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Posted at 7:04 PM ET, 09/ 7/2010

Teaching to the test, cradle to the grave

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Walter McMann
Berryville

The only thing that can be gleaned from Jay Mathews’s Aug. 30 Metro column, “It’s time to stop obsessing over achievement gap,” is that Mr. Mathews has been talking to the wrong people.

As a longtime middle school teacher, I cannot remember having a conversation with another teacher in which the achievement gap between minority and white students was mentioned. We talk about educating children and conclude that more testing would be detrimental rather than helpful.

I know that Mr. Mathews was being tongue-in-cheek when he suggested that one approach to closing the gap would be to see the scores of Caucasians sink, but I know he wasn’t talking about educating children. The latter half of his column reminded me of his penchant for rating schools based on the number of seniors taking AP tests but never telling readers how well the students fared on the tests.

My school is undertaking a program whereby we develop the curriculum based on a set of standards and a test that students will be given based on those standards.

In short, it is a cradle-to-grave approach to teaching to the test. Fifteen years ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics convinced many people that long division kept children from having fun in school. We started handing out calculators and pasting the times tables on the desks of elementary students. Our scores are sinking, and to fix things, the Education Department is set to spend a third of a billion dollars revising curricula and standards.

A little pain in school is troublesome, but not as troublesome as the sad fate of kids who don’t learn their basics.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | September 7, 2010; 7:04 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, schools  
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