Thursday, February 16, 2012

Success Defined by Test Scores (Zzzz...)

I write this blog to inform parents about the importance of the arts in public education. After learning that the arts had been drastically cut in Allentown elementary schools, I decided to start an after school art club at my son's school. All children should be given the chance to discover their talents at school. Our school board directors made short sighted decisions which have contributed to a narrowed, test driven curriculum. Kids are bored and are losing interest in school. I do what I can to bring art to our school, and to bring back some of the experiences that have been unfairly and unjustly taken away from our children. I can display art work for students and parents to view at a special PTA event at the end of March. At least it will be a little something for our kids to take pride in. The hallways are dull, and they lack displays of colorful, original student work. Our school seems to be defined by its test scores, rather than its student work.

By focusing on test scores and AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), a school can provide the concrete numbers that can be referred to when comparing and labeling schools. In our district, if a school continually makes AYP and shows growth over a two year period, a special Keystone award is given to the school. When I look at the test score data from over the past 10 years, it doesn't really look like growth to me. Our scores in 2002 were higher than 2011 scores, because poverty rate was not as high. Our district celebrates our PSSA "success" stories with great fanfare, and even describes schools as "entering the winner's circle." So does that mean schools and students were previously losers? It looks to me like the data is being manipulated to align with the unrealistic goals of NCLB. Or it just means that teaching to the test is working. Both scenarios are equally bad, and either way, parents are being duped. High stakes testing is a charade, and I can't support a charade disguised as a success story.

Standardized testing does measure some specific knowledge, but it does not measure things like a school's learning environment, or kindness of staff, integrity, bettering the lives of students, school/community initiatives, collaboration, student's best work- these attributes should not be viewed as tangential to school success, they are essential. There's no data collected on how much a teacher improves a student's life. Right now, public schools are defined as successes or failures based solely on standardized test scores. Where is the evidence that high test scores lead to accomplishments in adult life? Where is the data that shows high test scores will really make a difference in improving our nation's future? Schools and students are so much more than test scores. Education is much more complicated than AYP. I would much rather celebrate real student success, and a high quality curriculum infused with the arts, instead of success defined by test scores (Zzzz....).

1 comment:

Mrs. Dottie said...

What if non-conformity was the standard?