Sun, Jul

Kids: Their Job Is To Learn


EDUCATION POLITICS-My children’s job is to learn while they are young.  That is their profession as long as they remain a minor.  It is every bit as much their raison d’etre as yours is to don a tie or punch in for that paycheck.  You earn money to afford a roof over your head and food on the table; they focus on developing in body and mind. 

Their job description does not include serving as data feedback providers.  My children do not attend school in order to optimize the school system.  That may be one way to model schools, as a system that can be engineered and which consequently requires data in order to enable engineering.  But the problem is it overlooks that the entities who would have to provide that data in such a model, are our children.  Their time in the classroom should be spent learning, not generating system feedback data. 

So that’s the problem with all this latter-day, modern common core standardized testing, which is to be administered throughout LAUSD via one billion dollars worth of iPads this April in the form of a “field test”.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a variant on the SAT standardized tests we all took as supplicants to the academy of higher education.  Such tests were to serve us in our candidacy.  They (arguably) reflected and benefited the testtaker by providing a snapshot of the candidates’ achievement and relative standing in comparison with the rest of the supplicant’s cohort.  They reflected on the student directly. 

This new set of standardized tests is completely different.  They are designed not to reflect the student but to provide feedback on the student’s progress that is understood to reflect the pupil’s teacher and school itself. 

Please understand this carefully:  it is really important.  The student’s achievement provides a proxy measure of an entirely different parameter from the student’s achievement.  We are testing the student in order to provide information on the teacher, and to provide information on the school system itself.  The actual student is irrelevant. 

There is conversely, no gain to the student in taking these tests, no benefit apart from the generalized one of contributing as a community member.  And this presupposes that the community is providing valuable or accurate feedback to begin with.  As well as that the target system, the school community, is even a candidate for improvement by such manner through these proxy scores anyway. 

But these are different arguments, whether (a) the test is assessing what it is designed to and whether (b) the outcome as a result of this assessment is achieving its goal. 

Instead there is a very narrow question of whether these Smarter Balanced standardized common core tests are beneficial to the student in any way, shape or form.  And from where I sit, I can see no clear-cut way that they are. 

The only potential way our children would see gain from these common core standardized tests is if you accept this set of axioms, that:  (i) our schools educate terribly (ii) incompetent teachers are largely responsible for this terrible education (iii) ferreting out and removing incompetent teachers will eradicate “terrible-ness” from education. 

I do not.  And the arguments for why not belong to a different essay.  Here, my point is simply that failing any group contribution, there remains no benefit to the individual from these tests. 

And in the meantime, in service of these tests what happens?  Actual instructional time that would benefit the student is decimated in order to practice for and teach to these tests.  And this pressure is inevitable because after all the ones doing the teaching are the ones who themselves, ironically, stand to lose the most from the tests’ reflections.  Thus in addition to the instructional time literally displaced by the actual test itself, and the absence of any direct benefit from the test accruing to the testtaker, a whole block of advance time is additionally lost to the child in service of preparation for these exams.  The common core standardized tests represent a triple whammy of detriment for the student. 

So why, again, must our students submit to these exams?  Because someone decided, theoretically, that it was clever to model school systems as a computer system with input and data feeding back sporadically to evaluate and correct the system’s course. 

But this is not the proper role of our children.  Because when they are tied up with this function, they are bereft of their entitlement, which is themselves to learn for themselves.  Their purpose in school is not to furnish evaluative data. 

Smarter Balanced’s standardized common core field test interferes with children’s need and right to learn. I urge parents and guardians to consider opting their children out of this test altogether.


(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com







Vol 12 Issue 21

Pub: Mar 11, 2014


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