TEACH TO THE TEST FAILS

America is not producing Rodans.

America’s school children are being cheated. They are not learning to think. They are being taught to pass standardized tests.

Bush 2 recognized there was a problem in teaching and evaluating the quality of teaching. Prior to his election, minorities and poor whites were being passed for social reasons. Get the kids through the system and out.

Bush 2 signed into law in 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In good faith, he thought it was the solution to the problem. He was wrong. Fourteen years later, the educational process is worse rather than better.

NCLB required standardized testing. From pre-K to 12th grade. In three areas only. Reading, math and science. Each State would be responsible for devising its own standardized tests. Most were strictly multiple choice. A few with essays added.

Schools would be evaluated based on the results. Teachers inadvertently were evaluated also. If the school did badly on a standardized test, it followed that the teachers must have taught poorly.

Some States required one standardized test in reading per semester. Others up to nine.

Recognizing that test results were being viewed the hall mark of competent teaching, administrators and teachers began teaching to the test. In other words, the test was everything. All else was forgotten. Like other courses such as Social Studies and the arts.

It became drill and kill. Teach students how to pass a multiple choice test in the three areas.

Practice/drill sessions became common place. Whereas generally one to nine tests were scheduled per semester, it now became as many as fifty plus. Over the course of the full school year, practice testing in excess of 100 tests.

Big numbers. Left no time to teach students to think. Teaching to the test was a rote way to learn. Like knowing the alphabet and being able to repeat it, counting to 100, etc.

The for real tests were required to be done on a computer. Ergo, the practice drills were also done on computers. Which meant that the computer room was no longer available for anything but testing. There was no time for students to otherwise use the computers.

Children were not being challenged. Even the smartest became bored with the drilling.

Many got the jitters. Fear. Especially the younger ones. It was heaped upon them by certain teachers who stressed the importance of the test and that the kids had to do well. Vomiting during the test became a problem. So much so that the Stanford-9 examination came with instructions on what to do with the test booklet in case a student vomited on it.

It did not take long to recognize that test scores were being used to reward and punish, in one fashion or another, schools and teachers. Some schools and teachers became encouraged to cheat the system for their own gain.

Some teachers began erasing and correcting answers. Answers on multiple choice questions were made with a # 2 pencil.

The teachers in one Atlanta school held weekend pizza parties during which student answers were corrected.

In 2015, 11 employees of a particular school district were convicted by the federal government of racketeering for changing answers.

Some administrators and teachers are guilty of gaming the results. Low performing students are encouraged to stay at home on school days. Or even worse, counseled to quit school or be suspended before the test is administered.

Money comes into play. The U.S. Government Accountability Office claims standardized testing is cheap. No burden on States or school districts. The Office says the cost per student for test purposes is $2 a year. The tests are computerized. Take one hour. Graded by a computer. The government claims costs are minimal.

Don’t tell that to Texas or Florida. In 2003, Texas’ education budget was $9 million. In 2012, $88 million. Florida spends an average of $250 million yearly to an outside firm to administer Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Eighty six percent of Texas’ school districts report standardized tests are “strangling our public schools.”

China produces some of the smartest graduates in the world. The federal government uses China as an example of standardized testing being successful.

Such was once thought so. By China itself. No more. China is in the process of departing drill and kill. Chinese educators today admit standardized testing has produced only “competent mediocrity.”

The Obama administration has become anti-standardized testing. In 2014, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the testing was “sucking the oxygen out of the room.” He promised to do something about it.

So far, nothing has been done. The problem is politics. Present day Republicans say the States should control education and that the Education Department should be abolished. Obama says the federal government has to have a hand in it.

The problem is money again. The States do not have the money to properly run an educational system. History tells us so. The money has to come from the federal government. He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.

At some time since the NCLB was passed, the federal government provided that parents could opt their children out of the standardized testing program. Parents country wide were complaining. There was to be no adverse impact on any of the students opted out.

Thousands of parents have opted their children out. To avoid the useless testing and pressure it placed on them.

One thing the federal government has for sure are too many laws and regulations interpreting them. One of the problems involving NCLB and opting out reared its head in a Manatee County, Florida court room last friday. The Judge, Karen Gievers. I sense her to be a defender of children.

Federal law permits opting out. Several parents opted their children out in Manatee County. The students were third graders. Some honor students.

The counties are the bad guys. The counties say because the children did not take the standardized tests, they cannot be promoted. They must be held back. The fact that some are honor students is immaterial.

Everything is money.

Federal law says ninety five percent of students must take the standardized tests. In order to qualify for federal funds. Less than 95 percent have taken the test in many school districts over the years with no repercussion.

There is an older law referred to as the retention law. I am not sure if a federal or State one. I suspect State. Which ever, immaterial.

The retention law says if a student does not take the standardized tests, the student will be retained. Fancy for not passed.

Several counties fear they will lose funding. Note again the retention law was passed before the opting out one. I would assume opting out superseded retention. Note again also that the 95 percent has not been met by many school districts nation wide over the years with no penalty applied.

This is the first time retention has been utilized. It is academic class achievement versus retention. Recall, several of the students were honor ones. All had passing grades otherwise.

The counties wanting to hold the children back are counties who are impacted if school funds come up short.

The Florida Department of Education takes the position that opting out never mandated that students be held back.

Judge Gievers has indicated she will rule this week. She may already have ruled by the time this column gets to press. I suspect she will rule with the students and chastise the attorneys against them. It’s a for shame thing.

During the hearing last friday, several of the students testified. Eight to 9 year olds. Each cried. One mother, also. The mother of an honor student. Through her tears, she could be heard saying her daughter was a good girl and she and her husband good parents.

All these happenings as a result of No Child Left Behind. Hard to believe. The law an admirable try. Much flowing from it a disgrace.

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