Column: This subject will test your patience
That’s it. I give up. I can’t write this column. I gave it my best shot, but I have been trying for over a month now, and it just ain’t happening. I have interviewed 10 or 12 different sources trying to get the right perspective. I have researched extensively, soul searched, outlined and then wept openly as countless drafts and rewrites all ended up in total, flaming, rhetorical failure.
So apparently, I am incapable of writing an opinion column about standardized testing in the state of Colorado.
Which forces me to wonder, do I even have an opinion about it? Well, definitely yes. Several actually. I am certain it is necessary and beneficial, and I am certain that it is one of the worst things we can possibly to do our students. And to have an opinion you can only be certain of one thing, right? At least that’s what I have been told.
But unfortunately, instead of offering a totally unapologetic, uncompromising stance on this issue, all I can offer is a short summary of all the columns I didn’t write.
1. “Babies and Bathwater”
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I made incredibly long lists of the pros and cons of PARCC and the shift to Common Core. Things like equity versus accountability, rigor versus differentiation, creativity versus consistency, etc. Then I found that the lists were exactly the same length and that the column was exactly boring.
2. “Open Letter to the Opt-Out Community”
Tone down the righteous rhetoric, please. Unless you are one of the few who has tried every other democratic method available to you to change what you don’t like about the system (i.e. attended school board meetings, met with administrators, wrote letters to state and federal representatives, researched alternatives, etc.), please don’t jump on the parade float at the last minute and ride all the way down Broadway in the warm glow of a controversial spotlight while using my classroom as your platform. But you are also totally right to take a stand and should never condone a status quo that contradicts your values.
3. “Stop Rocking My Boat”
I reflected on the perpetual motion pendulum that is educational philosophy. As a teacher in her fifth year, I am just starting to experience my first ride back to the middle and am watching us throw out many changes made in the last half a decade in order to return what we all knew for sure seven or eight years ago.
4. “The Ethos of Politicians”
A rant about politicians who use the omnipresent desire for education reform to trump up their stump whenever their campaigns get into trouble. Do you know how many hours of professional development I get every time someone “reforms” education? Although we definitely shouldn’t be afraid of change when it is actually necessary and should always be willing to adapt and grow as educators.
5. “Snapshot of Growth”
Give it time. Students cannot demonstrate learning in one moment of time and if we change the whole system every other gosh darn year, then no one gets a chance to grow and all you have are teachers who are bitter, burning balls of professional angst and the poor students in their classroom who feel like failures just because all the expectations they thought they understood were completely flip-flopped. But then empirical evidence is also really important to address things like racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.
6. “Corporate Conspiracy”
Too much money on testing! Rabble! Who’s getting all those dollars? Rawr! Big pharma is evil! Ooops, wrong picket sign.
7. “Adaptation Versus Evolution”
Stop rewriting a whole new species of test and just make adjustments where necessary, and here is my expert opinion on exactly how we can all be happy, fulfilled and have 100 percent graduation rates … and never mind, I’m not a first-year teacher anymore.
8. “The Difference between Testing, Standards, Curriculum and Implementation: Do you actually know what you’re complaining about?”
9. “Something About ESSA”
But no one knows what that means yet.
Some 7,463 words later, I admitted failure. I do not know what is right for the future of testing in education in Colorado. There is no one-size fits all solution for our diverse population, and anyone who tells you different is selling something.
So read widely, listen to opposing voices and speak your truth.
Meanwhile, I will be acting on the advice my mentor teacher once gave me when Common Core was just a whisper in the wind and everyone was upset about some other reform du jour:
“Some days, you just have to close the door and teach your kids.”
Lindsay DeFrates lives and teaches in Carbondale. She writes and rafts, grades and goes down slides, sometimes not in that order. Her column appears the first Tuesday of every month.
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