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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Defending the Indefensible in the Late Days of the Testing Orgy

The testing madness is underway this week in Tennessee, where a week of TCAP counts 15-25 percent of a student's grade and 35-50 percent of a teacher's evaluation for the other 195 days of the school year.  Is that reason enough for 3rd graders to be vomiting and having nosebleeds on their test booklets this week?

But the insanity does not stop there.  The State of Tennessee is funding the use of SAT-10 in K-2 again this year, so that benchmarks can be set and teachers evaluated based on standardized tests that some children cannot read yet.

But wait, what is that deep rumbling I hear?

But wait, there's more.  Black academics are actually speaking out against high stakes testing.

Ivory Toldson was in Memphis last week to point out the racist and classist nature of our testing orgy, which gave rise today to the petulant and flabbergastingly ignorant rebuttal by the corporate media news of Memphis.  A clip:
While an argument can be made that the tests are unfair, maybe even prejudicial, they have been instrumental in making sure children are learning under the same standard.  
If you are a parent that should be something to celebrate, not something to fear.
So never mind, working parents, if your children are being assessed with tests that expect the same results from all, whether children living in cars down by the River or those from the leafy suburbs of Germantown.  The editorial board of the Commercial Appeal argue that you should be proud that your children have been judged worthy of attempting the unachievable.  Celebrate the impossibility, rather than fearing living "under the same standard" of test performance, which your children are programmed to believe is achievable, if they sacrifice their lives for test scores that are then used to further justify their imprisonment in corporate charter test factories.

The editorial board goes on to claim that tests have "exposed that for decades children have not mastered core subjects in too many of our public schools, especially in Memphis."  Do the luminaries of the Commercial Appeal believe that they know more now than they did when this psychometric frenzy began in earnest in 2001?  Do the desperate conditions, rundown neighborhoods, and segregated conditions of Memphis tell them something different today than they did 15 or 50 years ago?  Does the editorial board really want to pretend that it took a decade of miseducative and racist tests to identify where proficiency is low?  It's the same places where hope is low, jobs are low, health care is low, and crime is high.  Does the editorial board really want to admit that it took years of punitive and dehumanizing tests to make that call?

The editorial board wants, too, to make sure that an "A" in the poorest parts of Memphis is equal to an "A" in leafy Collierville.  While assuming that that is possible, they argue that standardized tests are the only way to do that.  How can sane people dismiss the vast economic differences in local contexts to make such an argument?

Does a job for working parents in inner city Memphis mean the same as it a job does in Collierville?  Does a meal mean the same in a food desert as it does in the Kroger strewn suburbs of Shelby County?  Does housing opportunity mean the same?  Transportation?  Health and dental care?

If all these other aspects of life are different, which they most assuredly are, how is it that we can expect that schools are equal?  If they are not, and they most assuredly are not, then how is it that the best that two student with very sets of opportunities should be the same.

I am not advocating for the bigotry of low expectations but, rather, acknowledging the vast differences in contexts that help to shape the lives of all humans, whether students or parents.  If we do not acknowledge that, then we are stuck with the racist and classist tests that are made so by demanding that everyone perform exactly the same, regardless of all contextual differences.  We cannot make the panoply of problems that policymakers ignore disappear by demanding that children, parents, and teachers make it so.

1 comment:

  1. Parents have incredible power. Use it or lose it. The Momma Bears of TN tell you how easy it is to advocate for your children against this testing madness: