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Evolutionary Education... Is Our Present Educational System Evolutionary?

ckosarek's picture

 After our consideration of "evolutionary education" in class today, I feel compelled to comment on how static standardization causes education to be. Beginning around second grade, kids are farmed to perform on standardized tests. Sometimes teachers' pay and school funding are intricately tied to how students score on the tests, creating tremendous classroom pressure on teachers to "teach to the test." The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act attempted to "improve" educational standards across the United States by declaring schools as educationally "fit" if their students met a certain tested benchmark. While I'm sure this encouraged "subpar" schools to up their standards, it also pressured schools that were doing well to alter their curriculum to fit the demands of the state test. And I should also note that standardized tests are not limited to public schools. I went to Catholic school for fifteen years, and all of the parochial schools in each district were required to administer a standardized test to students beginning in elementary school. The results of this test largely determined the distribution of Diocesan funding for the school as well as the ranking of the school as compared to other schools in the district. And don't think you have to be in a conventional school setting to be tested; homeschooled kids must prove to the state that they are meeting standards appropriate for their age level. How do they often prove their abilities? Standardized tests. 

So where does this leave education, when standardized tests determine the outcome of not only funding and salaries, but the trajectory of a student? To get into an "honors track" in high school, you must have performed well on tests in middle school. To get into a "good" college, you must perform well on the ACT or SAT. To get into grad/medical/law/etc. school, you must perform well on the GRE/MCAT/LSAT/etc. Without meeting these benchmarks, you essentially damn yourself for your future profession. It doesn't matter how many books you read or what you "got" out of reading the Illiad in its original Greek. It doesn't matter if you can think insightfully, theorize, push boundaries. The evolution of education as we know it now is based upon the evolution of a test score; it has nothing to do with the evolution of thinking or expanding one's knowledge. How many dots can you fill in correctly? If there are four friends in a room, and Sally doesn't want to sit next to Mike and Joe is not next to Sally, what is the value of "x"? Educational fitness is having a preferred score, not writing a good paper. 

I guess what's problematic about survival of the best test-taker is that real educational evolution is pushed to the side in schools bent on preparing kids for a test. But if the tests were erased, how would be evaluate whether a kid is developing at the right place or whether a pre-med student has the intuition it takes to do open-heart surgery? While I don't agree with the test-based trajectory of this country, I also have trouble finding an alternative to the current situation. 

Comments

cwalker's picture

You Speak My Mind

I have been thinking about this subject for a while, I am education minor and I see this very often in my placement. I am placed in Gotwals Elementary School in Norristown, the school is predominately African American and recent Hispanic immigrants. The school is completely focused one meeting No Child Left Behind standards, and they teach for the PSSAs (Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment). Most of the students are intellectually and economically disadvantaged, and it is visible in and out of the classroom. The students are quickly falling behind and have trouble with basic addition and subtraction, and these are third graders. These kids are quickly falling behind, and been given the easy answers on how to get the correct answers for the PSSAs. Education has evolved from learning content and basic critical thinking and strategy skills to learning for standardized testing. In other words we are teaching our students to evolve towards being better test takers rather than being good at working with real life situations and problems. It seems like a societal suicide, rather than helping our society evolve and progress.

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