By Chick Moorman
Up your test scores. No, not raise your test scores. Up your test scores. You know what I mean. I would say, "Up on a shelf with your test scores," if I wanted to be polite. I don't want to be polite. The time for polite is long past. I'm just mad! So, up your test scores.
The educational reformers—from here on to be more appropriately called the educational deformers—are screwing up what is an opportunity to empower our children with a meaningful education, one that will help them live successful, productive, rewarding lives. One case in point. Think about this concept:
If you are not willing to learn, no one can
help you. If you are determined to learn,
no one can stop you.
What a helpful learning that would be! Can you think of one concept that is more important for children to learn than this one? Go ahead, try. Name one thing that we currently teach, one attitude or one belief that is more important to a student’s success as a learner, than this. There is none.
Imagine what it would be like in school if children believed this, if they internalized it, if they put it to use in their lives. What students would be able to achieve would be incredible. External forms of motivation would not be necessary. We could ditch the ineffective and counterproductive use of stickers, stars, public performance charts, award assemblies, and the like. Self-motivation would reign. Think of what teachers and students could accomplish then.
Warning to teachers and administrators: If a student fully believed and saw value in the concept above, you better stand back and get out of the way. Because you don’t have to give that kid an education. He's going to go TAKE it. You wouldn’t be able to stop him even if you wanted to.
So why aren't we teaching this incredibly important concept to children? Don't bother telling me that we do. We don't. Not in any organized, systematic way. We don't have time for that. We're too busy investing our time in test-prepping and teaching children to fill in bubbles, designed to prove that we have a quality school.
So why aren't we teaching this incredibly important concept to children? Because it's not on the test, that's why. Don't tell me we don't teach to the test. We do because teachers are told, encouraged, and bribed with merit pay to do so.
The deformers who create the tests don't think this concept is important enough to be included. They prefer to make sure a student can write an effective topic sentence, make math computations, and put quotation marks in appropriate places. Where is the level of a student's self-motivation measured? Nowhere. Because the test makers have an extremely and purposefully limited vision of what is really critical to a student’s education.
The deformers have narrowed the curriculum and designed the tests so we can prove whether or not we have a successful school. In the process, they have insured that schools will be unsuccessful in teaching the concepts that really matter. So what if your test scores are going up? What is gained versus what is lost?
The deformers and the administrators who carry out their ideas told us we could increase achievement. It’s hard to be against increasing student achievement, isn't it? That sounds like something helpful. It also sounds like a sound bite to impress politicians, parents, and the press. What they neglected to tell us, or more likely didn't even think about, was what exactly we would have to give up to invest so much time in focusing on making ourselves look good with high test scores.
Since they didn't tell you, I will.
CASUALTIES OF THE TESTING CRAZE INCLUDE:
1. Cooperative learning has been diminished. Teaching interpersonal skills, collaborative process, and debriefing of those activities did not help the deformers up the test scores. Learning how to work with others, disagree politely, invite participation, share descriptive feedback, extend support, and offer encouragement are no longer priorities.
2. Teaching about respect, honesty, integrity, acceptance and other character education concepts has decreased. That's OK. We don't need that. Kids should be learning that at home, anyway. Besides, we have posters we can put on the walls that will show the State Department of Education that we have that objective covered.
3. Efforts to help children develop an internal standard have disappeared. Rules rule. Learning about ethics and applying responsible action statements to situations take too much time.
4. Helping children become decisionally literate (learning how to make choices and learn from them) does not hold the same value as literacy in reading, writing, math and technology do.
5. Teaching about thoughtricity and self-talk, the power of our thoughts and how they help or hinder us, appears nonexistent.
6. Developing a curriculum focused on helping students learn a foreign language is ignored. No, I'm not talking about French or Spanish. I mean self-responsible language: teaching students the language of personal power. If we're going to teach children a foreign language, self-responsible language is about as foreign as you can get. Most English speakers speak unself-responsible language.
7. No time is allotted for building emotional intelligence. Feelings aren't important and aren't the job of schools anyway. Really?
8. When students were busy test-prepping all these years, they could have been learning:
- All behavior equals a choice.
- Being is as important as doing.
- Making amends is more than saying, "I'm sorry."
- Diversity is valuable.
- Mind skills can help develop an "I can" attitude.
- We are currently in the process of creating who we are as human beings.
- Regular debriefing has value.
- And much, much more.
So, go ahead. Up your test scores if you think that is important. Just don't pretend we're not paying an enormous price for your creation of an ineffective "effective" school!
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching
. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for their newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com