The Costs of Testing

How our endless regimen of testing constitutes a robbery of our kids’ educations


I wrote this article for my local newspaper, the Fort Myers News Press. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. This is true with regard to my administrators, principal and assistant principals as well as my peer teachers. My students were especially grateful that someone was standing up for them.

I must admit that I was a little nervous about publishing this letter. Publishing on a blog that attracts mostly sociology geeks and lefties is one thing, but a mainstream public forum is going to catch the attention of our district staff and, let’s face it, potentially put me in jeopardy. Like millions of teachers, I do not have tenure, or a “continuing contract” as it is called in my district. I can be fired at whim, without recourse. Of course, the whole point of getting rid of tenure is to silence teachers who might be inclined to advocate for their students against a dreadful system. It is not, as some so called reformers would have it, to make it easier to get rid of bad teachers.

For this reason, quite a few of my peers have remarked on how courageous I was to publish this letter. One fellow teacher remarked, “I hope your resume is up to date.” This response reinforces in my mind the role of fear in managing education today. Students are coerced into taking high stakes tests. Teachers are coerced with the threat of VAM scores. Administrators must fear the publication of their school grades. District personnel must fear their county ratings. Even states must fear loss of funding opportunities.

Something that we have to understand, however, is that this sense of fear may have caused us to perceive threats where they don’t exist. Students fear teachers, believing that we like threatening them with tests. Teachers fear administrators, believing that they can end our careers. Administrators fear their districts lest their school scores come in low.

Yet the reality is that we are all on the same side. Everyone involved in education, from the lowest student, to the highest district level official, knows that our current educational reform deform is bogus.

We all agree, yet we fear each other. This is intentional. If we all work together to reject this inhuman, unenlightened regimen, we can end it. That is the last thing the corporate backed education deformers want. That’s the whole point of fear. It allows those who pander in fear to scapegoat their potential opposition—to weaken resistance by separating wills.

That writing a guest column in a small newspaper is perceived as an act of courage should stir concerns. That the overwhelming response to this letter did not match our fears is a lesson in its own right. We truly have nothing to fear but fear itself.

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