Swickard: Cheating the test, cheating the society

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. School grades for New Mexico public schools are out. Here is the problem: the mania for testing has no real value for the students. Further, teachers must stop teaching more of their time and prepare for tests to evaluate the school. This has no educational basis. It supports a bloated school administration and nothing else.
     What is the purpose of education in New Mexico? To create citizens who have the skills, abilities and knowledge to thrive in our society. This is the one goal, the only goal. There is no other legitimate purpose for public school education. Know this: education should not be primarily a jobs program for adults.
     For students their purpose is not to get high scores, attend college or to win academic awards. Again, their purpose is to become productive members of our society. Scores, college and awards may help but they are not the purpose. Graduation rates and college attendance are interim goals, not the purpose.
     Sadly, the purpose of the accountability testing in New Mexico is to label public schools B or D as if it makes any difference for students becoming productive members of their society. Show me the study saying going to a D school keeps students from becoming a productive member of the community. There are none.
     The dirty little secret is that the avalanche of testing is harmful to students and teachers alike. Students will never get a job taking tests and have no lasting need for test-taking skills. Students spend an inordinate amount of time on tasks of no long-term value for themselves.
     For teachers the testing mania is a never ending nightmare. Administrators demand results because their jobs are on the line. Adults are trying to protect their jobs. Whole school staffs have been fired when a school does poorly on the tests.
     But if you swap the entire staff of a low-performing school with the staff of a high-performing school the next year will look essentially the same, it is not the teachers that make the biggest effect. Yes, good teaching is great, but schools have a long history tied to the parents.Read full column


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