It’s been said in jest that ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves.’ But to some this seems increasingly to be the Rhode Island’s guiding principle as it tries to improve its struggling public education system.
One of the most salient concerns has to do with importance of standardized tests. Recently we learned that almost half of the junior class (40 percent) is in danger of not graduating.
Millions of dollars have been committed to Rhode Island to support such ‘Race To The Top’ initiatives. But the public is starting to seriously question where the race is going. The slowest schools in the race will eventually be closed, or the state will take control. The last time this happened was in Central Falls. Have this helped their test scores? Or learning?
Would we be better off calling for A Journey Together than a Race to the Top? Rather than districts being compared to each other – why not establish a dynamic where they can share and learn from each other?
Those who support testing as a graduation requirement see it as a motivational dynamic as well as a means of measuring basic content knowledge. Those who don’t support the new graduation metric see the high-stakes test as being an unfair tool to students with special needs and Limited English Proficiency learners. Barrington and East Greenwich have long histories of performing well on standardized tests. On the other hand Central Falls and Providence traditionally struggle. It appears as though socioeconomic advantages help produce good scores.
Along the way, teachers get blamed when students perform poorly. This is the newest, new evaluation system for a skill set that many believe can’t be measured. Some say we are inviting teaching to the test. If that’s so, are we creating a generation of game show contestants? Is this like losing weight by reading the scale differently, rather than exercising and eating right?
Blaming students and bashing teachers will not produce the changes necessary to improve education. In fact, this proposed ‘cure’ will actually do more damage than the ill it was intended to fix.
Turning teachers into automatons will not improve education. Teachers need to be provided with the skills and leeway to diagnose and assess their student’s needs and then create strategies that establish a healthy learning environment.