As teachers, we are caught in a crossfire when it comes to standardized tests. We do not design these tests, we have no control on what is on them so, therefore, we cannot adequately prepare our students to take these tests. We do not get the results back for individual students–just a score, if we are lucky, months after the student has left our classroom. Yet, these standardized tests will count in our evaluations on whether or not we are a “good teacher” or a “bad teacher.”
We are also in the middle because, when we tell parents that we do not think these standardized tests accurately assess their child’s knowledge, we appear to be self-serving. If we tell the parents that we truly believe they should opt-out for their child, again it appears to be self-serving.
We are in the middle of this battle, with everything at stake, but we cannot speak out, without appearing to be selfish and to care only about ourselves.
With the TeachNJ Law, our hands are tied even more. That law was a way to write out tenure. We are seeing the results of this law now. We are seeing more and more experienced teachers who have been effective in the past suddenly become partially effective or ineffective. We are seeing tenure charges being brought to get rid of experienced teachers.
I am not defending a truly “bad teacher,” but the reality is that there really aren’t that many “bad teachers” in the system. Most have left because they couldn’t teach and didn’t like children. The teaching profession is too hard for someone who doesn’t like teaching. There are other jobs that are much easier. There are other jobs that don’t require you spend your own money to have the materials students need to be successful. There are other jobs that don’t require all the extra hours that teachers put in to prepare for their classes and grade their students work on their own time. There are other jobs that don’t require personal family time be given up so the teacher can make sure other people’s children are prepared and ready for life. So, the theory of “bad teachers,” is a myth.
What TeachNJ did was make is easier to get rid of experienced teachers and hire inexperienced, new, younger teachers who will not spend their working careers as teachers. This law has harmed the students. By including the results of standardized assessments as part of a teacher’s evaluation, the profession of teaching is weakened. In what other profession does the result of one test determine a practitioner’s ability to keep a job? In what other business does one evaluation of 20 or 50 minutes show if a person should be allowed to stay in that profession? Yet, that happens to teachers every day.
As teachers, we know that these tests are useless assessments. We know that we are spending too much time in preparing our students to take these assessments, and we don’t even know what will be on them. We are taking valuable educational time away from our students to prepare for the unknown test. We know passing or failing of these tests does not impact our students, as far as their graduating. We are stressing our students and ourselves so corporations can make money on the backs of our students.
Yet, our hands are tied. We cannot act. We cannot speak out.
An assessment is supposed to be given on subject matter that has been taught to the students. It is used to determine if the students have understood the subject. If they do not understand, then the assessment allows teachers to see the results and to go back and reteach the material.
These standardized tests do not permit reteaching. In fact as teachers, we don’t even know what material will be on these tests. We are playing a guessing game right now. We are guessing what we think will be on these tests and teaching our students this information, but we are unsure. These tests have only two purposes–to make money for the companies that design them and to rid of experienced teachers.
Students will take the PARCC on computers, and yet what happened to typing classes? We no longer teach students how to use a computer and a keyboard, but they will take these exams on the computer and will be timed. Because I took a typing class, I type much faster than someone who just hunts and pecks at the keyboard. How is that fair?
Also, what will happen if the computer freezes or worse? Most of our schools do not have adequate numbers of computers for the students to take the PARCC assessment. What happens then?
If we as teachers speak out against the tests and our administrators hear about this, we will be disciplined. Without the unions supporting individual teachers, we as individual teachers cannot do much. As parents, we can opt-out our own children. As parents, we can speak to other parents, but as teachers, we have a gag order to stay silent.
What do we need to do as a profession to get the people with power to understand that they are aiding the destruction of the education profession and harming our students along the way, which in turn is helping to destroy the public education system and our future as citizens of this country?
Our elected officials should look at what Finland does. It doesn’t believe in standardized tests, nor does it believe in students beginning school before the age of seven. It works with the “whole child,” and supports the child and the teacher. For every hour of teaching 15 minutes are given to the children to play and the teacher to regroup. Finland understands that children learn through play, unlike most American schools.
Check out these websites for more information about Finland’s education system:
26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System
Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?
The country’s achievements in education have other nations, especially the United States, doing their homework
By LynNell Hancock – Smithsonian Magazine
Why Finland’s schools are top-notch
By Pasi Sahlberg
Finnish Education Chief: ‘We Created a School System Based on Equality’
An interview with the country’s minister of education, Krista Kiuru
Grace Nufrio is the pseudonym of a Newark elementary school teacher.