Education standards destructive

We met the other day in the kitchen of a retired teacher — far right, far left, working and retired teachers of all grades.

Carol Singletary

Carol Singletary

Despite our differences, we all came together for a single purpose: to fight what is happening to public education, particularly the new one-size-fits-all standards, the reliance on high-stakes standardized testing, and the new teacher evaluations.

The Common Core State Standards, were designed by non-educators and approved by most states before they were written.

Even if we set aside doubts about the desirability of a set of common standards for a nation as diverse as the U.S., we should be concerned about who designed these standards and their tests.

London-based Pearson, “the world’s leading education company,” designs many of the standardized tests used to test the effectiveness of the new standards. And it worked jointly with Bill Gates and others to fund development.

Thus, the company that was part of writing the standards is designing the tests to evaluate the standards, designing the curriculum the teachers use to teach the standards, and publishing the textbooks used in support of the standards.

Supporters of Common Core say they are not a curriculum, but will make instruction more efficient, like assembly lines improved efficiency in manufacturing.

But no one seems to be asking why that is a good thing. Are our children widgets now?

We remembered when most tests students took were designed by the teacher who had been teaching the material. We remembered using those tests to evaluate what our students knew, and how we could help them understand.

Now, more and more days are spent taking tests made by outside, for-profit groups that do not know the students or what the local community has decided is important.

And now if students do poorly on those tests, the teachers and schools are labeled as failing. The result, of course, is schools will tell their teachers to focus only on what will appear on the standardized test.

So do not tell us these standards are not dictating local curriculum.

Another issue of concern is the teacher evaluation system being implemented by Gov. Susana Martinez and Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. They say this system is designed to recognize the good teachers and weed out the bad. The reality could not be further from the truth.

The current system bases 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on the scores from the Standards Based Assessment (SBA) to hold teachers “accountable.”

The SBA tests students in grades 3-8,10 and 11 over English and math. Thus, teachers’ evaluations will be based 50 percent on how well their students do on this test.

For those who believe in the validity of corporate-created standardized tests, that makes sense. But what about a kindergarten teacher? Or a junior high science teacher? Or a high school vocational teacher? Since they do not teach tested subjects, their evaluation will be based on the school’s overall test scores.

That means, no matter how hard the teachers work, their evaluations will be based on test scores out of their control or impact.

Tell me again how this is going to identify excellent teachers?

As we gear up for the legislative session, we need to push back against these destructive changes to education.

 Carol Singletary is a longtime public school teacher. Contact her at:

csingletary@plateautel.net

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