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  • Sunday, January 28, 2007

     

    School Testing Fraud

    Metro Views ______________:GoCo:
    Local news editorials from the Greater Orange Communities
    (reprinted with permission)

    School Testing Fraud
    By John Rossman

    Remember a few years ago when all this testing began in schools? A couple of teachers were prosecuted for innocently having gone to bookstores and buying materials that anyone could buy to help prepare kids for such testing...nothing more than the kind of test prep books that tens of thousands of parents buy to help their kids prepare for college entrance exams.

    Today, it's the State of California that's not merely giving out general test prep materials it's giving teachers what it calls "Released Test Questions" from the actual past state exams so that kids can be trained to take the tests and create scores that make the state and local school boards look good. The so-called "Released Test Questions" are basically the same as the questions on the upcoming actual test except that "Billy Bob bought four apples" on the Released Questions is changed to "Betty Lou bought five oranges" on the actual test.

    Looks Good on Paper
    No wonder test scores are going up: Teachers are required to drill such test questions into the heads of the kids so that the kids can respond like robots on the tests.

    The question is: What are they actually learning? And what aren't they learning? Because in the current climate where the state tests only for Math and Reading, with the addition of Science in 5th grade only, the daily drilling done on the kids largely leaves out Science, History, and everything else. Recently, a teacher was reprimanded for having kids draw pictures about a story they read because drawing detracts from the drill time.

    In many schools, kids are taught Science only once a week, and History/Government/Social Studies is taught at best two or three times a week. Is there any wonder that our nation is losing ground in basic science to foreign nations and that our future citizens don't have a clue about how our republican system operates or where Iowa or Iraq are on a map?

    Education vs. Training
    Our Founding Fathers placed a great deal of emphasis on the fundamental need for America to provide its children with a well-rounded education, stating how important it was for our national well-being. Today, we have given up education for training. There's a huge difference between education that provides our children with the wide range of knowledge they'll need for success in life and training them to jump through test-taking hoops so they can make education bureaucrats look good in the press.

    Pacing Guides

    For insight into how bad things have gotten for the kids, just take a look at the so-called "pacing guides" that are now used in most school districts. Kids are herded at a gallop through complex skills that they can't hope to master in the time allotted which is usually only a single lesson, an hour or so.
    The Pacing Guide used as an example here is from the Orange Unified School District, but it's basically the same for other districts. Here's how 6th grade kids are rushed through Math:

    Skill Time allotted for learning the skill
    Add and Subtract Decimals 1-day lesson
    Multiplying with Decimals 1-day lesson
    Dividing with Decimals 1-day lesson
    Decimal Expressions and Equations 1-day lesson
    Multiply Fractions 1-day lesson
    Multiply Mixed Numbers 1-day lesson

    Could you learn each one of those skills in a single day? Neither can most children.

    In some school districts where the bureaucrats patrol the classrooms making sure teachers are sticking to the pacing guide, teachers themselves are in tears because their children are in tears pleading "Please, give us more time we don't understand this." OUSD's requires tests every few months that follow the pacing guide. The tests are demoralizing to many children who were unable to grasp the instruction that too swiftly passed in front of them because of the pacing guide.

    Parents and Voters
    The tears of teachers and children won't melt the hearts of the bureaucrats in school district offices, which is where not from the state these "pacing guides" come from. Only parents and voters can rescue their kids from this relentless production line treatment of children as if they were factory fodder. The reason why the bureaucrats get away with this and with other abuses of kids and of tax money is because they're organized and parents and voters aren't.

    At best, parents might belong to the local schools PTA, but PTAs aren't organized to beat back the problems seen today in our schools. What parents and voters need is to form district-wide political coalitions that act as watch dogs over what the bureaucrats are up to and to alert the community to take concerted political action whenever needed. It's needed now.

    Tax Money Wasted
    The "pacing guides" not only harm kids, they represent a huge waste of tax money: For example, the OUSD Pacing Guide that the district paid huge sums of money for (along with the costly testing program that goes with it) is ludicrously nothing more than the district paying out tax money to buy something it already had. In the front section of every Teacher's Edition of Math textbooks is something known as the "scope and sequence chart." It's the publisher's suggestion for the sequence in which the lessons might be taught and the amount of time that might be spent on each lesson. The pacing guide that OUSD bought is nothing more than that.

    In addition, all those demoralizing tests like the district buys from an outside source also already exist in the free materials that come with the text books. What has happened in the public's schools today is an all-too-familiar story about how opportunists pop up to feed at the public tax money trough by providing "services" that not only aren't needed, but that are even harmful to kids.

    The ball's in the parent/voter court. Get organized. Take action.

    John Rossman has served in the past as President of the Orange Unified Education Association , is currently a teacher in Orange Unified, and periodically puts out a e-newsletter on issues in education. You may contact him at Quikwrit@cs.com



    Community groups and individuals are welcome to submit editorial viewpoints on LOCAL issues for Metro Views

    Metro Views is a community news service of the
    Orange Communication System /OCS/

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