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The big examination saga

Somewhere along the line, the ugly "testing monster" invaded our school systems. Back in the dinosaur days when I was in school, we also took a standardized test. It was the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. It took one hour to complete. Results were never published or reported to students, parents or the public. It was simply a tool to get a snap shot of student performance. End of story! Fast forward to today. Now everyone from the President to classroom students are obsessed with testing. If you are a Madison County resident, you are fully aware of the annual report of our failing or very low performing middle and high school students. Personally, if I were a member of the school board or educational administration, I would consider quitting to make room for someone who might be able to fix the problems. But putting the same people in office year after year seems to be the choice of local citizens. You get what you vote for! Testing outcomes today unjustly drive teaching curriculums and terrify contentious students. Any teacher with a brain knows their first priority now is to "teach the test" and the remaining essential curriculum either fits in where it can or is left out altogether. Shocked as it may sound, I found myself agreeing with President Obama in his recent address regarding standardized testing. He concluded that students are spending way too much time testing and performance results can be achieved with less of a testing burden. But alas, his true political incentive was revealed when he added "teacher performance should not be judged on results of standardized testing." While I generally agree with this statement, President Obama's motivation is focused not on student achievement but on the support he receives from the National Teachers Union and protecting their employees. I also believe teachers should not be evaluated on standardized test results. Classroom teachers have little control over parent involvement and the government cannot legislate parents to be actively involvement in their child's education. Without any question, individual student achievement and success is directly tied to the level of involvement, support and monitoring of parents. I know this from personal experience as a public school teacher for several years. Fortunately, we were able to "break the code" of parent involvement at my former school, among other techniques and initiatives and consequently remained an "A" rated Florida school year after year. Education "experts" somehow got Americans to accept standardized testing as the answer to improving declining student performance. Having learned nothing from the debacle of the current education and testing models, we are now faced with "Common Core" as the new end all to student achievement. The word "common" should be the first "red flag." Who decides who or what is "common?" The designers of Common Core rarely spend a day as a classroom teacher. What is common in Massachusetts may be way out of whack with what is considered common and achievable in Arizona. What we need to do is simply get all of the feel good, liberal nonsense out of the curriculum and get back to the basics. How about a curriculum that spends less time on "diversity," global warming and English as a second language and use that time focusing on the basics of math, science, history, reading, writing, geography and computer science? Common Core is yet another gigantic educational initiative with failure written all over it. Let's get big government out of our schools and allow the states and local citizens to decide what is best for their children. Testing of student achievement remains an important tool in assessing student performance. However, let's avoid creating yet another bloated and dysfunctional big government program to gum up the works.

By: Dennis Foggy

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