The news that nearly 200 teachers in Atlanta were known to throw "changing parties" to adjust kids' standardized test answers, thereby making themselves look like better educators, has rocked the nation. "How dare these teachers betray these kids?" pundits are asking. Simple: because ours is a nation that took the educational emphasis off individual kids a long time ago. In short: no one cares about our kids but us.
As a parent, it's depressing to think about my kid being "just a number," but as she pushes ahead in the public school system, I can't deny it. The halcyon days of kindergarten are behind us, the rote memorization and teaching to the test are to come. I'm the only one left to ensure she's "well-rounded." It's my job as a parent, maybe, but I would appreciate some help on the way. Sadly, I don't expect it from our overwhelmed teachers.
In the post-No Child Left Behind era swept in by former President George W. Bush, our education system is focused on competition. Pitting teachers against teachers, and even worse, pitting kids against kids. Standardized tests that sweep away individuality in learning styles for the sake of an easy number to stamp on kids' permanent records are now de rigueur. And the better a school performs, the better they'll look in President Obama's Race for the Top to gain federal monies to improve the schools.
Don't get me wrong. What 178 Atlanta elementary and middle school teachers were doing, faking their kids' success, altering documents, lying to officials, is a travesty. If the kids are failing the tests, it means they're not LEARNING the material. But it's a mark of a system that the best way teachers see to help kids is to make it LOOK like they're helping them. I'm only surprised we haven't found more teachers doing this. Because failing kids are ignored in today's education system, changing test scores doesn't just make a teacher appear to be doing a better job. It positions those kids for more positive attention, their school for more of the much-needed federal dollars. The education system has been rebuilt so that cheating is better than admitting you're having a rough time.
What does that teach our kids? Nothing in figurative AND literal senses. They aren't learning the material, but what may be even worse is they aren't learning that it's OK to fail. What's important is that you ask for help, that you find another way to succeed.
If we want to keep teachers from being pushed to change test scores, it's pretty simple. We cut out the competition and get back to our kids, each kid, the individual. As parents, we do it every day. We adjust our expectations to meet our kids' needs.
Do you feel like your kids are learning more about competition in school than anything?
Image via albertogp123/Flickr
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