Too much standardized testing

Peter does not begin End of Grade (EOG) testing until 3rd Grade (next year), but the point is still well taken.

from Today’s Chapel Hill News:

Test obsession denies students real education
By BOB BROGDEN

I can go to Raleigh-Durham airport, get on a plane and be in Portland, Oregon in six hours. I can get in my car and drive to Portland in six days. Or I can get on my bicycle and ride to Portland in six weeks.

I ask you by which method do you think I will gain the most lasting knowledge about my country and its history? I know the answer, because I have done the trip all three ways.

The North Carolina curriculum for U.S. history is a mile wide and an inch deep. What students learn about U.S. history amounts to a fly-over or a high-speed cruise down an interstate highway.

This is no way to teach or learn U.S. history. And we wonder why students do so poorly on U.S. history tests.

Our national, state and local political and education leaders judge students’ knowledge of U.S. history based on their scores on a 100-item multiple choice test. And teachers had better make sure their students are proficient, for that is how teachers and schools will be judged. Teachers will teach to the test and students will be forced into endless drilling for these tests. Anybody who tells you that this is not the case obviously does not spend much, if any, time in the classroom.

This year I have a wonderful group of students in my U.S. History class. They ask probing, inquisitive questions and make comments that reflect intellectual engagement.

Questions asked this year include, “Did Hitler get mad at the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor and bringing the U.S. into the war?” and “Why did FDR drop his vice-president in the 1944 election and select Truman as his running mate?”

When we discussed how Lincoln and FDR, two of our greatest presidents, were vilified while they were in office, one student asked, “How will history judge President Bush?” A rather lively discussion followed.

I doubt these questions will be on the end-of-course test.

I am writing this before these students take their state-mandated end-of-course test. Regardless of their scores on this test, they rank as some of the best history students I have had in my 21 years of teaching. And because they ask so many questions we will not get all the way through the curriculum. I even had to stop doing the hands-on activities that I have done for years because of the pressure to get those scores up.

If we truly want our students to be lifelong learners of U.S. history we should reduce the scope of the curriculum. This would allow time for students to research and write, have debates and discussions, complete art projects, create PowerPoint presentations, take field trips, and participate in activities that will enhance their love and appreciation of the subject. I’m all for accountability, but let’s use curriculum and assessments that are relevant and realistic.

This inane obsession with testing is driven by people who are far removed from daily contact and interaction with students. They only judge students, teachers and schools by test scores.

Students in any class should develop a lifelong love and appreciation of that subject. Teaching to a test does much to undermine that. Those that continue to advocate for judging students, teachers, and schools based on test scores are engaged in educational malpractice.

And next year, because of a new schedule in my district, I’ll have even less time to teach this same curriculum

Bob Brogden teaches history at East Chapel Hill High School.

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