So now Illinois is dropping writing from its standardized tests, apparently following Missouri's example. As we're seeing more and more, what isn't tested, isn't taught. Fairtest.org claims (and I wish they had some statistics to back this)
In many districts, raising test scores has become the single most important indicator of school improvement. As a result... schools narrow and change the curriculum to match the test. Teachers teach only what is covered on the test. Methods of teaching conform to the multiple-choice format of the tests. Teaching more and more resembles testing.To say the least, the past year could rank as one of the most depressing times on record to be a teacher and a librarian. While commenting on a library student's blog a few days ago after she linked to one of my posts, I actually caught myself thinking: "Is she nuts? Why is she going into librarianship at this point in time?"
We are bombarded on every side as being lazy, ineffectual and money-grubbing, then legislators make decisions crippling out best efforts to improve.
Who in their right mind would think writing, which lies at the heart of good thinking, is not important enough to measure? Even in Horticultural studies, of all things, professors report
Quiz scores increased significantly for the students who completed the reflective writing assignments (average of 16.2 out of 18) compared with students who did not complete the assignments as part of the course (average 10.2 out of 18).
Maybe it's the English teacher in me speaking, but what is more important to who we are as a culture than the ability to write well? What has shaped our national mindset more than the Declaration of Independence, Paine's Common Sense, and Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin?
We need to be furious. More importantly, we need to stop blogging and tweeting and facebooking to hit the streets and make our voices heard. Blogging and all the rest (including this post!) only preaches to the choir. I doubt there are many of you out there who seriouly disagree with what I'm saying.
The thing is, what are you doing? This is the time for action. It is easy to be frustrated and in despair; it is hard to know exactly what to do. As educators, we are used to just shutting our doors and getting on with the task at hand. However, those same doors are now not just shutting us out, they are being slammed in our collective faces as legislators with little or no educational experience tell us how to run things.
So what can you do?? Begin with joining the Save our Schools movement. If you can't attend the national event, find a local one. Spread the word. Sign up your friends, your family. Bombard your state and national legislators with letters, emails and phone calls.
Quite bluntly, it is time to put up or shut up. If we aren't willing to take the time to turn our words into action, then we probably deserve whatever happens.