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Is the Standards Movement Good For Teachers?


In a viewpoint article in Teacher Magazine, educational consultant Tim Deroche argues that, far from being necessary evils that creative educators simply have to endure, standards and testing are having an "incredibly positive effect on teacher morale." He says the new focus on results in schools fosters more collaboration among teachers, provides data to help them track students' progress, and creates clear job expectations.

What's your view? Are teachers embracing the standards movement? What effects does standardized testing have on teachers?


As a classroom teacher for the past 33 years in Scituate, Massachusetts I believe the standards and testing show while being long overdue in public education has still not achieved its desired results. Before the 1993 Ed Reform legislation passed in Massachusetts the only curricula guidelines teachers had to go on were from adopted texbook series in each district, in each discipline. The reality was each district adopted whatever series best met their needs. Many districts meant many different textbook series and no common adoption (curriculum). That's code for: teachers could teach whatever they wanted (or not), whenever they wanted because there was no common curriculum in place from one district to the next, or in one subject to the next. Administrators' evaluations were (and in many cases still are) a joke. They were all hearts and flowers for fear of offending someone or having someone taking them to court for a negative evaluation. The new standards/testing mode should have remied that completely but unfortunately it has not. Principals spend 90% of their time or more on public relations (discipline and keeping parents "happy"). They know next to nothing about what standards are expected at each grade, in each discipline. Their opportunity to become the true educational "leader" of their school has been flushed down the toilet. A shame, a damn shame, but the truth. Value added assessments could change all that overnight but who do you think will be fighting that one tooth and nail, with all the "resources" they can muster? If you guessed the NEA and all state teachers' unions, you're correct.

Paul Hoss
Scituate, Massachusetts
[email protected]

I agree with Paul Hoss regarding principals and some teachers. The principals I have worked under seem to be those who disliked teaching, becoming administrators as soon as possible for the money and to get out of the classroom. They don't recognize good teaching or bad teaching. The standards and testing movement has got them running scared and provided them with a very limited plan for evaluating teacher performance.

Before this testing phenomenon I found numbers of teachers actively seeking out colleagues in informal study groups to develop teaching that would best serve their students. In Michigan they started with the state curriculum which clearly stated standards and benchmarks and worked from there to determine how best to support their students toward those goals.

When testing became high stakes, most of those teachers left the teaching profession, not because their students had failed to make progress but because the standards for progress, the methods of measuring progress and the "scientifically research based" programs they were forced to use reflect a "one-size-fits-all" mentality where in reality one size fits few.

An example: I spoke at a hearing our Michigan Superintendent of Education convened regarding "adequate yearly progress." I pointed out to him that in my first grade class of 31 students most had no books in their homes, had never been read to before they began Kindergarten, had no previous experience with books. My students had no school library and the local public library had been closed for 5 years and was scheduled to be torn down. There are no book stores in the neighborhood. Yet these students were expected to read at the same level as children from the wealthier suburbs who had grown up being read to nightly, having their own books from infancy onward, and having daily examples in their own homes of people reading for a variety of reasons. The superindtendent replied that he and others had discussed this very problem and had concluded that children like my students would need to make more than a year's progress in one year's time. He had nothing to say when I asked him how that could happen with over 30 students in a class, less availability of books and lacking support in most homes.

I know I can get all my students to read and most to want to read more. But I can't get them all to pass the darned tests in one year and some may need more than three.

Also, with the advent of these standards and tests came this "scientifically research based" reading program that doesn't allow me the time to read aloud and discuss good books with my students. The student books are decodable meaning that they are not fun or interesting. And there's no money left over after purchasing all the books and workbooks required for the program to purchase good, interesting, fun books at my students' reading levels. So now they "read", or rather bark at the page, but they don't learn that reading can be interesting or enjoyable and, now that I am teaching fifth grade, I find they don't learn that reading involves understanding what is being read. Probably because those decodable books don't make a whole lot of sense and have nothing in them worth discussing.

I have always worked hard to be the best teacher I could be for each of the students I work with. But I am no longer allowed to make decisions for my students about how they each learn best and my school is evaluated based on tests that narrow the curriculum and do not measure the actual progress my students make.

I see many teachers not thinking, just following the plans provided in each new program, frantically teaching to the test for the two months before the testing period and blaming parents and students for poor scores.

I see more and more students bored in school, and fewer and fewer who want to read or think or question.

The effect is to make me wish I could afford to retire immediately.

As Dewey warned, we should be wary of "either/or" situations. In my view, the question is not "should we have standards or not?" The concept of standards as a guideline to teachers is valuable insofar as it promotes overall awareness of curricular goals and encourages collaboration amongst teachers in incorporating those goals. However, currently,standards have not been used as a constructive tool for teachers. Instead, in a frenzy of micromanagement, standards have been broken down into minute descriptions to the point where there are so many that their utility is undermined by the sheer numbers. Furthermore, the standards are so designed that they encourage decontextualed lessons in order to ensure the instruction of a specific listing. In this day and age of high stakes testing, I believe there is an implicit assumption that forcing teachers to follow the standards step-by-step will result in higher test scores. I believe this to be a fallacious assumption because in the dedication to meeting the standards, educators lose sight of the purpose of the skills and information in the larger picture of authentic application. Meaningless skills and content are difficult to integrate on a deeper level for future use. In the case where teachers have had to list the specific standards covered in their lesson plans, standards have become an extra burden instead of a boon. Finally, monitoring teachers use of standards sends a message of mistrust. Again, collaboration is a better answer to ensuring that teaching covers the essentials. Standards can be an instrumental teaching tool in this context.

P.S. I think Ms. Sharon's personal account above of the detrimental use of standards is a perfect example of the bureaucratic blindness and ignorance that enforces this misuse. You can hear the devotion to her students and the destructive frustration wrought by the system in her comments. We are in terrible jeopardy of losing our valuable teachers.

I think Tim Deroche is a paid mouthpiece of the Bush administration like Armstrong Williams. He spouts the straight Republican party line and his insistence that standards have incredibly positive effects on teachers is ludicrous. I could not find any evidence of this person being an actual teacher in his life, just an educational consultant and TV producer. Why is Edweek giving space to him then?

I have the opportunity to hear from and speak with many teachers throughout our mostly rural state. In my days spent with many excellent, inventive teachers, I hear a great deal of frustration with high stakes testing. Many are worried about "covering" material and often have to sacrifice in depth, authentic learning for the sake of the upcoming test. I still believe that there is a way to dance the dance of NCLB and still be able to enjoy authentic learning and that challenges the students to think critically as well as creatively. A great many of the teachers want and need time, free from constant intercom interruptions for early dismissals, special meetings and more activities that they are required to oversee in addition to making miracles happen. We need, no, Bush needs to listen to the teachers!

One thing we are hearing in the field from teachers is that 1) new teachers feel that they know exactly what to teach with the specificity provided by standards; 2) disbelievers are now believers of standards because they can see measurable improvement in student performance through data; and 3) standards have provided a common language for teachers, causing a huge increase in both vertical and horizontal collaboration. I agree that implementation is a huge issue; however, when used to assess where to focus instructionally for students, there is some evidence that standards have been helpful for teachers.

The standards movement epitomizes the dumbing down and numbing of America’s education system. Rather than have a teacher/classroom that stands out above all others as a model of true learning, we are in the midst of a movement to standardize that individual/classroom by demanding that certain concepts must be taught, and taught in a test format. I admired the student/teacher who did not have to be pointed in a certain direction of learning/teaching. I was a teacher like that!

This almost sounds self-serving, but trust that I am not tooting my horn. In my teaching days, knowing parents requested that their child be put in my class. They knew that their student would learn how to learn in my class, rather than just learn facts.

But our school has now standardized all classrooms, preparing for the next mandated test. The projects my students got into would not be allowed today, due to all of the time and effort needed to get ready for the next mandated test. These projects are what got these students' creative juices bubbling. I tracked my students' progress year after year, and they always had a class average of at least a year and 1/2 gain on their standardized tests. The stronger students usually showed from 2 to 3 years' gain.

Know that I did not teach them 2 to 3 years' worth of "stuff." I created a positive self-image in them, and offered a risk-free environment for them to venture in. From this, most of them found an inner desire to "figure things out." Their will to give their best was a self-guide to solving problems.

I loathed the teacher who was there merely for the paycheck, and realize that today's demands do have a positive side in that they helped get these teachers in gear -- or better yet, driven them out of the profession.

Often we are told that schools do not teach to the test -- that learning is still alive and well. Wrong!! Once the test has come and gone, we are then and only then turned loose to be teachers. But until that test date arrives, you had better be found working on concepts covered in the test using problems presented in the test format. Sounds familiar, teachers? If not, it is coming soon to a school district near you! As NCLB tightens the screws each year, creativity in teaching becomes less and less a quality sought after.

I ran into my old principal, who is now retired. In visiting, he looked me in the eye and said, "Do you realize that you would not be able to be the teacher you were, if you were teaching today?" My response was that "my students would not be able to be the students they were, if they were in school today."

We are dumbing down the teaching profession and our students by academically addressing each and everyone in the exact same mundane manner.

Would you choose your doctor based on his passing a standardized test, or did you choose him because he is different --- not the same as every other doctor? My doctor presents numerous novel approaches to treating me. That's what makes him special. That's what makes him my doctor! Obviously, he does have that certificate on his wall, but that isn't what brought me to him. I'm thankful that his education was not standardized!

Today, the teacher is becoming an insignificant part of the educational process, except for the influence that he/she can still spread (or destroy) by their student/teacher interactions. That is one thing that NCLB can never take away from us!!!

In Texas, we are seeing the beginnings of our students protesting the weight of these standardized tests. Several of our top students are now refusing to take the tests --- even when this could mean not passing to the next grade or no diploma.

Unfortunately, we teachers are too afraid to do the same, fearful of losing our jobs. What a great day it will be, when these kids are the voters of the nation, and they can finally put an end to this treason.

I am convinced that Standards Testing cripples teachers and students. Teachers are forced to teach TO the test, instead of using the tests to evaluate the students. They waste valuable time teaching their students HOW to take tests and not enough time teaching the children what they really need to know. Testing is only effective in determining knowledge in those students who are good at taking tests. Many perfectly good students freeze up when it comes to test taking and thus it looks like they are not learning.

Here in Texas they are deliberately making it difficult for the students in the top 10% of their classes to get into college. Why? Because the students may be in the top 10% of their classes according to the tests they take, but knowledge wise they are lacking. Colleges are frustrated and disappointed because they expect the incoming students to be knowledgeable about subjects, when in fact the students don't know much of anything. Students simply remember information long enough to take the tests and then promptly forget it.

Do people have to force you, as an adult, to learn? I know a majority of the things I have learned I have taught myself because I had an interest in the subject. I didn't need someone to force feed me and then test me on what I had learned. Do you?

Babies are born to learn. They learn to sit, crawl, scoot, stand, walk, run, communicate, feed themselves, toilet train and any number of things without being tested on their knowledge. Children are little sponges, they are interested in a variety of things without anyone telling them they need to be tested on this or that. Why do we think that children are empty buckets that need to be filled by experts when in actuality they are sponges soaking up all kinds of information from their environment? I say, "Throw away the tests and give students a rich environment with mentors and loving people who are eager to guide and direct them and they will flourish."
Testing does not prove anything. People learn when they are taught and mentored by people who know their subject and are excited to share their knowledge. How can teachers share their enthusiasm with their students when they are worried all the time about the standaredized tests coming up?
So what if there wasn't a standard curriculum for everyone? Students learned much better back then As tests have taken the foreground, learning has taken a back burner and now we are something like #17 in the world education wise?
Do we really expect everyone to know everything? Nobody is good at everything. People learn what they are interested in learning. A standardized curriculum is like a conveyor belt, at the end the little cookies all come out exactly the same. Do we want all people to be exactly the same? Why? Where then would we get out experts?
So in conclusion, children come out of 12+ years of education, knowing a little about many subject but not enough to be experts in anything and teachers are crippled, teaching to the test instead of sharing their knowlege.
We had better go back to things they way they were, before the entire education system collapses.

I believe teachers are embracing the new standards and we are seeing more collaboration among teachers. I believe that is going to hold principals to higher standards and we won't have high salaries being paid out without results. There is no room for the "invisible principal". it's time to stand up and be counted.

Yes, the Standards Movement is good for teachers. It has given us cause to improve our teaching skills, share among other professionals, and move away from isolation. Teachers are talking about teaching.

My experience has been that teachers are embracing the standards movement. But they are disenchanted with the political games that detract from what our goal is-to prepare students to become lifelong learners in this ever changing world.

The effects of standardized testing have on teachers is frustration on many fronts. One is that yearly comparisons of different groups of students are being made instead of tracking the progress of the SAME group of students over the years.

Another is that the amount of teaching time that is lost due to the inordinate amount of testing these students get. At the elementary level, teachers can spend months away from the classroom for individualized stadardized testing outside of the state tests! Students today of all grade levels are tested to death.

We see their frustration with the high stakes testing and the stigma that goes with poor scores even though they may be very successful in school even a school with high standards.

Today public schools must make AYP. Interestingly enough that means that even if your school system has an average score of 98% of your students passing and you did not exceed the percentage that the says you need to show "progress", then that system can be deemed a failing school system. That is where the teachers ultimate frustration lies. How can a school system make AYP if their state testing has very high standards? Each state has their own test, some are easier than others. But wasn't the original intent to measure basic skills? Why is it that in a state like Massachusetts every student regardless of ability is expected to learn precalculus, be proficient in all historical periods, etc? Where is the realistic goals disappeared? The alternative is not to lower the bar but decide what that bar should be for all because like it or not, we are not all created equal; however we must have equal opportunity to succeed and meet our potential whatever that may be. We all can't be rocket scientists.

The logic escapes me but as an educator, I will do my best to teach all my students and help them reach their highest potential possible but I must accept that I can't take the total responsiblity for my students success or failure no matter how much professional development I do or the tedious hours of developing motivating and highly effective lessons I plan. I rest in the satisfaction and interaction of my students as they learn and develop a better understanding of their world. Teachers can make a difference in a child's life. That's what I intend to do.

from IN DOE: ..."standards outline what students should know and be able to DO at each grade level"
I think our local teachers tend to teach only content and not the "DO".
Research shows that skills that are not taught to fluency will deterioate.

All this talk about standards takes place but seems not to be based on an accepted definition of what "standards" are and why they are used. Therefore, everyone assumes his or her own definition, defending or attacking on ground that may or may not be common to others. Such uncertainty surely has its background in the extreme dislike of "forcing all children to the same mold," seen as ignoring the fact that each child is an individual. It also has something to do with what the children are to be "learning" in school. After more than ten years of studying various kinds of educational perspectives, I have come to a conclusion that the basic complexity involved in educating children is made more confusing and controversial by our inability to debate rationally around a clearly defined concept. For example, we can define standards as "vledaminde" and debate by saying: "I agree and here are my reasons", or "I disagree and here are my reasons." But this would require listening to and reflecting on our opponents' reasons.

Having been in at the beginning of the Standards movement, working on the National History Standards, I have seen this effort grow and disintegrate. Our efforts were maligned and criticized by many, but remain the model for many states.

In the school, teachers are given some really fine goals to strive for in the classroom. The testing programs negate the good intentions of higher standards. Teachers leave in frustration, plan their lessons to meet testing requirements, and abandon the projects and enrichment that will help deprived kids love learning.

The new Report from the 50 state legislatures have it right: this domination of states' supervision of education is probably unconstitutional. To gain a paltry 8% of funding for schools, the state education people have sold their souls and betrayed teachers and students.

Utah is reisting and that is good. Let's strive for high standards, limit testing and give young people the opportunities they need to find joy in learning and skills to meet this ever-changing world with new ideas and technology.

As a retired officer having served in the artillery, I have never had to fight a war. However, I had the experience of learning to fight one without ever actually having to fire a shot in defense of this country. This was the result of individual study and collaborative group rehearsals in exercises designed to test the abilities of individuals and cohesive units. All training was supported by user manuals, teaching devices, equipment - real and mock-ups, time on task and constant evaluation to a standard done in a collegial environment. After action reviews were used to stress lessons learned that were incorporated in the next training exercise. The cycle was repeated again and again until the unit reached its goal.

In all the discussion about standards, I rarely find serious analysis of how schools need to function in order to improve teaching and, as a result, the learning of students. In my experience in education, schools are rarely led by someone who can motivate a staff in the spirit of combined effort. Instead, when things go wrong blame is typically assigned. Sometimes the staff is blamed for not following guidance. Or the blame is placed on causes out of the control of the school. Hands are thrown up and people often find their own way to justify why success has not been achieved, or worse still, is not achievable.

The NCLB requires standards to be met. This is not a bad thing. Of course, it's requirement for linear progression of improvement over the next several years will disorganize many schools by shuffling staff and resources just at the point when staffs should begin to work together to seek solutions for failing to meet standards.

The process that works in the military has got to be used in education if we expect to make any real progess. We need a common set of goals, a common professional language and we need to be provided with adequate tools. Unfortunately, the NCLB train has left the station without loading up with the resources needed. Extraordinary effort does pay off. But I am not optimistic. It appears to me that these success stories will be the exception to the rule, and I am afraid that we will end up with a fragmented educational system - with the have-nots left behind in a public school system that will no longer meet the needs of our society.

I totally disagree based on my recent research and an in-depth review of literature. From a qualitative perspective and a reflection of teachers words, many are questioning their professional wisdom and leaving the classroom, rather than act in contradiction to what they know is best for children. Standards does create a sharing and collaboration, but the implementation in the classroom as demanded by districts is far from the rosy picture painted in this consultant's view.

I totally disagree based on my recent research and an in-depth review of literature. From a qualitative perspective and a reflection of teachers words, many are questioning their professional wisdom and leaving the classroom, rather than act in contradiction to what they know is best for children. Standards do create a sharing and collaboration, but the implementation in the classroom as demanded by districts is far from the rosy picture painted by this consultant's view. Accountability and standards are necessary, but implementation and demands of practice, practice, practice create boredom for teachers and students. This is a complex issue, not so easily defined.

I am now among the ranks of "former teacher." Being a teacher in the state of Texas is grueling when you have to place standards on young children who are not emotionally and physically equiped to handle the stress of the "test." My morale was very poor when the Administration in my school harrassed me for not following the "prescribed" testing curriculum. I left; I don't want to return, and furthermore, I have pulled out my 3rd grade son to be homeschooled. Other states, such as Utah has already learned, should be wary of federal guidelines of "No Child Left Behind." It is a set of guidelines made by lawmakers who aren't even in the classroom, and are not qualified to make decisions about our childrens' learning.

Generally my colleagues resent nclb because the standards in our state are often not developmentally appropriate and are too compacted. Teachers know that learning takes time and that children learn at different rates. We also know that "covering material" is not the same as learning. We try to teach way too many topics to kids in a year and they have little opportunity to master ideas and make connections between ideas. There is little time for deep problem solving or application of new learning. There's too much of a rush to move on to the next topic. NCLB is not interested in creating a curious, inquisitive, problem solving student, it is interested in creating a factory mass produced "student in a box, one size fits all".

As a child, it seemed that my teachers covered what was in the texts and often went off on tangets according to their interests. This was not a bad thing actually, because I was inspired and motivated by them to investigate many subjects in my own spare time according to my own interests. Education is very different now, instead of giving children time in the evenings to explore their world, they are driven to exhaustion trying to keep up with a test-driven system. Specifically, having standards is not actually the problem. Teachers are still able to be creative in planning and executing the delivery of the material in the prescribed curriculum in any grade-level from kindergarten to college following guidelines. Having standards is important to any child that may move from state to state. We see this as a necessity in today's mobile society. I see the measurement of achievement outcomes as the problem. As long as we have a society that expects the educational system to deliver computational data "about children" that can be compared state to state and across the world internationally, this perpetuates the problem of performance anxiety created in our young children of today. I can't help but think what this is doing to every child's desire and motivation to be "all that they can be." When will they find the time to investigate passions? #1, and have we snuffed that desire out of them? #2. We are "testing" so much that we are creating many students that learn just to spit back answers but do not learn for the sheer enjoyment of it. For the benefit of the next generation, we need to bring the spark back into learning and eliminate this test driven educational machine. Don't get me wrong, I know accountability is necessary and I'm not saying that students and teachers should not be held accountable for outcomes, just that we have too, too much testing at this point!

Are teachers embracing the standards movement? Spend some time in our schools? I would not say teachers are embracing the movement, but they are being dragged along with it...
The plethora of otrosities that are occuring in classrooms in the name of accountability is unbearable. I wish more teachers embraced thier role as political agents of education and came together in solidarity, with action to respond to the centralized demands that they and thier students have had to bare.

Standards and accountability should not be misconstrued to mean a "culturally biased, narrowed curriculum, high-stakes assessment"

I have taught for 25 years. And throughout, I feared the coming of this day.

How many legislators are aware of the current brain research? How many lawyers? The public? If anyone of these groups would take time to look, they would see what we educators already know. Standardized testing DOES NOT accurately assess individual students. Do teachers and schools need to be held accountable? Of course. However, relying on a test as the basis for declaring what schools are ok and which ones are not is a travesty. In this world of black and white, our students are like the colours of the rainbow. How do you fit those bright colours into a black and white testing world? There are so many misunderstandings about testing that it is laughable...only...the public has bought into it, and the legislators feel like they deserve a pat on the back after passing legislation designed to undermine and destroy public education...and then thinly disguised as a way of "evaluating" public education.

Hey folks, sad as it is, the people with the money influence our chosen leaders. Those special interst groups that are all about home schooling and vouchers have weighed in and put pressure on the legislators until they got what they wanted. I applaud Utah for standing up and saying "no!" I hope other states follow.

In closing, how many of us would go to our doctor or surgeon and tell them how to conduct their practice or how to improve their surgery techniques? How many of us would tell the millions of lawyers how to practice? In other words, how many of us would go to a professional and tell them how to do their job? Yet, daily, educators are not treated as the experts in their field...they are treated as part-timers who don't know the difference between good and bad teaching. So we must be "helped" and coaxed into becoming better teachers by legislation that is not in the interest of the kids. I don't know about you, but I haven't exactly stored up monetary riches awaiting me upon my retirement from this profession. I teach because I was led to teach and because I am important in my students' lives. In many cases, I am the ONLY adult they see each day that cares about them and has patience towards them. Yet...I do not understand my clientel; I do not understand what I should be doing to be a better teacher; and I certainly don't understand the importance of getting a 100% on "THE TEST".

Ladies and gentlemen, educators have so much potential power...but often fail to utilize it. We sit in our teacher lounges and complain, then go out, try and accomodate the latest additions and mandates levied upon us, and continue to love and teach our students. Isn't it time to stand up and find our voice? Isn't it time to let the public hear what we think? Haven't we taken enough from the special interest groups? When will we hit that point that we no longer are willing to have sand thrown in our face anymore?

I hope it is within my lifetime. I used to think there was no way educators would continue to allow themselves be dragged through the sands of humiliation and public scorn. And yet, here I am, 25 years down the raod, and we are still acting like humbled servants. It is time to act! It is time to stand up! WE must start calling our representatives and telling them what we think! We must take our case to our parents in our local communities. WE MUST TAKE CARE OF OUR PROFESSION!

Thank you.

Perhaps a key to comprehension lies in this quote from the previous participant:

"Standardized testing DOES NOT accurately assess individual students."

What is meant by "assessing students?" Is it an assessment of the totality of student personality, of ALL their potential and talents? Is this the purpose of any testing, standardized or not?

This purpose seems consistent with John Dewey's thinking. In "My Pedadogic Creed" he wrote: "Examinations are of use only so far as they test the child's fitness for social life and reveal the place in which he can be of the most service and where he can receive the most help."

If this is what is meant by testing, then certainly NCLB is very wrong.

But an overriding question is whether any institution, such as school, has the qualifications, authority or right to make judgments on such a personal aspect of child growth. In the classroom I am a teacher, not a god.

It seems strange that so many states are willing to give so much control to the Federal government in exchange for the promise of funding. Haven't we seen the same thing with IDEA and every other major funding issue in education. The Federal government's promise of funding is a myth that never plays out into actual dollars and cents. Federal funding in the twentieth century for education has yet to meet any of its goals for any program. WHy would NCLB be any different. STate legislatures are banking on a cash cow that just won't give milk. Are we so willing to hand over control of our school districts for a promise that has been proven to be full of holes time after time. Good teachers hold themselves to a standard that no government program could ever attain. They do the right thing and teach the right material because that is what they are. . . teachers.

Let's face it NCLB is yet another smoke screen to avoid wrestling with the real issues facing education. Standards and testing is all well and good if the analysis of the data provided is meaningful. But of course in most cases this simply doesn’t occur. In the first case there is the notion that standards are somehow a new invention, a wondrous panacea, concocted by this administration. Standards and or Frameworks have been around for decades, as have Standardized tests. The notion that we can expect schools to change their percentile ranking based on information from a “scantron form” is ludicrous and statistically fallacious. This is simply a way to get the focus off real issues like school funding reform and the fact that disintegration of social support ideologically for schools and teachers are fundamentally more important and therefore more challenging issues. It’s simply a copout to say” We must have accountability!” The notion of accountability on a national level is absurd, the factors contributing to the success of our nations schoolchildren are simply too complex to test for. Furthermore the testing regimes that are employed are grossly flawed. As some have pointed out already, test taking is a skill in and of itself. There have been numerous cultural bias studies that raise serious doubts about the statistical validity of “standard norms”. Furthermore any test taking expert should be aware that no test that is normed on a national level actually has any accuracy at measuring the factors it is designed to measure unless it has been analyzed longitudinally. That is, if we are testing for actual academic preparedness the same students must be followed for years after they take a test. To my knowledge this has not been undertaken to validate any of the tests now commonly in use. Therefore it can be assumed (without making an a%$ out of oneself) that the test makers have no idea, what so ever, what they are actually testing for. Hence my first point, all this blathering about accountability is simply a means of avoiding the real issues, which are far too complex to list here, and in the same breath line the pockets of the publishers who write and score the tests and design programs to teach to them.

As I continue to work with teachers, I find that the increasing demands being placed upon them to perform at a level mandated by politicians becomes too much. Teachers seek out those grades that are currently exempt from testing, or those subjects, or they leave the profession altogether. I mainly focus on science professional development in a variety of schools, and teachers are being forced to forego best practices to teach the test in the format of the test. In the weeks and months leading up to the testing period, hands-on, minds-on opportunities are put on hold...it becomes drill-and-kill ditto sheets.

Serving in my 15th year as a school principal and my first year at The Porcupine School, Porcupine, SD, the heart of the Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation) my heart is saddened to know that the students in my school, while making progress from year to year, will have to overcome a host of problems many students in main stream schools do not face. Can we do it? Yes, if we approach the NCLB problem in a positive way. The comments and support of other educators, parents, and community persons both here and in this area certainly give us courage and better feelings. In one sense of the word NCLB is punishement for schools and students such as ours. IN another sens maybe its time that someone gave us a wake call and served notice that the time has come to stand up and be counted rather than to make excuses for our failures ( I speak soley in relation to my school and not others). Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support for children.

Serving in my 15th year as a school principal and my first year at The Porcupine School, Porcupine, SD, the heart of the Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation) my heart is saddened to know that the students in my school, while making progress from year to year, will have to overcome a host of problems many students in main stream schools do not face. Can we do it? Yes, if we approach the NCLB problem in a positive way. The comments and support of other educators, parents, and community persons both here and in this area certainly give us courage and better feelings. In one sense of the word NCLB is punishement for schools and students such as ours. IN another sens maybe its time that someone gave us a wake call and served notice that the time has come to stand up and be counted rather than to make excuses for our failures ( I speak soley in relation to my school and not others). Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support for children.

Standards are fine if they are reasonable and can be met. More important to the lives of anyone is the "love of learning." In my classroom of 4th graders, "special teachable moments" in which the children have a high interest on a topic suggested by an idea becomes shortened, or (in my case-hidden within lesson plans) because we have to be sure we cover all the "core curriculum standards." In reality, if we took the 4th grade standards we have and did just one a day, the children would be going to school longer hours and more than 1 year to cover it all. Yes, I have heard we are suppose to "compact" the curriculum but now all we have is introduced concepts, and no or little mastery. Why? not enough time and way to much to "cover". Our curriculums are "an inch deep and 20 miles long." And with it all the love of learning is never given time to be enjoyed. For many teachers the love of teaching is slowly floating away too! Meet the NCLB and be sure all the children by 2014 ALL pass the tests. That goal is not even statistically possible even in nature. Never have I seen NCLB goals that say the children should develop and grow their love of learning. Oh! but is not that a life skill we all should have and cherish!

Well, thank goodness I won't let it happen in my class. And thank goodness there are teachers out there who agree with me. To those of you ready to give up with all the outside pressures-don't- you are the only hope the children have to want to learn because they love it. And the "it" is NOT standards and testing.

I am a newly certified teacher in Business and Marketing Ed. As I do not have tenure every yr I have to wonder if I will have a job. I am 2 courses away from my masters degree in B/M Ed.

At my school, we can be assigned any of the following: cafeteria duty (we are assigned a week we have to eat in the cafeteria and watch students), patio duty (students were throwing milk at the doors of the nearby classes, among other things), parking duty (standing in the rain, snow, or whatever), bathroom duty, and now we are doing the guidance counselors' jobs. Your homeroom is suppose to stay with you until graduation and every registration the teacher has to be responsible for advising students and collecting registration forms.

We have to do this with a booklet and 45 minutes training (during your planning period of course). During my planning period I had to give the 10th grade writing test, do computer remediation, have students write once a week to improve scores, and I chair the data collection focus group (a part of High Schools that Work). I have to meet with the HSTW person monthly, ON MY PLANNING PERIOD.

For staff development we have study group once a month where we study a recommended book from HSTW ON OUR PLANNING period. I am advisor to 5 seniors, which means I edit their senior project paper before the English teacher does. I also judge at senior projects, giving my time. I have to sit in on School Improvement Team meetings to update them, but I am not allowed a vote(they usually take 2 to 3 hours). I am FBLA advisor. I am only allowed 2 fundraisers a year so we do that.

Are you beginning to get the pic why so much testing is hard and the data from it skewed? Our principal and lead teacher want us to literally dance, sing, or whatever we have to do to "engage" students.

Our curriculum in NC I think is good. It is really helpful to have notebook guides so we cover everything. But I hate "local" control has turned into principalidess. Our principal is a dictator.

So for him to consider you capable you do what I call the "song and dance". Principals don't want good teachers. Bear with me as I state one last proof. Up until this year I taught Computer Apps I, II, Business Law, Small Business. I had worked for 2 yrs to get E-Commerce put on the schedule. First year it didn't work. Second year it made as I signed up a lot of my students I had taught before.

I saw the books were ordered for it, I took a class at my own expense to teach E-commerce I, and asked Business Law be moved to 1st semester so we could participate in teen court. He assigned all my courses to the non-certified, youngest teacher.

When do I plan for class? At home on non-paid time. And I agree with one writer about observations. My first year of teaching a principal hired a keyboarding teacher to teach technology. He didn't even know enough about either of the programs to hire correctly. How could he be the best judge of my teaching?

What attorney has to be observed practicing law before he/she can stay at the firm? How many win all their cases, always?

How many doctors have to have a 100% cure rate to stay practicing medicine? I give a pre-test and a mid-term off the State's approved database for us to use. What the student has learned can be seen far better by comparing the two scores and I can show progress while learning what I need to teach or re-teach.

I don't know how long I will stay in teaching. I like working with the kids, but my time is spent doing duties administrators should be doing. Hire a test giver! I have collapsed.


As someone in training to become a teacher within the next year, perhaps some will disregard my input as pure uninformed specualtion; admittedly, I am a bit green. Yet my perspective in this forum is unique- I rely heavily at present on what I am told and what I observe, not yet on what experiences I have in the field. I have not seen education evolve, but I have the advantage of recent public school graduation, and someone 'going through the system' right now. We're hearing a lot in SUNY colleges now about NCLB, and a lot of professors are dead against it. Quite honestly, they're scaring us with it. Reading independently of classes though, the premise doesn't seem all that terrible- some homogeny in the school system is probably not a bad thing. It's a matter of what individual states are doing with the Act, and how the states are interpreting the legislation; for some it's a chance to shine, for others, the last straw. My (slightly idealistic) challenge is to understand the current legislation for what it is- its flaws and its promise- and to make the best of it.I love learning. I love teens. I love history. I love my country. And I like to think that somehow they all can lump together into a rewarding, if not challenging, career. Because this is what we take on as teachers- the good, bad, and ugly. I think its important as educators and role models to be up for a challenge, and to keep lobbying for what we see wrong with the rules and status quo, because this is the kind of good citizenship we want to model or the next generation.

In our state, Arkansas, we are held accountable to Frameworks and, of course, NCLB. Although many of us grumble, I know that my students have benefited from a focused curriculum...they are ready, more than ever, for life after high school.

While all that is mainly written here deals with need for standards our memories are short. The reality of education today is the almost nonexistent accountability of parents! Parents talk the talk but do not walk the walk. It is easy to get lip service from parents but hard to get ral action out of most. There is a culture crisis going on across the nation and we teachers help to perpetuate it. We refuse to act like the profesionals we are and instead buckle under pressure from weak administrators and parents who lack the backbone to REALLY get their children to do as they are told. Few other professions would have put up with the media driven nonsense we have . The codes of behavior toleration are just another example of a lack of desire on the part of school leaders to make a stand in the face of lack of parental support: everyone runs in fear of loosing jobs in the system and parents loosing their children's love. It is high time to stand in support of each other against the overdone sensitivity of students and children! As for standards and their need, American isn't the greatest nation on earth because our schols are failing but rather because of the wonderful job we do for those children who come to school everyday motivated by those parents who stand by the valued jobs that are being done in schools across this great country---Let's send the pendulum back the other way and kick those critics and uncooperative parents and children off their 'high horses'.

The standards movement translates to standardized testing,which has been accepted as the only quantifiable way to evaluate how a school is doing. There is no standardized test to judge how happy kids are, how they think life is treating them, or how happy the parents are to have a healthy, happy teen in the house. The results tell us that in affluent, upwardly mobile communities, the schools seem to be doing a good job because the kids score well on the standardized tests. And in the less affluent, downwardly mobile communities the schools seem to be failing because the kids do not score well on the standardized tests. The schools are in lock step. It is clear that we need to break that spell, reverse that trend...but how do standardized tests help us do that??? Answer: they don't. The "poor schools" are failing and the "rich schools" are doing well. And Standardized tests can't solve the problem. They just point out the obvious in the case of the "poor schools," and lull the "rich schools" into thinking they are doing a good job. The logical extension of this standards movement is to end up like the students in Japan, who lately are getting together and planning mass suicides! Do we want to go there? No. There must be a better way to evalute schools. We need to find it. And soon!!

As a K-4 School Counselor in a rural part of Maine, I am interested in hearing how School Counselor's roles are impacted by the stress teachers and children feel as these mandates and assessments play out in our schools. Any thoughts? Elena

Having taught history for 32 years, I have enjoyed seeing the educational "cycles" come and go. Now we are to teach standards! What in the heck do they think we have been teaching for 32 years? History is: people, places, events, causes and effects which have contributed to the world in which we live. Now, the emphasis is to pass the standards test. The result is in our school we have had to drop two complete units of study (one each semester) in order to prep for and take the tests. Nothing has seemed to change much, except now we teach less and prep more.

Clearly the majority of responses here indicate that teachers are professionals, desiring to hold their students to high, reasonable expectations and are at the same time, begging to be given the respect they deserve as professionals to make proper decisions regarding the way to get students to achieve those goals.
Teachers don't argue against standards, in fact the 1987 NCTM standards for Mathematics instruction were embraced by teachers across the country. As a teacher educator, those years of professional development were heady times. Collaboration and grade level team planning supported new teachers as well as those more experienced in the field. It is not a productive comment to say that new teachers do better with scripted curriculum. Easier though it may be to pick up a teacher's guide, it is a recipe for not doing the hard work of learning about the children being taught, expanding and deepening their own subject knowledge or gathering appropriate resources. Lately, with NCLB and a retreat from teaching for understanding, we have definitely dumbed down the profession.

No published curriculum ever will replace a gifted and talented teacher who knows her subject and her students. It is time we gave teachers the preparation they need to teach all students and then give them the resources they determine most appropriate to do the job. The way we have it now with NCLB, teachers are held accountable to unreasonable AYP goals but are given no latitude or discretion to use the professional knowledge they have and are eager to practice. A double negative does not equal a positive in this case.
Nel Noddings recent article says it best, for too many reasons, No Child Left Behind is a bad law and should be repealed. Then we can get behind a low that truly works toward educating every child to their most productive and unique potential.

Let me start by welcoming Katie Izykowski (a few posts above this) to the profession.
It’s an amazing life you are preparing for—exhilarating, debilitating, glorious, frightening. There are children just being born who will make you feel alive and proud, angry and depressed, uncertain and fretful, and filled with love. Sometimes, at your most passionate, no one will hear a word you are saying, but an offhand remark will guide a child for a lifetime. Don’t let their four preps ("Ms. I, you will be teaching two classes of global history, one class of American studies, one class of art and one class of gym for a class of seventh graders out on parole."), their “duties” ("You have pre-breakfast bus duty, be here at 5:45 tomorrow morning."), their "explanations" ("We gave you that class because you’re young and strong and don’t have much of a family to miss you if you don’t come out alive.") or their helpful comments ("Wow, that lesson I observed you teaching almost had a point.") rob you of the enthusiasm you feel now. Stick with it and every day you’ll learn something new. You’ll meet colleagues of such wit, intelligence, determination, style, and generosity that it will take your breath away. You’ll find that to become a better teacher you’ll actually have to become a better person. You’ll give away pieces of your heart and absorb pieces of the hearts of the thousands of kids you will touch--always coming out ahead in the deal.
Now for this conversation about standards—in America, the community (not the Federal government) sets the standards for education—that’s the way it is and the way it has always been. Teachers strive to meet those standards or subversively sabotage them depending on their own sense of what the children need. Good administrators protect their school family from the unreasonable, inspire staff and children, and allow that inspiration to take a form that fits the talents, inclinations and understandings of the people they have. Good politicians make sure the funds are there to pay for capital improvements, a talented staff, necessary supplies and leave classroom policy alone. Good parents support their child’s learning as best they can, listen to what the teachers have to say about their child, and tell the teachers what they must know about that child’s needs. Good teachers continue to add tools to their teaching toolbox each time an idea comes down the line, and try to be better teachers today than they were yesterday.
Funneling billions into standardized tests has NOTHING to do with helping students find and develop their talents. Using test results to evaluate teachers, administrators, schools, school districts or states is a gross misuse and misunderstanding of what those marks are able to tell us. And a special height of absurdity is achieved when we use those results to set house prices or elect politicians.
Of course, America is at a special place in its history. We have a President who never makes a mistake (just ask him), an education law that’s deeply flawed (just read it—I have), a public debate about teaching that almost completely excludes teachers (ever see Tim Russert interviewing one?), and Katie Izykowski entering the profession. Well, one out of four ain’t bad.

I truly believe that having standards in place is good for us in California. This year we started using the Holt curriculum that is geared to Ca. state standards, and it has made a real difference in our confidence that we are really preparing our students properly. Many educators talk about how standardized tests do not tell us how happy our kids are or how motivated they are. They're not supposed to. I will be the first to admit that standardized tests do not give a perfect picture of what our kids know or are able to do. What our job is as educators is to fill in that gap that standards leave behind; showing our students what it means to treat and be treated with respect, show them what it means to truly love them and love the course of study, and give them the one tool that we keep forgetting:INFORMATION. If our kids don't understand WHY they are taking these standardized tests, how can we expect them to do well or to even try? It is like an administrator saying to a teacher, "Teach this", with no explanation. What would most of us do as teachers? We would probably say, "What does he/she know about me and my classroom? Why should I do this well if it does not include or involve ME?" That's what our students are saying. I take three days before state tests (as well as countless times in front of the classes) to sit individually with students and talk about what is in their way. I show them their current GPA, their grades in English and math, and their previous test scores on the standards assessment. I know that I have the benefit of a very supportive district in giving me this information, but I take the initiative to empower my students with this information and try to give them an idea of what they might do to improve. They know that I care enough about them to let them know what lies ahead, and this in turn makes them care more about how their testing goes. Five minutes of my time while the rest of the class is working collaboratively on a project is not a lot to ask. We need to remember that education is not about us, the teachers. It is about them, the students. We give a lot of ourselves as teachers and we take a lot of flack from our society, but what it really boils down to is preparing our future through the lives that we have been blessed with the opportunity to touch. Standards are good because they give us direction and this gives us the ability to move students toward an established goal, not one we pull out of the sky because it suits us.

Standards provide at the very least, some semblance of continuity in a student's education. Standards are so broadly written, at least for the disciplines covered by PA social studies, that I find ample room for creative interpretation. Since standards are here to stay for the forseeable future, I favor getting involved in creating curriculum objectives rather than bemoaning the unfairness of it all.

P.S. "dittos" to Joe Bellacero.

Patricia Q. I find your response thought provoking. Am I getting it right that until recently there were no standards in place in California? For all these years of the state's existence, there has been no state government organization dedicated to overseeing what was going on it the schools, nobody approving textbooks, nobody setting up curricular guidelines? Think about this, teachers and schools, left to their own devices in this way have developed the voters who have been smart enough to elect your current administration, which has finally given you your state standards. Surely that speaks well of the former system.

I am going to try and make this real simple. Standarized tests are normed. There will ALWAYS be a bottom 10% and a top 10% and 50% of the students taking the test below average and vice versa. If the schools and the teachers all of a sudden had some magical school reform to "push" the number of students (say 70%) over the 50% range, the tests makers would simply "re-standarized" the test. It has been done for years! Come on people, you are educators. It's all political and you will never win.

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Recent Comments

  • teacher/researcher: I am going to try and make this real simple. read more
  • Joe Bellacero, English, NYC: Patricia Q. I find your response thought provoking. Am I read more
  • Mark Schmidt: P.S. "dittos" to Joe Bellacero. read more
  • Mark Schmidt: Standards provide at the very least, some semblance of read more
  • Patricia Q/English Teacher: I truly believe that having standards in place is good read more




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