Kindergarten teacher Shelley Hess (boldface mine):
He looked at me with sadness and confusion. “I don’t know what to do, Mrs. H.,” he said with frustration that was bringing him to tears. “It says to read this but I don’t know these words.” And his head went down and he looked away. He couldn’t bear to look at the screen that glared at him with a passage of nearly twenty words. As I comforted him with encouragement to continue and do the best that he could, I knew he was defeated and I didn’t do anything to help him.
This is a kindergarten student who reads regularly in class. A student who writes complete sentences often with ending punctuation and capitalization. A student who can re-tell a story with explicit detail and accurate sequence of events. This six year old and his classmates have been tested for now the fifth time with our district’s literacy assessment and evaluation tool and it has succeeded in not only providing “data” on his growth in literacy and numeracy but it has taught him that he can’t count on his teacher to help him when he needed me the most. I am ashamed of myself.
Remember this is a six year old. This is a child saying, “I don’t understand. Help me.” Teaching and learning is about helping. It is about trust. What we are doing in the name of “accountability” and “data driven” education is harming our students. I’ve been aware of it for some time but I lived it today. I can’t do this to my students. It is not who I am as a teacher or a person.”
This is actively harming children. It is teaching some of them to fear school from an early age. Politically, there will be a backlash against this (it’s already started in New York). I think, over the next few years, suburban Democratic politicians will run away from education ‘reform’ as fast as they can because, as we’ve noted before, no white, suburban parent would ever subject their children to the educational systems pushed in too many urban schools. That’s not how they learned (and got to where they are today), and that’s not how they want their children to be taught. But unlike inner-city communities, they have more political power and are not as desperate; the flip side of that lack of desperation is that they have a lot more to lose when education reform goes wrong.
I really hope we don’t end up teaching an entire generation to hate learning due to an overwhelming desire to inflict statistical models on our children.