An alternative title for Part 2 of this article might be "Evaluating Without Testing: Caring for Children's Minds." In Part 1, I tried to demonstrate that the core of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act is a fool's errand, based on testing all manner of things that don't matter to the human mind and spirit. I now offer the classroom teacher and concerned citizens something beyond mindless tests and meaningless numbers for evaluating children. It might even be argued that that one is not a qualified teacher if he or she fails to practice much of what is said here. I'm not trying to boast, but to show the classroom through the eyes of a teacher who took his job seriously, namely myself. Kindly allow the ideas to speak for themselves, and resonate if they will.
"I don't see how a teacher can know what's going on without
regular testing," my principal confided in me. This was years ago, and we had
just attended a meeting on adopting a new testing program for our elementary
school. I deftly changed the subject, so I wouldn't have to express my opinion.
After all I'd only been in the school six months, and it didn't seem like a
bright idea to make waves in unfamiliar water.
But my principal's words burned in my head that evening. I
argued with myself that he needed to hear the view of a classroom teacher on
this (I had taught for several years in other schools). I concluded that the
principal seemed open-minded and progressive enough to handle it, since he
hired me, after all, and I felt I had bared my soul in our interviews.
Next morning I handed him some stapled pages with an oral
warning: "I suspect you'll disagree, but I honestly don't think regular testing
is a good idea. The first part of this tells why, and the second part gives
some alternatives. I'd like to get your reaction after you've had a chance to
read it over."
Side one read as follows (I amended the list and clarified
certain points for this article).
Why Routine Testing is a deterrent to good teaching:
- Time spent testing is time directly subtracted from the teaching process. If you test for two hours a week, that's eighty hours a school year (two hours times forty weeks), or twenty days of prime instructional time (allowing four hours a day as prime teaching time).
- Time spent grading is time subtracted from curriculum planning. A teacher has limited time and should devote out of class time to devising strategies to make learning interesting.
- Testing rarely alters what is practiced in the classroom, in spite of theoretical claims to the contrary.