Guest Blog by Dr. Jill Sunday Bartoli, Emerita, Elizabethtown College, PA
Stephen Krashen’s call for less weighing–more feeding is excellent, but he does not mention the sordid historical, political and profiteering purposes of testing that maintain it. In the past we used testing to keep millions of Eastern Europeans from entering the country, many of whom were fleeing pogroms. We used testing to build the eugenics movement forcing sterilization on the “feebleminded.”
We use testing to drive African American and Latino students out of school and into prisons, as Michelle Alexander details in The New Jim Crow. Excess testing helps to build the school to prison pipeline for those who most need good teaching and strong relationship building, because time is stolen from classrooms for impersonal, meaningless test prep and testing.
What Dewey called a democratic, experiential education, vital for all citizens of a democracy, is endangered. While governors and legislators take credit for making schools and teachers “accountable,” we are sacrificing the foundation of our democracy—a well informed, critical thinking citizenry capable of collaboration and cooperation.
Politicians use test scores to justify de-funding and dismantling public schools, denying equal educational opportunity to 85% of US children. Choice, charter schools and vouchers work for under 15% of students, yet millions are directed to non-public schools. Meanwhile we are #1 in child poverty and juvenile incarceration, and declining internationally in education.
More testing benefits corporations selling tests, test prep materials, and test aligned textbooks. Students and teachers are robbed of classroom time better spent on thoughtful, creative projects, personally meaningful writing, math and science experiments, and teacher observation and mediation in the on-going learning processes of their students.
Pulling students out of a rich learning environment for de-contextualized one-right-answer, multiple guess standardized tests will never move us ahead in education, which is why Dewey, Montessori and other great educators insisted on non-standardized, experiential, contextualized learning. Good teaching, learning and evaluating are intricately intertwined and interdependent. Pulling students and teachers out of this is like pulling a carrot out of the ground to see how well it is growing.