The good, the bad, and the ugly
Evidence of how seriously teachers approach these tests has appeared in a number of schools.
At Shepard eMints Academy in St. Louis, university students tutor struggling children during the school day, after school and even during recess. Retired teachers tutor pupils in the evenings. Teachers ask parents to help their children explain and summarize what the children have read.
Some educators worry that the increased attention to math and reading to prepare students for tests has taken away from other subjects. University City School Board member Joy Lieberman said the district's elementary schools no longer teach a foreign language because of the focus on core subjects.
Arizona State University researchers recently reported that test pressures can lead to a "beat-the-system" mentality, increasing the chances of cheating, excluding low-performing students, teaching to the test and narrowing the curriculum.
And the ugly:
Students have learned rap lyrics such as "We will, we will zap the MAP, zap the MAP." They will receive Captain MAP stickers and pencils before they take the MAP tests, said Shepard's principal, Carol Hall-Whittier.
At Griffith Elementary School in Ferguson-Florissant, students ask each other math problems as they stand in line for recess or lunch.
Cathy Holway, a third-grade teacher, started a schoolwide math competition. Winners' names are posted in the hall like basketball teams in a tournament bracket.
The increased emphasis on tutoring basic skills is, I think, undoubtedly a good thing. It's where the rubber meets the road for the good intentions that were the original impetus of No Child Left Behind. But quickly we can see where the good intentions turn into bad results. No foreign language because of increased focus on tests? Math competitions where results are posted? The struggling students are surely going to feel encouraged by getting knocked out of a competition "like basketball teams in a tournament bracket."
For every Milwaukee-Wisconsin, there must be a Kansas or a Syracuse. For non-basketball fans, my point is simply this: We must not create a system of winners and losers. Education is not -- and should not be -- a competition. It's a cooperative enterprise in which everyone must win.
If anyone loses, everyonen loses.