Learning and Test Prep: A Deathly Difference

Empire State College’s Ian Reifowitz has a post on Daily Kos called “Test prep kills learning. But standardized testing is big money. Guess how this one turns out.” He writes:

Here’s what it comes down to: If preparing for and taking the tests means taking kids away from real learning for a significant chunk of the year, then we are doing something very wrong. But since some people are making a profit from it, it just goes on and on. Time for us to demand a change.

The “need” for assessment (whose validity I dispute–at least as currently presented most generally) has opened the door for changes in education that can be profitably instituted and supported by major corporations. As a result, they have become a driving force in education policy.

Reifowitz points out what is being lost in this quest for profits masked as accountability:

What is the single most important thing that elementary schools need to instill in their students? Think about it. What one thing will help our kids grow up to succeed in school and set them on their way to succeed in life? It’s not something in math, or in reading, or science, but it provides a foundation for kids to excel in all these areas. Give up? Here it is: love of learning. Love of learning is the precondition for achievement, it provides the motivation for it. A child who loves learning will learn to think critically as well as soak up new skills and new information because it will be fun.

We are in the process of turning learners into automatons.

I don’t consistently agree with Reifowitz (he sees the Common Core State Standards as a “valuable push to raise learning standards across the board” while I see them as a crass attempt to seize control of our national education agenda by people with no experience in education), but I heartily endorse his view that test results should be no more than a tool for individual teachers–and not a generalized means of assessing children, teachers, schools, and educational structures.

His post is worth reading.

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