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Common Core or Common Good: What Test was in School Today?

By March 25, 2014December 30th, 2021No Comments

If we looked at an 8mm home movie to view a common tradition of core values from the previous century, we might find a dinner table scene as a family shares the evening meal. In the movie, we see parents asking the stock question: “So, what did you learn in school today?” The child’s answer would be equally uncreative: “Nothing”. In my script, I learned that “nothing” was an invitation for more scrutiny. Follow-up inquiries such as “So, you’re telling me you already know all there is to know?” and “Then, why do we send you to school?” or “Do I need to call your teachers?” were avoided by aptly describing the best learning of the day. Often composed on the homebound school bus, being prepared for the round-robin that occurred after the milk was poured was critical to survival at dinner.

At that time, schools trusted that parents would be involved in their children’s education. Everyone belonged to the PTA, supported the band, showed-up for the annual spaghetti dinner, and called the school if the marks on the report card showed a significant drop in grades – the measure of student learning. Legislatures trusted schools to choose developmentally appropriate curriculum and conduct programs of study which would prepare children for what they should know and be able to do to be successful in college or a career. Tests were confined to the end of chapters, the end of units, and the end of the marking period. Results of standardized achievement tests given in 3rd and 8th grade and the SAT results were available upon request.

Let’s fast-forward to the 21st century. In a January, 2014 blog for Education Week, Peter Dewitt listed his list of Top 10 Critical Issues in the New Year that are important for education, one of which is high stakes testing:
Not sure if you have heard of this before, but schools across the country have to give high stakes test to students. Some start it in kindergarten, while others begin the 3rd grade. In most states they are tied to teacher/administrator evaluation and that will no doubt continue to be a big debate this year. There needs to be different methods used to assess student learning, and none of it should be “high stakes”.
Matthew Lynch also commented on the testing frenzy in his February, 2014 Education Week blog on the teacher casualties of the performance appraisal connection to student success on Common Core assessments He warns that good teachers stand as role models and counselors and that cannot be measured on a test. In the same month, a response to an on-line roundtable discussion on what should be taken off teacher’s plates as school adapt to the Common Core, a teacher lamented “Take standardized multiple-choice tests off my plate and let me get to work on the ingredients”.
In 2014, schools are begging for parent involvement in their children’s education. They need members in the PTA, support for the band, and fundraisers no longer supplement student activities, but the operating budget. Teachers call parents of students who are scoring less than proficient on mandated assessments – the measure of student learning, as well as the measure of their success in the classroom. Legislatures don’t trust schools to choose developmentally appropriate curriculum and conduct programs of study to prepare their children for what they should know and be able to do to be successful in college or a career. Tests are given daily to monitor student progress and teacher accountability and everyone is inundated by assessment results.
If we looked at an iPhone FaceTime video call between a parent and a child today, it might go something like this:
“What test was in school today?”
“In the morning, I had a benchmark assessment in reading.”
“Is that all?”
“No, right before lunch we had a practice test for writing and then in the afternoon we took the pilot test for math.”
“So, what did you learn in school today?”

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