those questionable No Child Left Behind tests, needs to be commended for having the courage to open a few eyes.
Wasserman eventually administered the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam when he learned his protest was a firable offense. He was prepared to accept a reprimand, but, like most of us, he needs his job and the family health insurance that goes with it.
His actions, though, served to get the NCLB issue on the table where it needs to be thoroughly examined not just by educators, but by everyone concerned about the direction of our schools. It’s one of those tough ones to oppose — who, after all, doesn’t want to make sure that no school child is left behind? — but it’s just another example of how this administration has succeeded in hoodwinking the country with empty and optimistic promises. A quick war in Iraq, but one example.
Rather than training young people to be well-rounded adult citizens, the act has forced teachers to teach only for tests that are focused on mathematics and reading, subjects held in high regard by corporate America.
Meanwhile, courses that make up the bedrock of good citizenship — history, social studies, arts, music, geography and science — get short shrift because if the kids don’t do well enough in those reading and math tests, their schools will be penalized.
Just last week the Chicago Tribune ran a story on Huntley High School in the city’s suburbs, a school that has doubled its student enrollment over five years and has had to hire 30 new teachers fresh out of college to take care of them.
But, because the NCLB act allows no consideration for any outside forces that may impact a school, Huntley High is given no slack as it works to get those 30 teachers up to par. Education experts say it takes teachers two or three years just to learn the school climate.
Another story detailed how the act requires that special education students meet the same test standards.
“It’s a great theory. Of course we want all students to do well, but it doesn’t always work that way,” one teacher lamented.
In Illinois, 297 schools failed to meet the NCLB standards this year. A third of them did so solely because their special ed kids couldn’t meet the requirements.
Problems like that have been reported throughout the country, but the administration and Congress act as though everything is going well. Just this week, a congressional committee that was working on improving the act signalled that it wouldn’t get to it this year.
Maybe — just maybe — teachers like David Wasserman can wake them up.”