Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing

Creative by Nature

“The assessment itself is completely artificial. It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential, explore their creative interests. Those things you’re not testing.. it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless. And the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank. Not into doing things that are valuable and important.”

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The following is a partial transcript for an interview with Noam Chomsky uploaded to youtube by The Progressive Magazine.

“You take what is happening in education. Right now, in recent years, there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers so that you have to teach to tests. And the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher.

That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process. It means the teacher cannot be creative, imaginative, pay attention…

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Hall of Fame Induction Speech

I graduated from Gates-Chili in 1982. I had amazing teachers here who affected my life. Mr. Ron Poness, Ms.Martha MacAdam, Mr. Jack Degan, and Mr. Dan Hickey are a few who bring a smile to my face. These amazing teachers made me want to become a teacher. I decided that standing in front of young adults would be my life’s work because I wanted to awaken dormant curiosities, light-up teenagers’ worlds, and speak to students’ hearts and minds just like they did.

Not only am I a teacher, but I’m a writer as well. My first book was published in April of 2015. I also write for an education column and have a number of projects in various stages of completion. Writing is just a continuation of my teaching. I have a much bigger classroom now, one that transcends the confines of a single building and includes adults as well as students.

With that said, I’d like to address educators for a moment. Don’t ever forget why you do what you do. Continue to make that positive difference every day and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter or that you can be replaced by a machine. I remember my teachers 35 years later because of the way they made me feel, not because of how well they taught their subject matter. When students know you care, you will improve their lives.

And now to my students, for you are in my classroom now.

We’ve heard a lot about success lately and how education provides the building blocks to success, which is true, but first: I want to challenge how you define success. Do you measure success by money? Material possessions? College degrees? Respectable professions?

I don’t. I measure success by the positive impact I make in people’s lives. There is no greater joy. That’s why I teach. That’s why I write. That is my purpose: to improve the world around me, one person at a time because I believe that every word, every life, every dream matters.

Do you know your purpose? Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” You were all born for a reason. Your unique presence affects this world. What kind of impact will you make?

So how do you discover your purpose? First, you need to know who you are now, so you can take the right steps towards who you want to be. There are 5 qualities you need before you can discover your purpose.

One: Love. Do you know what love is? Before you can love another person and receive it properly from others, you need to love yourself first. Choose healthy foods, daily exercise, and intelligent entertainment to nourish your body and mind. By loving yourself, you will begin to see that you are worthy of love, and you won’t accept anything less from others. You have to know what love is in order to give and receive real love.

Two: Kindness. Are you kind to yourself? Stop the self-hate, and take care of yourself; be forgiving of your mistakes. When you learn how to be kind to yourself, you will become a kinder person to others as well and will only accept kindness from others.

Three: Beauty. Do you see the beauty in yourself? When you truly see yourself as beautiful, you will understand that true beauty begins inside a person. Outward appearances fade, especially if that outward beauty covers up inner ugliness. Truly beautiful people radiate beauty from within because they can acknowledge the beauty in everything they see, touch, and experience.

Four: Respect. Do you respect yourself? When you acknowledge that you are worthy of respect just as you are, a world of possibilities open up for you. When you respect yourself, you will readily give respect to others and will attract respect in return.

Five: Honesty. Are you honest with yourself? You can’t attract love, beauty, kindness, and respect into your life if you are not honest with where you actually are first.

Having these qualities does not mean that you put yourself above others; it means that you realize you are lovable, kind, beautiful, and worthy of respect and then are able to give those things freely to others. You stop thinking about “what can I get?” and start thinking about “what can I give?” You are free from society’s definition of success, which will allow you to find your purpose in service towards others—not because you have to, not because you can make a lot of money, but because it’s the reason you were born—to make the world a better place.

The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten

Americas Education Watch

nclbOne of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn. Nowhere is this misplaced emphasis more apparent, and more damaging, than in kindergarten.

A new University of Virginia study found that kindergarten changed in disturbing ways from 1999-2006. There was a marked decline in exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education and an increased emphasis on reading instruction. Teachers reported spending as much time on reading as all other subjects combined.

The time spent in child-selected activity dropped by more than one-third. Direct instruction and testing increased. Moreover, more teachers reported holding all children to the same standard.

How can teachers hold all children to the same standards when they are not all the same? They learn differently, mature at different stages – they just are not all the same especially at the…

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Chris Hedges’ talk at the United Opt Out Conference

From the United Opt Out Conference held in February, 2016 in Philadelphia: “The destruction of the educational system is by design. It is about destroying the capacity to think, to create, and to imagine.” ~ Chris Hedges

Seattle Education

My youngest son enters third grade in Princeton next year and I have already told the principal that not only will he not be taking the standardized  test, but I will be organizing every parent in that classroom.

Chris Hedges

This talk was given at the United Opt Out Conference held in February, 2016 in Philadelphia.

From Americans who tell the truth:

Chris Hedges, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was born on September 18, 1956 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. He graduated from Colgate University with a BA in English Literature and went on to receive a Master of Divinity from Harvard.  He has an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California.

Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was an early and outspoken critic of the US plan to invade and occupy…

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Reflections On High Stakes Testing

How do students feel about PARCC? Here is one student’s perspective.

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While walking through my middle school during summer cleaning, I came across a crumpled page. I picked it up to see if it was anything important. It was hand written in a student’s printing. As I read the content I realized this was some sort of “prewriting” that a student must have been working on, so as to be able to express her/himself when asked. I am thinking this must have been written by a sixth or perhaps a seventh grade student. I have transcribed it word for word.

“I’ve been waiting for this question for so long! Ok lemmi (let me) rant. Thank you!”

“I absolutely hate PARCC and everything to do with it. The questions are terribly worded and flat out stupid. I get so agervated (aggravated) taking this test cause if you don’t have a mouse you are constantly scrolling and I like being able to see…

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15 Truths of Having Your Child Diagnosed with Cancer 

Even though Ian’s cancer battle is years behind us, this list describes what we went through and still experience (especially 11-15).

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I had guessed how bad it would be when I heard my 19 month old had cancer. I imagined a million different scenarios in my head: some of which would happen while others did not. The Internet has been circulating “10 things you didn’t know about this” or “The top 15 reasons you blah blah blah.” So, here’s my version. But this one isn’t funny or cute. It won’t hit everyone that reads it with a familiar nod as if to say “OMG! Yes! I do that too!” This list is somber and sobering. It will be understood entirely by only those who have been down this road. Regardless, I think you should all know. Because I never thought pediatric cancer could effect my family, my precious children. No one does. Until it does. So here goes:

1. At some point or another, you will assume your child is going…

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Part 2: the 2nd principle that drives human life

In an earlier post, Part 1: Identifying the problems, I discussed how Ken Robinson’s video

 is helping education by shining a light on the problems, identifying the 3 principles that drive human life, and then he offers an existing solution. The first principle is about individuality.

Robinson explains the 2nd principle this way:

2nd Principle that drives human life is curiosity. If you can light the spark of curiosity in children they will learn without any further assistance. Children are natural learners. It’s a real achievement to put that ability out or to stifle it. Curiosity is the engine of achievement.

This is the true goal of an educator: to encourage students’ curiosity. The teacher needs to create a climate of curiosity for his/her subject matter. If the teacher does that, the majority of students will embrace what’s being taught because they are naturally curious. Unfortunately, I have some students at the junior level who have almost lost their natural curiosity by the time they get to me. The flame is not completely out, but they have been disengaged for so long that they don’t know how to begin fulfilling some of the tasks I ask of them.

I am saddened by this fact. I spend many of my teaching hours trying to undo the damage that has been done to the psyche and confidence levels of my students.

However, one of the greatest joys I have in teaching is when a disengaged student finally engages and trusts me enough to ask or answer questions. That engagement is a sign that curiosity is still alive within him/her, which means the desire to learn is still present. All is not lost.

Robinson identifies what I believe is the biggest problem in education in our country:

One of the effects in this culture is to deprofessionalize teachers. There is no system in the world that is better than its teachers.

That statement is so powerful, I need to repeat it: “There is no system in the world that is better than its teachers.” Therefore, if the government, big business, and the media have all worked together to destroy the profession of teachers for their own monetary gains, they are ultimately destroying our country. The question is, to what gain? If the general public is buying into this propaganda, they are also contributing to the destruction of our country. I can’t imagine why people would do that on purpose. The only answer is that the general public has been intentionally misinformed.

Here is the truth as presented by Robinson:

Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. Teaching is a creative profession. Teaching properly conceived is not a delivery system. You are not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage… You see, in the end, education is about learning. If there is no learning going on, there is no education going on. People spend a lot of time discussing education without ever discussing learning. The whole point of education is to get people to learn. You can be engaged in the activity of something, but not really achieving it. . . . The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning; that’s it.

Sadly, I know there are teachers currently working who do not facilitate learning. There are a few in every school, but they are not the majority. The whole basis for starting these tests was to weed out the “ineffective” teachers. Who really thinks that a billion dollar industry is needed to get rid of bad teachers? Ask any teacher, counselor, or student who the ineffective teachers are, and one will get immediate feedback. Everyone knows who the teachers are that show movies instead of teach their subject matter, who give answers to diagnostic tests instead of teaching the material and checking if their students understand it. How much money would that cost?

Definitely not the billions of dollars taken out of the classroom to fund state tests:

Part of the problem is that the dominant culture of education has come to focus on, not teaching and learning, but testing. Now testing is important. Standardized tests have a place. But they should not be the dominant culture of education. They should be diagnostic; they should help. Testing should support learning; it shouldn’t obstruct it, which it often does.

I am not against all testing, obviously. We need to check what our students know and don’t know; we need to find out as teachers what we need to go back over so our students actually learn the material. I have diagnostic tests that tell me if they understand it. If they don’t, they come in to work with me one-on-one until they do. If it were my error, I re-teach it. Simple. Cost effective. Immediate. We have had these type of tests since I was in grade school. Why do we need extremely expensive tests when good teachers already create valid assessments?

The argument may be that depending on the teacher, school, district, region, or state, some students may not be getting the same education as other students. That’s true, but it starts and ends with the teacher, not the test. Truthfully, this all begins with good leadership. A good leader knows he/she has to hire the right people and then get out of the way and let them do their jobs. If a teacher is struggling, a good leader will provide the support needed to help that teacher or have the strength to fire the teacher and find a better qualified educator.

But that’s not the goal of these government mandates:

Instead of curiosity, we have a culture of compliance. Our teachers and students are encouraged to follow routine algorithms, rather than to excite that power of imagination and curiosity.

It is no accident that we have a culture of compliance instead of curiosity in public education. If we see the writing on the wall, we can see the future of education: The elite private and charter schools will produce the leaders and the public schools will produce the followers–those who have been trained to comply. (More on that in my post Can we escape the matrix?)

This is the type of education the general public is allowing for their children. Yes it is free education, but at what cost? Doesn’t every child deserve the right to the best education possible? The type of education that will nurture individuality, curiosity, and creativity, rather than compliance?

In case there are readers who think I am exaggerating, here is a resolution document from a local charter school against the Common Core Standards. They know that educating their future leaders is being stifled with this type of narrow, compliance-based standardization of education, which is driving the state tests.

Let’s give all of our children a fighting chance, whether they are poor, rich, or somewhere in between.

Students first