"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Does Testing Children Make Adults Stupid, Too?

Evidence is now emerging that the current testing frenzy sweeping the nation is having a similar stupidifying effect on adults that it has on the children who are being tested. In Colorado, for instance, the Rocky Mountain News reports that flattening reading scores have caused some school officials to react in ways that would suggest a total loss of rationality. Here are the trends in reading (a totally predictable leveling) that have Colorado educators wringing their hands babbling to one another:

The percentage of Colorado fourth- through 10th-graders reading at or above grade level increased from 2002 to 2003, but has remained fairly flat ever since.

2002 58.6
2003 65.0
2004 65.1
2005 65.6

To boost test scores, one literacy director proposes to consciously drain any remaining joy of learning all the way down to kindergarten: "We need to prepare our students at an earlier age," DeLong said. "Even at the kindergarten level, we need to get kids to think about what they're reading or what's being read to them." Hmm, I wonder how that will work for children at this developmental level--and how that will help those stubborn scores in 4th grade.

Other signs that testing might be associated with adult literacy directors losing their minds can be seen in the belief that namby-pamby narrative literature might the culprit in these pancaking test scores. Bring on more more structure, more non-fiction, Delong says--boys like it, and boys need to raise their scores more than girls.

The article does close, however, with evidence that there may be hope for a restoration of sanity once the National Reading Panel propaganda (as documented in the book reviewed here) is put in the garbage can, along with the drill-and-kill curricula that it has inspired:

Judith Casey, the immediate past president of the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association, theorized that the more structured reading programs some districts implement with Reading First funds may have contributed to the state's flat scores.

"With older kids," she said, "I wonder if that's leading to boredom and limited student investment because they're really not given the opportunity to do thinking on their own."

Imagine that!


  1. Anonymous8:32 AM

    As far back as the 17th Century, the Puritans realized that "education is something quite different from indoctrination. Indoctrination is the opposite of education, closing minds instead of opening them. The distinction is a critical one, indicating an awareness of the child as an individual whose freedom should be respected."
    -- C. John Sommerville, The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England

    Mandated programs like Reading First, standardized testing and scripted curriculum violate a child's fundamental right to an education.

    It may take a courageous parent like Brown to challenge the current system of testing in court on grounds that it not only violates the freedom of the child but is harmful and destructive.

    Hopefully it will happen soon before there is no Constitution left on which to rely.


  2. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I'm a new teacher trying to make sense of this scripted curriculum business. I have taught for 3 years (preschool) using the creative curriculum science-based program, now I've changed districts and am faced with a scripted program that doesn't have much room for teacher creativity. So, I guess what I do is reschedule our pm time so that I can have some input.