Competition Versus Collaboration

Measuring Student and Teacher Success: Does One Size Fit All?


Misguided -- this could be the best way to summarize today's United States' lawmaker mentality that considers a test score to be the proper and best way to evaluate student success, as well as, teacher performance. Already, we are starting to see the fallout of this ridiculous methodology. The Atlanta Public Schools is perhaps the best known to date to be cited in the unethical quagmire surrounding high stakes standardized testing but in reality, the problem will only fester if this educational course of action continues.

Recently, in my own backyard, the Detroit Free Press developed an article on the increased pressure placed upon educators to ensure that the students under their supervision score well on standardized tests. In this survey, 29% of the educators polled feel pressure to cheat. While this statistic is both alarming and angering to me as both an educator and parent; I am more SADDENED than anything! The pressure placed upon educators is due to the fact that state funding for the school/s depends on these scores, as well as, in many cases meeting AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) to prevent the building from being closed down. Now in the State of Michigan the stakes will be even higher in the years to come since Governor Snyder signed into law a new teacher tenure law in July. This law can ultimately lead to a teacher being identified as "ineffective" if students under their instruction perform poorly on a standardized test. If an educator is deemed "ineffective" they can be dismissed if subsequent evaluations show that no improvement occurs, that is, if they are not laid-off first. ALL the "effective" teachers will maintain employment ahead of those that are "ineffective" when downsizing of staff is needed to meet budgetary restraints; years of prior teaching success has no merit any longer. As much as I wholeheartedly disagree with everything associated with standardized testing I am saddened by the long-term effect/s on students and the teaching profession.

First and foremost, any teacher will agree, standardized tests have their place in the world of education but they really do prefer not having them at all. There is really no value to the student in the class at that time... after all the results don't come back to the teacher in time to help in any way, shape or form. Second, and more importantly, all teachers know that the cornerstone of all successful education is done by working together. Teachers work together to form, develop and enhance lesson plans to the meet the needs of all students. They discuss ways to better serve their constituency; they learn from each other to perfect their instructional pedagogy; in other words, teachers COLLABORATE. The educational "reformers" today are working against this model of proven educational success. Their focus on eliminating and/or altering teacher tenure and the placement of student standardized test scores as a method of predicting and/or proving teaching effectiveness leads to a world of educational "competitiveness." If teachers are forced to compete with one another the new teachers will be on their own; no mentoring from "older" teachers; it will be a dog-eat-dog classroom environment. Many of you reading this are probably exclaiming YES, exactly, that is what we need in our schools, that's just like the real world. Well here's the reality; schools are NOT the real world. These are the places where most students go to get away from the real world. Schools provide students joy, fulfillment, fun, safety, discipline, food, fitness, team building, socialization skills, laughter and of course, LEARNING. All these student learned attributes cannot be proven on a standardized test and they most certainly cannot predict and/or prove whether a teacher is "effective" or "ineffective." Student success is only proven and secured by teachers and parents working together to guide, inspire and motivate students towards goals. Only by working together, collaboratively, will we be able to educate the students of today.

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