Standardized testing stunts classroom innovation

Paul Rolly’s recent column about a teacher who was placed on administrative leave for openly questioning standardized testing points to an authoritarian administrative approach that has no place in public education.

Ann Florence, an honors English teacher, was placed on administrative leave after vocally criticizing the Granite School District’s computer-adapted standardized tests, calling them a waste of time and irrelevant to what students are learning.

Florence, who received a letter last Thursday from Assistant Superintendent Mike Fraser–the letter was delivered to her home by the school district’s police–refused to grade her students’ performance on the Acuity test, an act administrators deemed insubordinate.

Several dozen teachers have begun an email campaign in support of Florence and in opposition to the Acuity test. The emails assert the test is worthless to student development. The emails also indicate that teachers have been told by administrators to remain quiet about their concerns. English teachers at Evergreen Junior High were told at a faculty meeting to stay out of the debate.

District spokesman Ben Horsley has said that the few dozen teachers who have complained about the Acuity test only constitute about one percent of the district’s teachers, so it’s not fair to conclude there is significant opposition to the standardized testing. But, I see a number of important  issues here that are being ignored.

First, it is no wonder that very few teachers have openly criticized the Acuity test outside of a brave few teachers since the risk of open criticism apparently includes losing your job. However, administrators are instead suggesting this silence is an indication of overall teacher support.

Second, it appears administrators have created a hostile work environment when they asked teachers to keep their mouths shut with a threat of termination looming overhead. There is no other way to judge this situation than as a clear act of administrative bullying and perhaps a disregard for national civil rights laws.

This latest move by administrators is part of a larger movement in public education that is trending toward policy gimmicks and more and more administrative control.

What politicians and administrators fail to realize is that children are not inanimate objects on an assembly line–widgets that begin at point A and come out as a finished product at point C. A good educational experience requires personal interactions; it requires good teachers guiding and inspiring students.

If we are truly going to make an impact on education, we need to start by funding it like any other competitive field and attract our best and brightest individuals into teaching. Teachers should then be allowed to meet the needs of their individual students through classroom innovation.

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