I have just returned from Florida, where I had four speaking engagements. The yin and yang of the spirit of the state struck me strongly. In the car on the way to an appearance at News 4 This Morning (WFOR) in Doral, we passed kids exiting the bus and trooping into their elementary school for a day of standardized testing. Yes, it’s FCAT week in Florida. An hour and change later, leaving the TV studio, we tuned in to Moody Radio, WRMB, one of the biggest Christian radio stations in Florida. The hosts of the morning show there were talking about the FCAT tests. “Is this the best we can do?” they were asking. “Certainly there must be better way to measure what students know,” they lamented. They talked about how the tests were so one dimensional. Florida uses FCAT scores to grade its schools in so onerous fashion that the legislature finally is considering amending the law. Everyone in Florida was talking about the FCATs. Except for the kids 15 minutes away on the beach. They were enjoying spring break.
I have been in fifteen cities in the last three weeks and in every one, someone has asked about the role of standardized testing in their child’s education. Not many people have had positive things to say. My position on this is clear. We should have accountability in schools, as we should in all areas where public money is at stake. And our children’s education should not be left to chance. We should have the best programs and the best teachers possible. Teachers should be paid commensurate with the significance of their job. Regrettably, high stakes testing has become both the means and the end in our schools. And the tests yield only one type of assessment of student progress. There certainly are better ways to measure progress, if we have the will to commit to them.
I want to know what you think. If you have a story about standardized testing, as a teacher, as a parent, as a student, share it as a comment below.