"We don't teach
kids anymore. We teach test-taking skills. We all teach
I long for the days when we used to teach kids."
Rocky River Middle School Principal David
Root critical of emphasis on school tests
By Regina Brett
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wednesday, July 23, 2008
he school report cards came out in June.
River Middle School did well on the 2008 Ohio Achievement Tests, required
to be given each year to assess math, read ing, science, social studies
and writing skills among all the state's public-school students in
grades three through eight. The school earned an "Excellent" rating
and met the mandates for Adequate Yearly Progress.
all those accomplishments, Principal David Root has only one thing
to say to the students, staff and citizens of Rocky River: He's sorry.
to issue an apology. He sent it to me typed out in two pages, single-spaced.
sorry that he spent thousands of tax dollars on test materials, practice
tests, postage and costs for test administration.
Sorry that his teachers
spent less time teaching American history because most of the social-studies
test questions are about foreign countries.
Sorry that he didn't
suspend a student for assaulting another because the attacker would
have missed valuable test days.
orry he didn't strictly
enforce attendance rules because all absences count against the school
on the State Report Card.
He's sorry for pulling
children away from art, music and gym, classes they love, so they could
learn test-taking strategies.
Sorry that he has to
give a test for which he can't clarify any questions, make any comments
to help in understanding or share the results of so students can actually
learn from their mistakes.
Sorry that he kept students in school after
they became sick during the test, because if they couldn't finish the
test as a result of illness, the students would automatically fail it.
Sorry that the integrity
of his teachers is publicly tied to one test.
"I have a strong compassion for the puberty-stricken."
He apologized for losing
eight days of instruction because of testing activities.
For making decisions
on assemblies, field trips and musical performances based on how that
time away from reading, math, social studies and writing would affect
state test results.
For arranging for some
students to be labeled "at
front of their peers and put in small groups so the school would
have a better chance of passing tests.
For no longer focusing
as a principal on helping his staff teach students but rather on helping
them teach test indicators.
Root isn't anti-tests.
He's all for tests that measure progress and help set teaching goals.
But in his eyes, state achievement tests are designed for the media
to show how schools rank against each other.
He's been a principal
for 24 years, half of them at Rocky River Middle School, the rest in
Hudson, Alliance and Zanesville. He loves working with sixth-, seventh-
and eighth-graders. "I have a strong compassion
for the puberty-stricken," he joked.
His students, who are
11, 12, 13 and 14, worry that teachers they love will be let go based
on how well they perform.
One asked him, "If
I don't do well, will you fire my teacher?"
He cringed when he
heard one say, "I really want to do well,
but I'm not that smart."
He wants students to
learn how to think, not how to take tests.
"We don't teach
kids anymore," he said. "We teach test-taking
skills. We all teach to the test. I long for the days when we used
to teach kids."
Unless we get back
to those days, principals and teachers all over Ohio will continue
to spend your tax dollars to help students become the best test-takers
they can be.
NCLB's Big Booster Makes a U-Turn
A Mar. 2, 2010 profile piece by Sam Dillon in The
New York Times described the disillusionment of Dr.
Diane Ravitch, one of NCLB's
most ardent boosters. The piece, "Scholar's School Reform U-Turn
Shakes Up Debate," can be found online at: www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/education/03ravitch.html.
The first two paragraphs of the article:
Diane Ravitch, the education historian
who built her intellectual reputation battling progressive
educators and served in the first Bush administration’s
Education Department, is in the final stages of an astonishing,
slow-motion about-face on almost every stand she once took on
Once outspoken about the power of standardized testing, charter
schools and free markets to improve schools, Dr. Ravitch is now
caustically critical. She underwent an intellectual crisis, she
says, discovering that these strategies, which she now calls faddish
trends, were undermining public education. She resigned last year
from the boards of two conservative research groups.