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

Saturday, August 04, 2007

LEAP and the Sickening Tragedy of Assured Failure

Good to see this voice of protest against the educational genocide in Louisiana:
Published: Aug 3, 2007

I applaud NAACP Louisiana Chapter President Ernest Johnson’s recent letter regarding the appropriate use of LEAP and what is best for children (July 19).

Johnson is right when he states, “BESE needs a new look at how to monitor school performance ... . It’s time to stop experimenting with these kids’ lives and demand good public schools that provide good environments where they can learn.”

To further the point, the history of reform efforts with a strict focus on testing has already proven to be of limited impact, and there are reasons why.

First, the disagreement with respect to LEAP or any other standardized test is not a question of rationalizations and making excuses for children; rather it is a question of what is developmentally and educationally appropriate. To be sure, it is absolutely inappropriate for standardized tests to be virtually the only authority for students’ academic progress.

Second, overemphasis upon pre- and post-standardized testing assumes what research has already demonstrated as patently untrue; that is, all students learn the same way.

Finally, testing experts and several well-respected education organizations have made it clear that it is a mistake to place too much emphasis on test scores. Indeed, assessment is key to help improve instruction and learning. Clearly, however, the problem lies in the distorted utilization of these tests, resulting in an unhealthy school climate.

This climate is increasingly dominated by a discourse that is becoming cold, calculated and consumed with numbers and ratings, ultimately objectifying children.

What is tragically lost is authentic talk about children, discovery, passion and excitement about learning. It is a serious mistake to assume that because test scores have gone up or down we have a complete picture of what schools are doing. In short, our obsessed focus on testing, at best, will only lead us back to the status quo, and will actually further distance us from authentic, innovative renewal in this post-Katrina era.

Guided by the assumption that education is about people, as obvious as that may sound, we need to underscore a vision for state-of-the-art schools where insightful educators keenly recognize the relevance of a developmentally appropriate practice within classroom settings with small pupil-teacher ratios and creative curricula.

In addition to the core disciplines, all children must have meaningful opportunities to be immersed in the variety of the creative arts and foreign language study.

Finally, assessment must include a multiplicity of instruments that allow for a balanced, more accurate perspective. If we begin taking those first steps, we will move toward, as Ernest Johnson indicated, providing meaningful environments where children can authentically learn, ultimately building a brighter future for Louisiana.

James D. Kirylo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Education

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