“Why don’t we just declare a moratorium on testing for a few years, spend the freed-up money on support and professional development for teachers and wonderful books for children in all disciplines, and then spring a test on everyone without test prep to see what they’ve learned? We just might be surprised by the outcome.”
I am not anti-common core. I think there are some good aspects to the standards such as increased use of nonfiction texts, and more time spent on writing. But I truly believe that good teachers have been doing this all along. They instinctively know that immersing their students in wonderful literature and beautiful stories will enrich their vocabulary, expand their world, and increase their intellectual curiosity. And the test that measures this will be the tried and true test of future innovation, creation, and experimentation by new young scientists, engineers, writers, and thinkers.
As a teacher I do believe in testing. Some testing is important to let both teachers and students know what is being learned and where there are gaps in the education process, but at this point in time I believe our society is so concerned with the testing that we have forgotten the process of teaching. We need to let good teachers teach. Let them design themed curriculum using quality books and classic literature. Let them create tepees in their classrooms, set up student businesses in the middle schools and challenge high school students to partner with real scientists to do research.
These best practices are all available. They have been tried and found to be successful, so why are we going back to the drawing board time and time again searching for a test that will cure all our problems? Good principals know the leaders on their staff. Teachers themselves recognize their peers who excel at engaging and teaching students, and parents all know which teacher they want their student to have for each grade. It is no secret that some teachers are better than others. Why not embrace this fact and use the skills of these master teachers to help all teachers improve?
The best teachers will agree with Vicki Cobb. Give them books, time to study and create, and children will learn. Give them time to lead professional development programs and mentor their peers and teachers will improve. Provide all the teachers access to professional writers, scientists, engineers, artists, and business people. Encourage partnerships between classrooms and the real world. Then give them a test – any test you want, and you will learn what engaged enthusiastic students can do. It’s not magic, its teaching. Good solid teaching done by creative enthusiastic professionals.