Testing Madness

Testing Madness
Testing Madness

Students attending Holyoke public schools have their test scores posted in their classrooms on the walls. (See the article at the bottom of the essay.)

“Under Dr. Paez’ direction, teachers are currently required to post student data including test scores, reading levels and other academic scores and information in their classrooms and other public areas of schools,” said Paula Burke, of Lawler Street, parent of a third-grader at Donahue School.

Humiliation used as a means of social control? – or for “encouraging students?” It sounds like a Dickens novel.

That’s not teaching. That is corporate culture. Teaching encourages learning and has a deep and abiding concern for the psychological welfare of the students. Because we that teach know that a damaged learner gets few benefits from an education. Corporations post results to force competition and winnow out the winners and the losers.

But these are not corporate pawns made to suffer psychological abuse to make them push for higher sales. These are children.  We’re not supposed to be dividing them into winners and losers. First, of all, they are children. Children going to school can have good and bad years, good subjects and bad subjects, etc. Second, designating human beings in the midst of the development of their skills and judgment is bound to be wildly inaccurate. Is is simply not fair.

But what does fairness have to do with testing madness? It is designed to determine winners and losers – principally losers.

But what is the matter with the truth? After all they earned those scores, they should know where they stand?

No, they are not adults with a capacity to absorb criticism. This is because adults have formed self perceptions with defenses. These children are very young and they have little to filter out the devastating effects of early stigmatization. This is a definition of labeling theory? – Do you see the connection?

Unwanted descriptors or categorizations – including terms related to deviance, disability or diagnosis of a mental disorder – may be rejected on the basis that they are merely, often with attempts to adopt a more constructive language in its place. A stigma is defined as a powerfully negative label that changes a person’s self-concept and social identity.

There is a perception among many that labeling people as losers particularly early in their lives has an effect on the rest of their lives. That testing partisans are willing to curse children by stigmatizing them does not speak well of the testing movement.

What is this competition thing, anyway? I’ve heard people speak of competition as if it were the natural process of life that everything revolves around. There have to be winners and losers. Not always. There are some things in our society that lend themselves to that but many, most, don’t. We don’t educate children into winners and losers. We educate them to have basic abilities like reading and writing but principally we educate them to be good citizens because that is what makes for successful democratic societies.

We cooperate in social settings, in obeying the law and doing such complex tasks as driving. To get to work, to successfully achieve our goals, cooperation is generally more important than knocking the other guy down.

Sometimes we compete but most of the time and in most situations we cooperate. Generally speaking education is a cooperative endeavor.

Turning it into a meat processor devoted to dividing students early and often into groupings of success and pain is only good to the most twisted of minds.

This is corporate thinking and corporate processing aimed at the most impressionable of our population. It calls into question the judgement and intelligence of our corporate elites. This kind of formulaic, one size fits all, group think is not an indicator of ability. It’s an indicator of a pervasive lack of thought. In short, an inability to understand business ethics and apply ethical thinking to the world at large.

Over and over again, I see simple business ideas of dubious quality applied to every situation apparently because if it is an idea from business it must be good.

I believe in a reliance on facts and reasoning. That is how you make good judgements in life and in education.Formulaic thinking has good results when luck and chance favor it. That’s not good enough.

James Pilant

“Poster child for tenure”: Why teacher Agustin Morales really lost his job – Salon.com

Last February, Morales and some of his colleagues, as well as parents whose students attend Holyoke public schools, spoke at a school committee meeting (the equivalent of a school board) and protested a directive from higher-ups to post students’ test scores on the walls of their classrooms, complete with the students’ names. Paula Burke, parent of a third-grader at Donahue, called the walls “public humiliation.” Some teachers questioned whether posting data publicly violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. As I reported at the time for In These Times, the superintendent tried to turn the tables on teachers, saying that they were never told to use students’ names and that the directive did not come from the administration, but the teachers released a PowerPoint from their training session that clearly showed photos of sample data walls, with first names and last initials.

via “Poster child for tenure”: Why teacher Agustin Morales really lost his job – Salon.com.

An additional note from the Washington Post –

Today’s version: data walls, where teachers are making lists of all kinds of data — very often student test scores and grade data — and putting them up for display so everybody can revel in the glory of data. The use of “data” to “drive instruction” has become a mantra among many school reforms in recent years, and, as one manifestation, teachers in states across the country are being encouraged to create these data walls. They are even getting professional development in how to create them. Some include the names of students — even kindergarteners — while some don’t.