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By Don J. Fessenden
Why do educational leaders place so much value on standardized tests? The answers is because it’s the easiest! If students take the same standardized test we can review scores and utilize the data to determine a state or countries educational programs effectiveness. We are a country motivated by test scores. The problem with focusing on test scores devalues all the other forms of assessments we could utilize to best determine the effectiveness of the United States educational system.
As teachers, we’re ask to differentiate our instruction and expectations on a daily basis because not all students are the same. If our leadership differentiated the tools they used to evaluate educational effectiveness, they would be able to appreciate the success of the United States educational system.
However, maybe they would prefer selling the idea of a failing system versus a system that is doing great things, because everyone knows a failing system will ensures continued monetary support. Why else would leaders compare our test scores to countries that would never be in our country reference group? For years the gold standard in education has been Finland.
A country who utilizes the two-track system of education like the Great Britain. While both countries usually rank higher than the United States students in educational testing, they also eliminate those students who have been identified as vocational bound. Wow! If the United States didn’t test all students and omit those students who had no interest in college, just think of what are scores would look like.
Let’s look at Finland and Great Britain’s two-track system of education. The two-track system of vocational track or academic track is one that we LOVE. These countries get it…not everyone wants to go to college. During every convocation we hear how we should be preparing all students for college. Why? Is college acceptance the goal of secondary education, or is it too prepare our students for a changing world in need of both blue collar and white collar workers. Instead of devaluing the trades and a vocational education we should value both as tracks to a successful future.
The arguments against a two track system are weak at best and we continue to chase countries who have this type of system only make us look elitist. The fact is that not all graduating high school seniors go to college. Of those that go to college, not all graduate but they all incur the costs and student loans acquired during the experience. We strongly believe that if high school students and their parents were given the opportunity to select from the vocational track or college track high school would become much more relevant. This relevance would be seen in an increase of the student’s motivation.
Our big reform idea is to recommend that all high school students have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) focused on their identified track. Today the only students with IEP’s are those students with disabilities. We understand that placing all students on IEP’s will be costly and time consuming, we believe the return on investment will far exceeds the cost. The greatest challenge for the majority of teachers not teaching advanced placement classes is a lack of student motivation. This translates into low student engagement and performance.
If we allowed students to create their own education plan with educator guidance, the students will be taking courses relevant to their plan increasing their level of motivation exponentially. It doesn’t take a college degree to be successful or understand that if a student is interested in the course material that they will be more motivated to learn that material.
Now, we just need to be willing to stand up for change and speak out! We need to become leaders in education and stop chasing test scores, we need to reform education and start respecting the United States vocational educational system. We need to stop defining success by the degrees on your wall and recognize that a person’s contribution to society is what should define their success.
What do you think? Leave a comment and your perspective.
Should teacher performance evaluations be tied to student performance and achievement?