We’ve beat this to death I think, not the question necessarily but testing itself. We’ve flattened it, blamed it, stretched it, bolstered it and torn it down. What we’ve not done is eliminated it. First of all, why do we have state mandated end of course testing? The only logical conclusion is — we do not have teachers we can trust. Otherwise why the redundancy? Why test students on subjects the teachers obviously tested them on already? What’s the point? I am probably stating the obvious but the difference is, I’m laying it all out here — the wounds of the system; we do not trust teachers.
Testing is very expensive, state wide standardized testing. Let’s eliminate the standardized testing in K-12. There’s already a good national testing for admission to college in the ACT/SAT system, paid for by the students. The only other system of testing that could be administered statewide, is a graduation required senior final exam. That would eliminate the school “x”is easier than school “y” so let’s move our kids there mentality.
This is after all, about money. I don’t care how much the school/principal/teacher says they love the school/students they would not be there if it were not for money. So with that as the basis, how much would a school system save if it did not have to test so often? The state pays for the testing but the reality is, they pay for testing out of money that could go to schools if schools/principals/teachers were trusted. So if on an average testing day, a state pays half a million to test all the states students in a particular grade on a particular subject, what could individual school districts be able to do with the money instead? School infrastructure? Teacher raises?
So how would a school insure students received satisfactory instruction? Teacher testing. Test for retention, test for promotion, and hire only qualified teachers for open positions not family and friends as is a common practice in rural schools. Testing to hire, retention, and promotion is used in many professional occupations from the USAF to lawyers. Trust the school districts. Empower them by giving them funds that otherwise would have been spent on the numerous tests. The saving in teachable hours not spent on testing preparation, testing days, and testing recovery alone is worth it.
The question I posed earlier was — what is school’s current role in society? What function do we need them to play? We’ve moved from an agrarian society to a manufacturing based and now to a international/technological blended society where many times the students are ahead of the faculty. Easily overheard in the teachers lounge, the discussion about using a particular student to operate the baffling technology, or the use of a student’s sophisticated electronic device to a teach a class. Educators are learning to adapt, to work-around technological barriers with the assistance of the students. Perhaps this is a “we’re in this together” mentality on the part of the teacher and student, but the administration/technologists are all in a panic.
So what is the “goal” of our school system? Clearly we are not going to be able to get past the incarceration until adulthood issue, unless we as a country re-visit the whole “age of maturity” issue. Not likely to happen. Prisons already eat up more of the budget than do schools. Allowing maturation to be recognized at 16 rather than 18 in our country would just feed an already broken system with younger inmates. Is the goal to educate students so they are prepared for collegiate life? That’s not going to work on the general population because not everyone is going to college. But this is how we operate. We seem to forget the “working class” in our schools by the assumption we make that the majority should go on to college. So what is our goal?
Comon Core State Standards talks about students’ “Workplace Readiness” — this can (although it currently is not) be defined as readiness for students both workplace and college bound.
I’m going to use a dirty word, Vocational Education, as an introduction to the way we were.
Vocational Education is the answer to school’s directional dilemma today. Not a panacea, a cure. Listen, Johnny over there in the back row carving on the desktop, Janie in the other corner braiding someone’s hair, Paula fixing your printer issues, are all people who should not be in regular secondary school. At 16 the decision ought to be made (as is in many countries) whether little Johnie is going to be a brain surgeon or a barber. Little Johnnie then would receive the appropriate English classes as a 11th and 12th grade individual that would befit his calling. I don’t know a single barber that needs to know Shakespear: But I know plenty who need to understand business English.
We do not conduct education that way because of two reasons: We tried before and it failed, and we are embarassed. Embarassed because we do not face the socal stigma in our country centered around social working placement. Someone in a suit is much better than a perosn in a blue collar, who is better than a farmer, who is better than a garbage collector. Like it or not I defy you to prove me wrong! In general, not talking specifically about your uncle Bill so don’t get offended, we as a society believe we have to send our kids to college beause that’s the path to acceptable and richly rewarding life’s work. Horse-Hockey.
So how do we change school’s role in society? It will take, just as the implementation of Common Core State Standard is doing to the curriculum of schools, a fundamental change in how we approach our educational system. I’m still hoping one of my daughters will marry a plumber! Brain surgeons in your family are generally not necessary — plumbers defiantly are (and hey what about fixing my printer/the loose electrical socket/my car makes a strange clanking noise ………. ! )