Letters: Building a better education system
Arthur Levine compares testing students once a year to having a car GPS update its position once an hour instead of constantly. In the GPS part, he forgets the driver and assumes he ignores road and street signs. In the student part, he forgets the teacher, assuming she has no idea of what her pupils have learned.
Any competent teacher knows how her students are progressing throughout the year. Standardized testing cannot determine this; only a teacher is in a position to make this assessment.
Levine says the emphasis in public education has moved from teaching to learning; it should move to educating, as only then can a child’s full potential be realized.
Before the age of electronics, teachers assessed student learning several ways. They used not only tests, homework and “fun” classroom activities but also closely observed classroom behavior such as blank facial expressions, head scratching and grimacing. Such observations informed strategies for individual remediation.
Of course, those were the days of smaller classroom sizes, administrators who were free to supervise and mentor, and parents who were allies in the learning process.
Levine writes: “We are testing students to find out if they have learned the material. If they have, they go forward. If not, they repeat it.” If only it were that simple.
When May comes, we give students expensive standardized tests to determine their progress, a separate set of tests to evaluate their teachers and schools, and in many cases high school students take additional tests to determine their academic futures. And in most cases, the tests have no effect on whether a student must repeat a class.
Tests that don’t count waste time and money, whether they are administered annually or more frequently.
And the programmed learning Levine advocates is hardly new; I was doing it in the 1960s when I was in middle school.
Norman H. Green
A cure for the common opinion
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