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WW TF Fellows respond to proposed Ed regulations III

Earlier this month, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation provided formal comments to the U.S. Department of Education about proposed changes to federal teacher preparation rules. Several Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows added their voices to the thousands of public comments that were submitted. WW Perspectives offers a sampling of some of those submissions in a series of posts. This is the third post in the series; other responses can be found here and here.

From Brad Ciminowasielewski, 2012 WW Teaching Fellow (Indiana), and Christopher Gibfried:

“Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten,”  Albert Einstein said. As educators, we believe that the U.S. is applying a flawed approach (current high school policies) to a performance-based system that has been working well for over 100 years.  Why would we water down the validity of obtaining a degree by destroying programs through removing their funding and encouraging higher institutions to lower their standards so that they can meet the requirements in order to be seen as successful?

We believe that an emphasis on standards and assessment, rather than on content and mastery, is what is wrong with the current education system.  As high school teachers, we have six classes that we only see 178 times for 49 minutes (minus the countless hours of class-time missed due to required state tests and test prep, exams, field trips, and so on). This is not nearly enough time to “fill the bucket” with all the required information. What we need to do is inspire students to go outside of our classrooms with a desire to continue learning.

Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible to measure, so states have begun creating lists of “standards” that we follow to fill up the bucket. With as many as 150 kids and our career depending on it, it’s all we can do to just simply have the students memorize the list of state standards. However, what teachers should do is simply inspire the kids to love the content and the bucket will fill on its own.

With the demands the state puts on teachers to prove that we are filling the bucket, we are forced to teach students meaningless, easily testable, low-level information that they can regurgitate on the state tests. I know states and testing companies are trying to create tests that “align with the common core” but in reality, this is yet another list of “things to teach.”

How do we define success? Is it that a successful student will pass a state test? Or is it that a successful student will transform into a lifelong learner that has a passion for learning and an ability to apply learned knowledge to novel situations?

We need to take a stand against toxic testing and what it is doing to the minds of our children. We see the effects in our classrooms daily. Students can no longer apply knowledge learned to novel situations. Students do not learn how to learn. Students do not retain learned information as we have trained them to memorize, regurgitate, and then make room for the next “standard.” How can our future governors, senators, CEOs, employees handle diverse situations that we haven’t specifically trained them to handle? We have shifted our focus to programming our kids like robots to regurgitate useless information on a state mandated test, while at the same time, private companies are spending billions to program robots to think for themselves.


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