2014-10-17

[Bilde:100619_152727_0.png]A Chinese Warning to Educators - It's been a while since I have written here - for a couple of reasons - and I'll document both of them in two separate blog posts. The first reason concerned reading a post on News360, and frankly, the post and the content of the post was a shock to me, one so profound that as an educator, I had to take a bit of time away from writing. The link to the post is the following: http://news360.com/article/257440116 In the article, the author Valerie Strauss shares a similar reaction to a book by Yong Zhao entitled, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? She goes on in the news article to cite several examples of recent infamous cheating scandals and shares Zhao's contention that these scandals are in fact due to high stakes testing and the need of administrators to show improvement in testing at any cost. As her article is really the review of the book, she mentions a core theme of the book concerning "the spell of authoritarianism." This made me stop dead and think - here we have a Chinese scholar indicating that American education is falling under a spell of authoritarianism when the traditional Chinese system is well known for authoritarian measures. We know that the traditional and culturally accepted Chinese education system was entirely based on the ability to pass high stakes tests in order to enter the civil service. Needless to say, I purchased the book and am reading it now. One of the statements contained in the article did cause me pause. As Stauss shares part of the book, this quotation struck me. Zhao writes, "The villain behind these cheating scandals is the accountability system itself, which is based on high-stakes testing. Ushered in by President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reinforced by President Barack Obama's Race to the Top initiative in 2009, test-based accountability that directly links student performance to educators' livelihood has become the yardstick of American education." What's going on here? As the state of Maine prepares to begin testing which will impact teacher evaluation, are we headed in the wrong direction? Are we letting the test determine the curriculum? Are we sacrificing teacher strength and ability in light of over-standardized testing? When I considered Noam Chomsky's statements on testing in a previous blog post, I wondered then if the use of testing is the only alternative in documenting and understanding student achievement. Portfolios have always been important to me, and after reading this post in News360, purchasing the book by Zhao, it feels even more important to develop a system of effective portfolios for students. As my thinking and curiosity continued, I found Dr. Zhao's blog. He has several interesting posts and clearly thinks differently about education. Of most interest to me were the blog postings on the impact of the PISA tests, which Dr. Zhao claims puts the world at risk. Clearly, he is not afraid to take a stand on the issues inherent in standardized testing. The address for his blog is the following: http://zhaolearning.com/category/blog/
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