BY SHARON MARTIN
There is something fishy going on with education standards. It’s not Common Core, which is mostly common sense. And it’s not a federal takeover of education. It’s the money.
New education companies have sprouted up and old ones have expanded as private companies grab for federal dollars.
The lion’s share of these funds will be spent on tests and test-prep materials, almost $2 billion a year, according to one report. But every good teacher knows that testing is not teaching and that teaching to a standardized test will not make children smarter.
Not only are the tests costly, they are useless. They tell us what we already know, that well-funded schools and well-fed children score better than poor schools and hungry children. And there really is no such thing as a standardized kid.
What about the standards?
Perhaps anyone who wants to express an opinion about the standards should read them first. Ask yourself, don’t you want students to think critically, build a strong vocabulary, read between the lines, write clearly? Don’t you want students to be comfortable with mathematics?
There’s nothing sinister about the standards. There is a problem with the timetable, however.
Children mature at a certain pace, and no amount of moving up the standards will change that. Young children should be developing curiosity and social skills. Giving five-year-olds a first- or second-grade curriculum is neither smart nor productive. Higher-level math can wait until after puberty.
Standards should be based on the science of child development not wishful thinking.
The best teachers I know have been involved in creating and following standards, both at the state and national levels. But teacher-created standards don’t come with corporate-created tests and test-prep.
Teachers don’t need a script. They need excellent training, available from Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. They need libraries and materials and manageable class sizes. They need respect. They don’t need to be afraid of test scores, over which they have precious little control.
Forgive this conspiracy theory, but what if lobbyists who represent testing companies and for-profit schools have bought our politicians? What if these politicians will allow our schools to starve so their corporate buddies can take over? What if failing schools and flawed test scores are part of the plan?
Corporate schools, not a federal takeover, is what we all, conservatives and liberals, should fear. It’s time to give schools back to teachers and their students.
The Common Core State Standards are a tool teachers can use. But expensive tests and test-based curriculum are a waste of time and money.
— Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer