Mass Produced?

“They said she was timid and shy but had the courage of a lion. They were full of phrases like radical humility and quiet fortitude. What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? How could you be shy and courageous? [Rosa] Parks herself seemed aware of this paradox, calling her autobiography Quiet Strength – a title that challenges us to question our assumptions. Why shouldn’t quiet be strong? And what else can quiet do that we don’t give it credit for?”

“Take the partnership of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.: a formidable orator refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus wouldn’t have had the same effect as a modest woman who’d clearly prefer to keep silent but for the exigencies of the situation. And Parks didn’t have the stuff to thrill a crowd if she’d tried to stand up and announce that she had a dream. But with King’s help, she didn’t have to.” – from  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Take it from a true introvert: finding your voice among all the publicly outspoken, wise, intelligent reformers out there today is intimidating. I do not claim to know it all. In fact, there are so many lines that are blurred for me amidst all of the differing points of view out there today. But I offer my opinions and thoughts as a modest sword to those who do want to take up this battle more loudly. If you are the outspoken voice who finds yourself on the actual steps of this fight,  I am the Rosa Parks to your Martin Luther King Jr.

I offer no profound insight that hasn’t been splashed on every social media outlet available. I only contribute what I have experienced as a mom and educator. A mom for seven years and an educator for twelve.

I believe one of the biggest battles we have on our hands today in regards to education reform is high stakes testing. It’s an issue I find myself wrestling with, simply because things are rarely black and white. The gray areas always confuse me. The devil’s advocate in me propels me to research BOTH sides of this fight. I have read and read and read from both advocates of standardized testing and proponents of the opt out movement. The advocates of high stakes testing would have us believe that we are doing an injustice by opting our children out. That these tests are invaluable to diagnosing the learned from the unlearned. But from my experience as a teacher, more harm than good comes from them. These numbers placed on districts, schools, principals, teachers, and students rarely (if ever) are used to help the child. And isn’t that why we do what we do? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are teachers going in their classrooms and shutting the door to do some secret test prep so that the scores favor her in the end? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are there students who excelled in the classroom all year but scored low on the standardized test? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are we not using the data the next school year to strengthen their individual academic weaknesses?

If you look for synonyms of standardized, you’ll see words such as make uniform, regulate, institutionalize, mass produce. Isn’t that scary? If we are truly meant to be differentiating instruction, how can one uniform standardized test measure successful knowledge? It’s a flawed system to say the least. There has to be a better way. I don’t want my children, or yours for that matter, “mass produced.” I don’t want our teachers feeling the pressured need to teach to a test because such high stakes are at hand. I don’t want our children missing out on the beauty of learning because it’s not a tested item or skill.

I’ll continue to read. I’ll continue to research. There has to be a better way. And by the way, if I hear the word “rigor” one more time…

 

 

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