by Julie G.
The NYT reported today that New York City's school test scores are up, adding some fuel to continue the mayoral control over schools. Bloomberg has taken control of school admin, sharpening the focus on testing and scores.
In the era of No Child Left Behind, it is fashionable to be skeptical about the testing culture, the concerns about creating curriculum to conform to the tests, the loss of attention to "lesser" subjects, and the stressful effects of the tests on students. With politicians and others crowing about the growing accountability associated with testing, skeptics question the validity of the tests, wondering if they actually measure knowledge rather than test-taking skills.
Some things that bother me:
- The privatization of the process: the tests are constructed by private firms, which package them as a commercial good. This diffuses the mission of academic accountability, I suspect with some cost in outcome. I wonder what that cost is.
- The time spent on testing. I know, I know, it's a stale complaint. BUT. The article states, regarding NYC schools, "schools are judged not just on how their
students perform on the tests, but also on how effectively their
teachers tailor instruction based on the results of the annual exams
and eight interim tests each student must take every year." EIGHT interim tests. I can barely find room in the subject matter for my semester-long courses for ONE mid-term, much less 9 tests.
- And finally. Curriculum. Emphasis on math and language arts over other topics (like, ahem, the social sciences). The article quotes one administrator who is pleased with the test score increases in her school. Generally, art is only taught in the spring, after the academic year's tests. Perhaps they can teach it earlier next year.
My kid is 2, so her curriculum is limited to sounds the lion makes. (Her parents being political scientists, she could answer "Obama" for "Who is the president" in January and has now mastered "Biden" for "Who is the V.P.?" Clearly a genius in the making.)
Those of you with school-aged kids, I'm particularly interested in your experiences/thoughts.
*Click on the cartoon for a non-fuzzy image
** Am figuring out the excerpting function. Sorry to be so longwinded. Will correct.
*** Author: Julie G.