Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Mailbag: Teaching Testing As A Literary Genre

    Stan Jastrzebski / WFIU

    The Project School, a Bloomington charter.

    Is it “mumbo-jumbo for ISTEP preparation” — or a “clever” approach to getting ready for high-stakes tests?

    Last week’s post on a Bloomington charter school’s practice of teaching a short unit on standardized testing as a literary genre garnered quite a few varied reactions. (If you missed the post, check it out here.)

    A shortened radio version of the post ran Monday morning on NPR’s Morning Edition. In an effort to continue the conversation, here are a few more of the reactions from parents at the Bloomington Project School that didn’t making it into the radio version:

    Gina Weir, another Project School parent, gave her impressions in an interview with StateImpact:

    I know that, despite calling it ‘teaching testing as a genre,’ my son — prior to going into taking ISTEP — came home from school feeling discouraged or sad that things that he would typically do in school were going away so they could focus on preparing for the test. In that way, it really makes me sad as a parent to know that he was put through test prep time in the classroom. Yet, on the other hand, I weigh out the benefits of a school that spends less time trying to teach to the test. From my impressions talking to teachers and parents, and being around education most of my life, my sense is that they’re just not focusing on it just as much as other schools would do it…

    I see a really confusing message. I see great things going on, I see really caring teachers working with kids. But I also see the fact that they’re not always aligned with their integrities about what’s best for kids because of the test… I want educators and I want administrators to be able to do their job that is focused on what’s best for kids, and we’re putting them in a difficult position when we require them and mandate them to focus on all this testing.

    Gena Carney, a Project School parent, told StateImpact:

    In having kids in public school and having kids that are at a charter school — which is still public — and looking at both, the folks at The Project School are more fearless about it. They don’t seem to have that fear riding on them all the time that this standardized test is so high-stakes, whereas in the school corporation, I don’t think that’s the case anymore, I think they’re really feeling the pressure…

    There’s probably similarities in what they’re doing at The Project School and what they’re doing at other schools. I just don’t think that the intensity’s there. I think they’re practical about it and saying, ‘These are skills that you need to get you through academically,’ but I don’t think it’s in everything that they do.

    ParentsForFairTesting commented on the original post:

    I worry that a school that calls test-taking skills a “genre” is hiding behind what they are really doing, which is teaching to the test. I also worry that, as teachers and administrators propagate this “genre” propaganda word game, they are personally compromised by their compliance with the standard-based reform testing market. The schools (teachers and administrators) are put in a position where they are required to do this testing and thus have to play mind games with themselves to justify what they are doing. “Oh we teach it as a genre” some how takes away the evil of this obsession with trying to put an arbitrary number on a child’s learning. It is clear that testing interferes with their true mission as educators. This school indicates its mission is to end the predictive value of race, class, gender, different abilities, yet we know clearly that the testing serves to profile these students who are marginalized.

    Add your voice in our comments section as well: What do you think of the idea of teaching the “genre” of testing alongside the memoir and the short story?


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