Ruth Ann Dandrea on Testing

I’d never heard of Ruth Ann Dandrea before this morning, when she wrote an open letter to her Eighth Graders about “A Test You Need to Fail.” My friend Chris found it, and forwarded to me.

It’s an examination of the testing materials, and more specifically the grading key, attached to the test her kids will take later this spring.  And it turns out, that test is criminally deficient in how it grades students:  the kids’ writing is not being analyzed for its grammar or its content or its meaning in any way.  The students merely need to use two facts from a reading provided in the test in their answer.

But. But. This is the part that kills me.  The question the students see is “What is your personal response to this reading?” Which means, students are asked what they think of the reading — but not invited to analyze the reading. And yet, if they DON’T analyze the reading, they’re penalized on the test.  An answer which uses no facts gets no points, even if it’s perfectly, elegantly, and grammatically accurate, and “personal”.

Ruth Ann Dandrea gets points, in my book, for being willing to let her students know they’re being deceived.  Because they are. So are their parents.  So is their school system.  If this is what passes for testing these days, why would we want it? Our students are being tested on acquiring facts, but being asked their personal opinion.   Does that mean, when they’re asked for facts, the secret agenda is “personal opinion”?

Dandrea reports that she went to see Noam Chomsky recently, and Noam Chomsky says, “public education is under attack.” Simple.  Easy.

Accurate.  Susan Fine pointed this out in her essay about leaving teaching.  I’ve observed it in the rise of anti teacher rants.

In fact, I can think of no better way to force money into the hands of private schools, charter schools, for-profit charter programs, and business-oriented money-making schemes than No Child Left Behind.  Even Seth Godin’s recent rant, stop stealing dreams, in some ways plays into the hands of the movement that wants to make educating children a for-profit program.  I’ll say more about that in another post, but I wanted to call attention to the fact that there’s a sea change afoot against public education, free at the point of delivery.

And this is Villainy.

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