This week, we hosted The Nation‘s third live chat, our first ever using the CoveritLive platform. A discussion on testing and education reform, the chat featured writer Dana Goldstein and teachers Mark Anderson and Tara Brancato. During the hour we were live, over two-hundred readers stopped by, many of them educators. In addition, in the days leading up to the event, readers posted a number of their own smart comments. The result was a nuanced discussion that addressed holistic ways of assessing students and teachers, the pressure on educators to "teach to the test," and the need for teacher input in public policy, among other issues. You can read a replay of the chat and access the comment thread here.
Below are some great comments from that event—both from the chat itself and the comment threads—as well as some sharp insights posted in a few of our other pieces.
A taste of our Education and Testing Reform live chat:
Mark Anderson:I would say that we are measuring the wrong things. We should be measuring the learning environments of schools via direct observation, and assessing the content that schools are delivering to students. Right now, we are acting like students are products of individual teachers.
Tara Brancato: Some students are naturally critical thinkers, but have difficulty in standardized assessments. By trying to engage them on their level, and really encouraging those higher level abilities that they’re trying to express in non-traditional ways, I think we’re really preparing them for life beyond high school, not just testing. Testing can’t be the only preparation they get for those thinking skills that they need.
Dana Goldstein:Morna: It is true that the testing industry is highly involved in education policy-making, including in creating the Common Core and the tests that will go along with it. We need to make sure that politically, we are advocating for the idea that test scores alone do not define whether a school or teacher is a success or failure. School closings are a VERY tough issue. Polls of low-income parents show they would rather their local schools were "turned around" rather than re-opened as charters. But charters are also a very popular, over-subscribed option among parents.
David Ginsburg:Shamekka hit on a key word: PRESSURE to teach to the test. I’ve worked in urban schools for 20 years as a teacher, instructional coach, and administrator–and have consistently seen test scores take care of themselves when schools provide rich curriculum AND provide teachers the support they need to implement it. In other words, focus on teaching rather than testing. The problem is that many school leaders think this is a leap of faith and continue to respond to test score pressure by having teachers teach the test.
Smith: Maybe we need to ask some of the big questions, like who benefits from the way things are now (standardized tests and other pressures of accountability that make good teachers and school vulnerable to poor practices). That helps explain why things don’t change very fast. Those that benefit the most may have something to lose. Education is political, and whoever brought up the idea of getting involved with policy is right. Pockets of wonderful things help, but usually remain pockets of good things – unless and until we make it clear that public schooling is a priority value, and that thoughtful and talented teachers are the key. Policy makers need to get the message. Nothing about us without us. Too often, folks who sit outside education are making decisions about education. We need our voices to count.