Spend Money Teaching, Not Testing
Ohanian comment: Three cheers for this teacher who speaks out--and signs her name.
In this era of proficiency-driven education, cutbacks in state aid to education, and escalating federal demands on overburdened school systems, many tax dollars no longer support the education of children; they support another gigantic and ever-increasing industry - testing.
Tax dollars are used to pay the individuals who create the questions for the proficiency tests, and those who evaluate the questions and select the questions used. Then our tax dollars are spent on the printing of the booklets, answer documents, administration manuals, etc. Taxpayers pay teachers to spend up to 12½ hours of instructional time monitoring the tests, and pay administrators to organize, seal, box up and mail them off to - guess who? Those people we pay to spend hours grading these tests. Don't forget the computer programmers who develop the programs to record scores and deliver them to all the places they are required.
Years ago, when there was ultimate secrecy about the content of the proficiency tests, the dollars might have stopped there. Today is different. Once state officials noticed that huge numbers of children, especially ethnic minorities and disadvantaged children, were failing this "test," new strategies developed. Now taxpayers pay for teaching directly to the test for months of the school year. They pay to have old test questions mounted on the Internet so teachers can have classes practice from expired exam questions. This means we are paying more people to write new questions.
State officials, through the staff in their educational resource centers, offer classes on teaching to the test and tax money pays for staff to develop, organize, and teach those classes, and for released time and substitutes for teachers and administrators to attend those classes.
This has become a booming, immensely profitable industry. Tax dollars buy privately developed books and computer programs to teach to the test. It seems like every year some clever educator has created a new computer program for teachers. Credit them for having the motivation and foresight to cash in, and many of these programs are very good. The problem is that all that money is not being spent for educating children; it is spent so officials can celebrate "improved scores."
What is lost here is the education of individual children to become the best they can become through the development of their own interests and talents. Children have become faceless student numbers computer-matched to student scores, individuals being forced into the same mold with no recognition of their differences. School is monotonous drill instead of the creative, exciting, stimulating environment that it should be.
Sherrie Bjurstrom, who has taught for 40 years on primary, secondary and college levels, teaches special education and gifted classes in Lockland City Schools.
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