[Susan notes: This good letter is in the "Catch them doing something right" category, and it is an important thing to do.]
Submitted to Fresno Bee but not published
I want to thank you for Sunday's piece on testing. If I could describe the way I have felt after nearly ten years of being beaten down, seeing my colleagues deflated, observing students losing their ambition to learn due to the high stakes testing juggernaut, there wouldn't be enough electronic space left on my Mac to store it. Your piece revealed what I and others have known for a very long time: test score competition has become an addiction to many people in our country, and our kids are suffering, along with their instructors.
I am NOT advocating for eliminating assessment from classrooms; they have always been there. What I am for is APPROPRIATE assessment, primarily done by the teaching professional. Often, we are not looked at as professional folks. I think some people lump us in with Subway Sandwich or KFC workers (nothing against them!; they just don't have a 4 year degree and a CLAD teaching credential). We are just as important as lawyers, neurosurgeons, or elected officials. Probably more so. Parents trust us significantly more than test scores. Most parents say to me, after discussing STAR results, "Yes, I know he scored that, but how are his GRADES?"
They want to know what I think. And they should. I'm the teaching professional. Do we need to get better at teaching students? Yes, but that has always been the case. Recently, Dr. Stephen Krashen, literacy expert out of USC posted the following about U.S. teaching:
Middle-class American students attending well-funded schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on these tests. Overall scores are unspectacular because over 20% of our students live in poverty, the highest percentage among all industrialized countries. High-scoring Finland, for example, first on the PISA science test in 2006, has less than 4% child poverty.
The fact that American students who are not living in poverty do very well shows that there is no crisis in teacher quality. The problem is poverty. We are always interested in improving teaching, but the best teaching in the world will have little effect. when students are hungry, are in poor health because of inadequate diet and inadequate health care, and have low literacy development because of a lack of access to books. In addition, dropout rates will remain high if students need to leave school in order to work.
Our first priority must be to protect children from the effects of poverty, beginning with nutrition ("no child left unfed"), better health care, and improved school and public libraries.
Once again, your post has been widely shared and admired. We need to at least open the discussion to new ideas, and this piece is a catalyst.
Joe Lucido is Fifth Grade Science Lead and a member of Educators and Parents Against Test Abuse