There is nothing wrong with a little good ole’ competition. Except when you are talking about education. The playing field is unfair. Our current plan of action for education reform is based on rewarding schools for achieving benchmarks based on standardized tests. These tests have been known to handicap students that come from low income families, minority students and students whose first language is not English. There are two major problems with competitive education reform:
1) Teacher performance is directly correlated to student scores and for teacher’s who choose to serve in school districts whose students are comprised primarily of low income and minority students they will likely be unjustly classified as ineffective teachers. Such classification could threaten their jobs.
A glimpse into an overcrowded classroom of an extraordinary teacher:
The superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland had this to say about linking test scores to teacher evaluation:
“The problem is today we are using them only solely for accountability purposes, linking student test scores to teacher performances. I don’t know any business that motivates its employees by shaming them and demonizing them.”
2) The schools that need the most funding are the schools that have the hardest time scoring well on the standardized exams. How are students who have reading and math skills far below their current grade level expected to miraculously respond to the governments new common core and testing expectations all while the teachers expected to be helping them are battling class sizes that aren’t manageable and unreasonable new test score expectations when their kids can’t pass current ones?
A quote from a Nashville, TN high school teacher:
“They want to increase the rigor but a lot of students are not ready for increased rigor,” she said. “If you have sophomores who are reading at an elementary level, how is increasing the rigor going to help them?”
I believe the current competitive model will further increase inequity in our education system by further distancing the gap between students who come from backgrounds that enable them to perform better on standardized tests than those from lower socioeconomic upbringing. To compound matters the current model also seeks to ostracize our teachers by labeling them based on yearly test scores that can fluctuate year to year.
What do you think? Since the competitive model seems like it’s here to stay (No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Kitzhaber’s new achievement compacts) how do we make the best of the situation? How do we buck the system and demand that the focus should be on individual learning and not the assembly line like packaging of students for standardized examination?
(Image extracted from www.begincollege.com)