Students are people, not numbers
What will it take to get teachers to refuse to participate in a system that harms children?
By Chris Sloan
As we near another TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) testing cycle, I am reminded of the two ways to look at students in the public education system - students as products and students as customers.
The first ideology considers students as something we take in, as raw materials. If they graduate high school, they have been transformed into educated citizens by "the education system." That is the bean-counter's philosophy, and is what is happening frequently under the high-stakes testing process.
Under this philosophy, the student is seen by the state as a number: a TAKS score, an IQ level, a passing percentage, a socio-economic indicator, or a dropout rate. Teachers are seen as a "big brother," ensuring cheating on a high stakes test doesn't ever occur. The numbers each child represents become the data that drives the decisions of the education process. Success is based exclusively on numbers.
The aim for teachers under this system is to get students to pass a standardized test at all costs. The core curriculum is watered down to cover testable items only. When students pass one test or two multiple choice tests, it is assumed they are ready to move on, even if they are not equipped for the next grade level.
Successful students are not challenged, because they can pass the test, while struggling students are moved from program to program in order for their scores to cause as little damage to the state's program as possible.
When the mission is about scores, it seems as if every child gets left behind.
If students are looked upon as the customer, then the goal of the state becomes to provide them an education that will translate to meaningful experiences in their adult lives. Under this system, students are considered people, not numbers.
When they graduate, they are ready for college, a job or whatever life throws at them. Teachers become mentors that teach manners, moral standards and discipline along with the other subjects. When they teach, they share life lessons with their students as well as math and reading lessons filled with great literature.
Problem solving does not only occur in the mathematics classroom, but also in every subject to include lunch and recess. The state's goal becomes providing what the teacher needs to get deep instruction into the heads of children and is based on a relationship of trust.
Successful students are challenged, and struggling students receive the extra help they need to be successful. Because all students get the education they need, students pass when they have what they need to move on to the next grade level.
When the mission is about the students, no child gets left behind.
As the pendulum swings back to a focus on the children, my hope is that those who got left behind can catch up on their own.
Chris Sloan is a teacher at Belaire Elementary School, part of the San Angelo Independent School District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go San Angelo
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