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Language Reforms In School

By Author: Mike Jones
Total Articles: 256

San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center was one site of the 2008 NCTE Convention.
Only from behind the scenes can we appreciate how ridiculously simplistic this description of education is. Because of the pressures of the test, better teaching has turned into better test preparation. Often, panicked schools discard other learning to make room for test prep; especially those schools deemed "failures." Test critic Alfie Kohn argues that "a rise in scores may be worse than meaningless: it may actually be reason for concern. What matters is how that change was brought about and what had to be sacrificed to make it happen". But few know the behind-the-scenes Tag Heuer Replica sacrifices besides teachers themselves. Parents, politicians, and the general public look to the scores, eagerly awaiting lists ranking the top 100 schools in their state. What the numbers hide is Kohn's warning: that better scores may "go hand-in-hand with a shallow approach to learning".

The education reform initiatives—even from politicians who seem pro-teacher—feed into the skewed view the public has of America's schools. Emery and Ohanian cite the refrain of Jim Sandy, executive director of Michigan Business Leaders for Educational Excellence: "[NCLB] provides a structure and a challenge to schools that will help them strip away costly activities and practices which drain resources and distract schools from completing their central purpose, which is to educate kids". His word choices make his case: Structure, challenge, help, and central purpose all hold positive connotations for NCLB, while costly, drain, and distract are the strictly negative terms reserved for schools. Here again, to an outsider, NCLB looks like the obvious answer.

We teachers should instead speak our truth: NCLB imposes a formula and an obstacle on schools that forces them to deprive the schools of more expensive subjects such as art and music, which develop valuable skills unrelated to standardized tests. With the connotations in our favor, NCLB suddenly doesn't sound so perfect. Under NCLB, the gap between "succeeding school" and "failing school," then, becomes wider and wider, not just in test scores but also in that important, but unmeasured, student achievement. As Emery and Ohanian anticipate, "Learning for the sake of learning will be wiped out of the public school system". Some students may never have the feeling of truly shining in something, because their best subject, if it is not on the test, has been cut from the curriculum.

The public hears "rigorous testing" and thinks, "Good. It's about time someone does something about these failing schools." But I fear that if these "rigorous" high-stakes tests continue, students may fall victim to another Tag Heuer Replica Watches definition of rigor: a state of rigidity in living tissues or organs that prevents response to stimuli. If students are met with persuasive writing prompts and strict standards every time they enter their English classroom, they will, in time, become test-taking robots.

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