Less Testing. Now What?

John Merrow, an education reporter and blogger, recently announced his retirement from PBS NewsHour and Learning Matters. I admire his reasonable and intelligent perspective on public schools, and feel that his blog is one of the best out there. If you’re interested, you can find it here themerrowreport.com.

His most recent blog was particularly relevant in light of Tulsa Public Schools pulling back on some of the standardized testing that many teachers and parents have found so draconian. While Merrow would agree with that, in his usual measured way, he asks what happens after “opt out”?

He writes in his blog:

Even if the Congress manages to agree on a replacement for No Child Left Behind that the President is willing to sign, it’s too late to counter the genuine revulsion many people feel about excessive testing.

**Too many people now realize that the US is the only advanced country that tests kids in order to judge (and sometimes fire) teachers.

**Too many people are upset about the intrusive nature of testing and data-collection, and too many parents are distrustful of a system that treats their children as a number, a test score.

**Too many people have lost faith in ‘big data’ in education and in the testing industry in general.

Merrow points out that it is not enough to “be against something.” Those who desire less testing are getting their wish. It’s an opportunity to envision what real reform and real education looks like. As Merrow says, “If kids are not going to spend their time prepping for tests and taking tests and reviewing tests, what will they do instead? What should they be opting into?”

I think this is a fair question to ask. For those of us who think standardized tests are not good measures of children, teachers or schools, what kinds of schools can we envision?

What do you wish for your child? Here are some thoughts:

  • Small class sizes so teachers really can individualize instruction based on each child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Cooperative, multidisciplinary and integrated learning where the arts are equal in importance to other subjects
  • Technology used as an enhancement to instruction, with students learning to use it rather than it using them.
  • Inquiry-based education where students begin with a question to explore (the opposite of drill and test)
  • Teacher-created classroom tests and portfolio evaluations
  • Increased resources such as counselors, social workers, nurses, reading and language specialists in those schools with high poverty populations
  • Meaningful, free afterschool programs

What would be on your list? We can make our own wish-list here.

Besides Merrow’s blog, I recommend Oklahoma educator Ron Miller’s blog “A View from the Edge” and Diane Ravitch’s blog. From Ron Miller’s blog, you can also find several other great bloggers who are writing about education in Oklahoma.

Categories: Editor’s Blog