I have to admit I’m torn on the issue of high-stakes testing. In a recent article for the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss aptly describes it as a national obsession in education thanks to No Child Left Behind.
Her piece includes a column by Kenneth Bernstein, an award-winning teacher and education blogger. Bernstein, who is now retired, offers a warning to college professors about the students graduating from the nation’s high schools and arriving in their higher ed classrooms.
Bernstein offers a firsthand account of why many college freshmen struggle: they’ve spent the last decade learning how to identify the right answer in multiple choice-style questions; they’re not required to make cogent arguments to substantiate their choices.
The second point Bernstein makes: the teaching profession has been whittled away by policy makers and politicians who have never taught a child or managed a classroom. Even exceptional teachers are routinely ignored, a point made by National Teacher of the Year, Anthony Mullen, in his blog “Teachers Should be Seen and Not Heard” writes Bernstein.
Would we ever knowingly agree to have surgery by a doctor who was taught from a curriculum developed by people with no medical training? The idea seems absurd, but I’ll bet Bernstein’s question resonates with many teachers and principals.
At a recent breakfast with a friend who happens to be a dean at a local college, I was surprised to see how her love of teaching had waned in recent years. Many freshman today are not at all prepared for the rigors of college, she said. The first year of college is now spent on remedial learning for many students, she said, and the problem isn’t confined to students who come from urban school districts.
For that reason, Bernstein concludes his piece with an apology to his college colleagues. But I think his apology was directed to all of us, especially the students.