Monday, December 21, 2015

Chilling Words

by Emily Talmage, Maine BAT

originally posted on her blog:

Last spring, before my fourth graders took the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I knew that it would not be a test worth administering.

In addition to knowing that it would be long, developmentally inappropriate, and unlikely to inform my instruction in any meaningful way, I also knew that I would be required to sign a security agreement that said I could not view the test as my students took it.  (Were they hiding something or did they really just have that little respect for teachers?)

I also knew a few things that I don’t think many people know even now – that, for example, the “adaptive” version of the test had never been field tested (they used the “fixed” version as the field test, claiming that results from that test would inform the “adaptive” version), and that the “adaptive” claim itself was pretty much bunk.

So, when I got a note from a parent a week or two before the test began asking for my professional opinion on the upcoming test, you might think that I would have been able to do the type of things doctors get to do when parents ask about treatments: explain the benefits (um…), and the risks (your child is being used as a lab rat in what amounts to a corporate testing experiment, it may or may not severely stress her out, she’ll lose a bunch of learning time while she’s at it, and neither you nor I will have a clue what to make of the “results” when we get them back.)

But, of course, I was allowed to do no such thing.

Instead, letters went home with all students explaining the “benefits” of the test, and I, meanwhile, was told to be “very careful.”

Check out the video below, and realize that this is the message being sent to teachers all over the country and not just about standardized testing.  (A teacher told me recently that her administrators insisted they appear to be “on board” with the latest reforms both in and out of school.)

 Audience Member: “Can educators share their legitimate concerns about the test with parents?”
 Anita Skop (New York City Superintendent): “They shouldn’t. They shouldn’t because they have no right to say ‘This is how I feel.’ They have no right. It’s not their job.”
Tell me, Ms. Skop, what is our job?

To do the bidding of our higher ups, whatever they may be?

To conduct “research and development” in our classrooms for private testing companies?
To  administer digital media  while we monitor data dashboards?
How have we reduced teachers – who have dedicated their careers to educating children – to so little?

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