This past week Lancaster Online ran a story titled, Testing is killing the joy of learning and of teaching, written by a Baltimore teacher, Wynter Bledsoe. This thoughtful, heartfelt, provocative piece included the following quote:
Standardized testing has taken the heart out of education. No longer are we concerned with meeting the needs of the individual student as a person. We are now concerned with meeting a quota. It’s all about the data. Students are not numbers; they are blank slates for us to write upon, and we are wasting the opportunity demanding they meet a number instead of meeting their individual full potential. We are squashing their possibilities. We are teaching to a test that caters only to linear thinking.
In my 35 years of clinical practice I have found Ms. Bledsoe’s conclusion to be, unfortunately, all to true. With an emphasis on “the right answer” we have lost connection with a student’s thinking. How did they get to that answer? I have seen, time and time again, that a student may score a point by checking the “right” box, only to find, on real examination, that their reasoning was spotty, faulty, or at times, non-existent. When I was trained as a teacher in the late ’60’s in progressive schools in England, we were trained to focus on the child’s process of thinking. This is the heart of education. “Education” comes from the Latin root that means “to draw forth.” Giving an answer, “right” or “wrong,” is the tail end of a process — a drawing forth. It is not a number, it’s an engagement — of the student with the material under the watchful guidance and inspiration of a caring, engaged teacher.