“If the MCAS test requirement is increasing the dropout rate and a passing score is not a reliable indicator that a student has mastered skills needed for college (or for work), then what purpose does the test serve” (89)?
I have been asking myself this question since I entered the credential program. Why are we even requiring students to take these “high stakes” tests when there really is no evidence of actual learning that can be used outside of school? I believe that another huge issue with these tests is that some students do not see a purpose in actually taking the tests seriously...
I vaguely remember testing when I was in school. I remember having to have number 2 pencils, scantrons, filling in the bubble exactly this way... But one thing that I vividly remember about those tests was students asking, "Is this going to be grded?" (because, of course, that was all that mattered). Some of my teachers said no, that the tests were for the state but everyone should do their best. The students then rolled their eyes and began filling in the bubbles to create pictures (some were actually pretty brilliant). But I remember other teachers saying that the tests would be reflected in final grades, so students would put their heads down and work their fingers to the bone filling in those little bubble.
How really do these tests affect the STUDENTS? Most students only care about grades, because that is what colleges care about. So when they are required to do something for no seeable benefit to them, they really could care less, causing schools and districts to suffer due to low test scores (scores that really do not reflect on the teaching, but the motivation of the student).
Wagner states that “the fact that schools and districts are now being held accountable at all - and accountable for the success of their students - is a new and very important concept for public education” (90). I agree that it is extremely important for schools and districts to be held accountable for the success of students, but what is the best way to do this? This testing thing doesn’t seem at all plausible, and yet we are still administering tests that have no true significance in the progress of students.
“What we don’t yet know is whether American taxpayers and our government care enough about the future to pay educators a more professional wage and to provide them with the working conditions they need to succeed: smaller classes, teachers organized into teams with shared responsibility for groups of students, more effective coaching for continuous improvement, better and more frequent local assessments of students’ progress, and more time to work and learn with colleagues” (165).
What I really focused on in this quote was the last part, “smaller classes, teachers organized into teams with shared responsibility for groups of students, more effective coaching for continuous improvement, better and more frequent local assessments of student’s progress, and more time to work and learn with colleagues.” I truly believe that the implementation of all of these things would bring success to not only teachers, but students as well.
Smaller class sizes - Having smaller class sizes would lead to more personal instruction for the students, and would allow the teacher to get to know the learner styles and personalities of each student (plus the workload would be less, too!).
Teachers organized into teams - At the school site that I am at now, there is extra emphasis put on teachers of the same subject and grade level to get together in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) on a weekly basis. I have attended all of the meetings, and have noticed that getting into this group helps me with ideas for my lessons (as we are all required to teach the same thing...) and piggyback on what I am hearing that the other teachers are doing (the group consists of 6 of us, so it’s not overwhelming).
Effective coaching - I went to a Common Core training, and let me tell you, it lasted literally all day and it was wicked boring. I cannot tell you what I really took out of it. In an ideal world, teachers would be able to CHOOSE the type of professional development they go to - based on what they think they need and what they think their students need. We’re being taught to give our students choice when it comes to their learning, why shouldn’t teachers get the same opportunity
Better local assessments - Honestly, I do not know how this would look. Perhaps changing the testing so that students are required to explain what they have learned instead of filling in bubbles. I think this is what the Common Core testing is all about, but since it is so new, there are huge gaps in the testing (for one, having computers correct answers looking for “buzz” words).
Time to work with colleagues - I love the idea of PLCs, but I also think that teachers should have a choice of who they would like to work with outside of their PLCs. Since Common Core is cross-curricular, shouldn’t teachers from different subjects be collaborating too? Teachers should be given time within their working day to have meetings with colleagues both in their subject and outside of their subject.