My mom was a teacher, I am related to a teacher. Â I have teachers who are friends. Â I respect people who choose to teach. Â It’s not an easy job. Â Of course not all of them are good. Â My grade one teacher was an alcoholic which meant that each Monday morning (and several other mornings) the lights were turned off and the film strip was shown at a low level. Â In grade 2 my teacher was a racist who introduced us to the offensive term, “spic“. Â She was also emotionally abusive. Â After that things got better and there was a lot of good teachers that taught me. Â Some were also alcoholics and drug addicts but in the classroom, they taught me a lot. (Twelve years, two alcoholics, one racist, and one drug addict doesn’t seem that good in hindsightâ€¦)
Of all of the education topics that gets teachers riled up is the topic of standardized tests. Â There is a reason for that. Â Standardized testing has been used to fire teachers and in the case of Chicago, entire schools, including the janitors if test scores are too low. Â Of course that doesn’t make any difference. Â I visited a Chicago school that had “rebooted” it’s school twice and was on the third bunch of teachers and staff and the test scores were still awful and horrible.
I heard Senator Vern White speak of recruiting indigenous police officers. Â He looked at one exam given to RCMP recruits from northern communities. Â It had questions about traffic lights but none of those communities had traffic lights. Â Of course they did poorly. Â A more contextual test gave more accurate results.
There are just too many factors beyond the teachers control. Â I have written about housing instability. Â There are issues of instability in the family, disinterested parents, economic issues, drugs, and you have one year’s teacher being held accountable for what was being taught before them.
I do think there is a place for standardized tests in our education system. Â They aren’t a tool for evaluating teachers but rather to identify problems before they get out of hand and see if our solutions are working. Â
Let’s say we test students yearly and we start to see some trends starting that we know cause problems later on. Â We know students in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods struggle more than others for many reasons. Â Poor standardized tests would trigger resources designed to tackle the problem. Â Those solutions could be a lot of things. Â More computers in the classroom, an educational assistant, a breakfast or lunch program, or maybe a new educational method in an earlier grade. Â Continued standardized testing becomes the tool to evaluate the changes to see if they are effective on a school by school basis.
Of course it was be a big deal to implement and take a lot of money but right now our standardized tests are kind of useless. Â They don’t give individual feedback (so the data is useless to parents who want to see how their child is doing) and are not contexualized. Â The advantage of doing this is a much better and bigger data set to tackle educational problems on a macro and micro level, information that most educators don’t have right now. Â On a smaller level, it’s also information that parents need about their own children.
The bad part of this is that isn’t how standardized tests are used and I doubt anyone will ever do this but they do have potential, if we could only use it.