As a somewhat decent little writer once said, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
(Okay, that was Emerson and it comes from Self-Reliance.)
The trouble with our schools – as it relates to this quote – is I can see the “little minds” fairly easily but I am not always so sure when consistency is a foolish or admirable trait. Particularly when it comes to assessment.
Assessing our students regularly feels admirable. Good teachers assess the progress of their students in order to ensure that they students are learning what the teacher believes they are teaching and then, this feedback allows for educators to reflect upon what might need to be re-taught as well as what might need to be scratched going forward (i.e. because perhaps the material is no longer needed as the students can do more advanced work that that which was previously thought; or because it’s too sophisticated and the students are going to need a few more steps on the ladder before they reach that level of achievement, and so on).
But the manner by which we are currently assessing our students places virtually no emphasis on reflection in order to chart a forward thinking educational path. Our current manners of assessment are pretty much directed towards meeting concrete aims as spelled out on an intractable timeline in order to move kids farther and farther and farther down this timeline.
(And might I remind ya’ll that it’s a timeline based on the artificially deduced expectations of where students ought to ostensibly be in relation to date of birth and/or grade in school. Individual aptitude, capacity, preferences, likes, dislike, family background, learning history and so on, play pretty much no role.)
Here are the bubble tests. Go bubble. Let’s see how your bubbles compare to other bubbles so that we can make new graphs showing how we rank in terms of comparative bubbles.
The hobgoblin of little minds. (It’s like Emerson was prescient and saw public education in the year 2010 from years and years away.)
And why is it that most teachers find the assessments they craft outside of the bubbles to be their most informative educational tool?
Informal assessment. (Like asking a question in class and actually using all the non-verbal cues real human beings give off to illuminate comprehension.)
Formative assessments. (Like reading their responses in paragraph or essay format where you can actually see the wheels turning in their thought process.)
Summative assessments. (Like project-based learning where kids actually have to demonstrate what they know through doing.)
Does anyone find the state tests to be worth a damn as an actual tool that informs their day-to-day classroom instruction?
Thank goodness Emerson lived when he did cause we would have beaten the desire/ability to write Self-Reliance right out of him.
We’re just crushing our kids with this nonsense.