Commentary: Our schools are extraordinary – not low performing

Henry Pankey

Commentary: Our schools are extraordinary – not low performing
March 22
08:25 2019

By Henry Pankey

After 14, 000 hours of K-12 classroom instruction and passing over 112 state mandated standardized tests, students have consistently demonstrated levels of resilience and brilliance never shown by any other generation. Education bureaucrats, politicians and test designers have been bombarded with a gluttony of evaluation results that are analyzed from test results of bubble sheets.

However, the creator of standardized tests, Fredrick J. Kelly states: “These tests are too crude to be used and should be abandoned.”

The horse has already left the barn. Flawed tests have become a potent political third rail and lightning rod that can effectively destroy the career of any professional educator that dares to question its validity. It is a very powerful billion-dollar industry.

Kelly never envisioned his creation would become a uniform one-size-fits-all evaluation instrument. Yet, schools, administrators, teachers and students are given grades that do not adequately measure individual developmental school growth or overall student talent, capability, improvement or categorical genius.

Standardized test may be more of a political trial balloon than a wholistic assessment tool. Yet, we all want to know what students have learned and are able to demonstrate. Taxpayers, politicians, educators, parents and students have a vested interest and right to review test results to quantify the status of effective teaching and student achievement.

The overriding issue is whether pencil bubble sheets or computer diagnostics are the best ways to monitor academic progress as well as job, career or higher education readiness.

Students with exemplary vocational skills are not given tests or classroom instruction that will prepare them for sound middle class status and life after graduation from high school. Drama, music, dance, interpersonal communication orators, and athletes are not given grades to reflect extracurricular performances. Non-academic genius and hours of hard work are not included in any grade given to schools. The cheering at games and standing ovations at stage performances represent an “A” validated by public perception as well as eyewitness audiences.

The current limited poor grading system fails to acknowledge superior accomplishments as evidence that schools are not low performing, but extraordinary.

Teachers teach all day and students learn a multitude of information never tested. Hands-on manipulatives and products cannot be measured in a bubble sheet, but are real world essentials.

We teach students from over 150 countries. They bring to school numerous levels of cognitive ability, limited English proficiency, as well as physical, emotional and mental disabilities. These students are mandated to take standardized tests and the results are included in report cards assigned to each school.

Teachers work and are trained throughout the school year, summers and weekends. Grading papers, lesson plans, research and staff development are difficult during regular hours that include lunch duty, hall patrol, staff conferences and supervision of students at the bus areas and parking lots. They should be labeled as heroes instead of low performers.

Teachers have a right to teach and students have a right to learn beyond the limited specifications of state and federal mandated politically motivated curriculum. It is prudent to develop multiple evaluation tools to assess what pupils have learned and are able to do. We do not deny the challenge to creatively improve teaching and learning. We must implement a national equitable test that truly measures student achievement.

We will find our schools are truly extraordinary.

Henry Pankey, CEO of Success Strategies NCUSA is in the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Hall of Fame, a former Principal of the Year, as well as recipient of the NCAE 2012 Assistant Principal of The Year. He is the author of eight books, an editorial writer, national school improvement consultant and keynote speaker.

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