Today I received a notification of a recent letter from Alicia Maynard, a Tennessee mother, to Governor Haslam of her state explaining why she is opting out her fourth-grade daughter of this year's State TCAP -- the standardized test. Her letter is now spreading virally through Facebook and the Internet. So I will do my part to spread the word by writing about it here.
This letter resonated with me partly because I have worked with another Murfreesboro elementary school. I was used as a mentor for research by the librarian at the Discovery school. The students met with me via videoconferencing over several months to discuss how they could research subjects they were particularly interested in. We kept a wiki of our project, which you can see here. Yes, the Murfreesboro schools are top-notch. It appears that their best practices are being usurped by test prep and testing. This is not news to teachers in the trenches across the country.
Could you imagine the medical profession imposing a standardized test on every patient, which would be used to rate the curative abilities of the doctors who administered it? What would such a test do to their ability to practice medicine? Suppose this test was mandatory for patients, that their medical insurance depended on whether or not they passed. What do you think would be the public reaction to such ridiculousness?
The stakes that are connected to these tests and the money already spent on them are causing real damage to the psychological well-being of children and the morale and creativity of teachers. Parents get only one shot at bringing up their child. No parent wants his or her precious child to be part of an experiment that sacrifices the well-being of participants in the interest of statistics of a population. I hear from a colleague who teaches in a school of education that her students are being told by teachers not to enter the profession. These are the unintended consequences of the testing craze.
For parents, however, in individual families, the fear is that their precious child might become collateral damage in the struggle to correct this unmitigated destruction that is happening to public education. If we don't stop this insanity soon, there will be a lot more cases.