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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/6/13

No Child's Behind Left, Part 2

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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.

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly (more...)

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