Teachers and Testing: The Debate Goes On

Letters in the New York Times,
July 21, 2013
Source: New York Times

Teachers and Testing: The Debate Goes On
To the Editor:

In your call for a reduced emphasis on testing (“The Trouble With Testing Mania,” editorial, July 14), you refer to a review of teacher education programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality, noting that, in contrast to Finland, the United States “has an abysmal system of teacher preparation.”

In contrast to site visits used by accrediting agencies, the review’s generalization about all teacher education programs was based primarily on reviews of course syllabuses according to criteria that are never clearly explicated in the report.

Given the methodological limitations of this review, only 10 percent of the 1,130 institutions reviewed provided complete information, certainly a limited sample.

This presumably unbiased analysis was also shaped by an ideological agenda driving the council — which, as the education expert Diane Ravitch noted, was founded by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation “as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.”

Minneapolis, July 14, 2013

The writer, professor emeritus of literacy education at the University of Minnesota, is president of the Literacy Research Association.

To the Editor:

It’s clear that we need to rethink “testing mania.”

High-stakes assessments have sapped schools of three critical ingredients: time, money and talent.

Testing critics often focus on the loss of instructional time. But time isn’t the only wasted resource. Financial resources are being squandered as districts scramble to meet the technology demands of the new Common Core assessments.

Most significantly, the testing intended to ensure high-quality teaching is bleeding our profession of its most talented members.

Testing advocates insist that teachers need a constant stream of assessment data to know how to target instruction.

But external tests rarely provide expert teachers with new information.

We know our children’s proficiency with critical skills by closely observing and probing their thinking daily.

What about tests as a motivational tool for teachers?

Assessments drain our classrooms of joy and distract us from our craft.

Tests can’t motivate us to perform.

Children motivate us to perform.

Cambridge, Mass., July 14, 2013
The writer is a elementary-school teacher in the Cambridge Public Schools.

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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