“It isn’t just the dropouts whose motivation to learn is being affected by the relentless focus on testing and memorization. It’s nearly all students.” (Wagner 114)
The only kids who enjoy taking quizzes are the ones who get As on them. These are also the only ones who study. They don’t even enjoy taking the quiz, really; they just enjoy seeing their grades go up. I don’t see the value in training kids to win a trivia contest. Very few of them will go on to careers in which the memorization of places and people from 100+ years ago will be beneficial to them.
In my experience, the resistance to changing the system of objective, multiple-choice testing is not just a political one at the state and national level. I just had a conversation with my cooperating teacher this morning about his practice of administering an objective, multiple-choice quiz in his classes every Friday. He insists that repeating this practice every Friday is the best way to check for understanding and reinforce content knowledge. I don’t agree with this, and neither do the students’ grades.
This form of testing does not train students to comprehend complex reading materials, think analytically, write more effectively or perform research. These are the greatest areas of concern that need to be addressed for college-bound students.
Chapter 4, on teacher education and maintenance:
“What one has to do to become certified as a teacher or administrator is nearly identical to what students have to do for a high school diploma- take a disjointed collection of courses of uneven quality and then pass tests that rarely measure the skills that matter most.” (Wagner 148)
This is painfully true. While the courses at CSUSM are more interconnected with each other than many other credential programs, there is still an uneven quality to them, and the reality that the tests and assessments taken (including the CSET) are a poor indicator of our ability to deliver content and develop student skills.
If I designed an educational program, it would focus more on direct experience, and less on theoretical, high-minded idealism. There is the way that schools should work, and there is the way that schools actually work right now. We need to be be better-prepared for the latter; as novice teachers, we will not really be able to transform things toward the former. We can certainly benefit from learning how to integrate technology, improve assessments, but there are going to be hand and fast limitations on the things we can alter.
There should be a greater focus on strategies to teach the class as a whole and less emphasis on special student groups. Right now it feels like 80 percent of our coursework is focused on teaching 20 percent of the students. I don’t deny the value of differentiating content for English learners and students with special needs but it feels like there is far more emphasis being placed on it for us than there is for the teachers we are working with.
Wagner, T. (2008). The global achievement gap: Why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it. New York: Basic Books.