I agree with what you're saying, but standardized tests are not new,
and are extremely important in assessing student deficits and needs.
They're not going away.
"Teaching to the test" is not a new
phenomenon since NCLB - but NCLB
has made the stakes higher.
It's new to me. I know nothing about other states and countries'
systems, but I'm very familiar with the state of New York. I took
many standardised tests in my day; the Iowa test was a big one
administered several times as I progressed through grade school. In
high school, I took several Regents exams, the culmination of the
rough equivalent of a first year university class. Did teachers do
some review to help us deal with those tests? Sure they did, but the
sum total of my classroom time wasn't spent on those tests.
It is now.
And giving the test _only_ at the
beginning of the year and not the end is,
IMO, designed more to hide poor teacher
performance than to adjust curriculum to
focus on student needs.
I can't say one way or another. I can only reiterate that the NEA
were against NCLB and the big stakes 'all or nothing' testing
paradigm. If there's a problem with NCLB, it'll be difficult to lay
it at the teacher's feet. I'm willing to give it a whirl for a
generation and see how it turns out.
But to twist the knife, my wife wants to home school our little one.
She doesn't believe that the public school's 'teach to the test' will
be anything but a disaster (she envisions orderly rows of pupils
reciting their 'times tables' in mindless unison. twice 2 is 4, twice
4 is 8...) She also believes the charter schools are incapable of a
proper education because they don't have the depth of teachers needed.
A truly private school is a very expensive proposition and she's not
willing to sacrifice her standard of living to the degree necessary.
Finally, she believes she'll be able to deliver a moral education that
none of the 'send him off for the day' alternatives can.
Ultimately, I have an unreasonable faith that students will take away
what students always take away. They learn stuff that interests them
and they rapidly forget stuff that doesn't. It has always been so and
will always be thus. I am a product of what appears to be a
particularly deficient school system. (the statistics are appalling.)
Our tax base is shrinking, our poor population is growing, single moms
with 3 children and 3 last names are the norm. My wife (much smarter
than me despite her decision to marry me!) comes from the same school
system. I have two adult children who are successful; both graduates
of that same dysfunctional system.
I think the lesson is not that the school system destroys children,
but their poverty does. Some make it over the wall anyway (my family
were bitterly poor) perhaps through luck (my 4 siblings all graduated
college and I can read and write some), but I credit my Mum for
teaching me to read early and for feeding me library cards :-) My own
two adult children weren't as poor as I, but we certainly spent a lot
of time with them, and both are avid readers despite hectic schedules.
Families who don't work to nurture their children simply don't do as
well. The sad part is that society mocks parents who try -- recall
the jokes that President Carter endured when he mentioned discussing
nuclear proliferation with his daughter Amy? Did anyone think the
President was lying? Of course not, but it remains fashionable to
this day to poke fun at the idea that a parent will have a decent
relationship with his children and be able to discuss issues larger
than whether the Rangers will get past the first round of the