Most days my email inbox has something in it, stuff that is either irrelevant to my life or outright offensive. Last week an invitation to watch a little YouTube video came in, moved instantly into a folder of mail to be watched later. But my curiosity got me and nudged me to go ahead and open the note and watch the video. Herewith your opportunity to watch this moving piece!
In this short video you will see a young teacher telling a legislative group about her professional life. The meeting had assembled folks concerned about the testing done in public schools. I don’t even sense that she’s asking for anything. What needs to be done is so apparent a puppet could spell it out, but the majority of our legislature — no doubt including several who were in that room to hear her — are either too dumb to grasp the results of their inept governing or too bought and paid for that they simply won’t act.
I ask of you three favors: After you’ve watched this video, think about it and then call your legislators. No, don’t text or email them — call them. Their numbers are all in the online legislative directory. The second favor is to wait one week, then call them back and ask if they’ve done anything about our educational mess in the last week. If my expectation is accurate that even after a week they will have done nothing to try to effect change in public education, then show up at their reelection campaign speeches and put the charge out in front of them.
Admittedly, I have no experience or expertise in conducting polls, but I have participated in several. They always appear innocent until that lethal question pops up that sets off a subtle but notable alarm in one’s head. You know, the question that unwittingly reveals the bias of a poll. My bet is that folks who evince an interest in school choice have in mind the one their kids attend that they don’t like versus some other school that they might like.
Another bet that I feel even more strongly is that fair questions to working public school teachers will show their conviction that far too much time is spent preparing for and administering standardized tests. By the time results are in, children have moved up a grade or already graduated.
Take a few minutes and search online for 21st Century Skills. This is a phrase currently going around about what will be expected for kids in the next century. In a current century where very much from cursive writing to basic national history are ignored, these may strike you as absurd, and surely beyond the scope of standardized tests.
The number of standardized tests U.S. public school students take has exploded in the past decade, with most schools requiring too many tests of dubious value, according to the first comprehensive survey of the nation’s largest districts. A typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, a new Council of the Great City Schools study found. By contrast, most countries that outperform the United States on international exams test students three times during their school careers.
One can only wonder about and sympathize with the teacher who has used so much instruction time in test preparation and then seen her students’ scores come in very low. In case you haven’t yet done so, stop now and look at this video segment online. With that, I rest my case.
T.J. Ray, of Oxford, is a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi.