Testing is a part of life but where’s the balance? I had a chance to interview our teachers at the end of the year last year and I started to notice a surprising pattern, long time educators were rediscovering the joys of teaching. This interview from our Marana 4th grade team sums up the journey our teachers had taken prior to arriving at Leman. From Tamara’s experience, where benchmark testing was done up to 13 times per year to Mary’s lack of joy in her profession and because of a focus on memorization and testing skills, you can see the joy of teaching showing back up in our teachers lives.
Prior to my role in education I was the CEO of a couple of medical related businesses. What I saw happen in that industry was a strong shift away from a Doctor’s experience and expertise towards a model where by boxes have to be clicked and the federal or insurance bureaucracies were dictating decisions normally reserved between a Doctor and a patient. There are very few professions left that are free to evolve and grow unimpeded by regulation. Our goal at Leman is to protect our teachers, respect their professional skills, train and support them towards our model and let them teach. Testing that we do take has born out that our model is working. We do three internal assessments through a testing company. What we observed in the early testing is students are joining our school at all different levels. Over the course of the year, we are seeing the deeper learning and understanding taking root. By the end of the year our Arizona Merit Test Standards where in the strong “A” school category. What that tells us is our teachers are reaching each student right where they are at in the learning process. Our teachers are instilling a love of learning in their scholars and our teachers are focused on the love of teaching and not the focus on teaching to a test.
Students are working harder than ever to pass tests but schools allow no time for true learning in the Socratic traditionFBut by John Taylor of Aeon.
In one survey of academics, 87 per cent of lecturers said that they thought that too much ‘teaching to the test’ was a major factor contributing to school students being underprepared for study at university. Ask the students themselves and they concur. In an interview for a Davos 2016 debate on the Future of Education, a student from Hong Kong said he felt that the present approach in schools yielded ‘industrialised mass-produced exam geniuses who excel in examinations’ but who are ‘easily shattered when they face challenges’.
When the philosopher Karl Popper, writing in Unended Quest (1974), dreamed of his ideal school, he imagined the very opposite, namely a place where learning takes the form of free, intrinsically interesting enquiry, rather than mere exam preparation:
“If I thought of a future, I dreamt of one day founding a school in which young people could learn without boredom, and would be stimulated to pose problems and discuss them; a school in which no unwanted answers to unasked questions would have to be listened to; in which one did not study for the sake of passing examinations.”
I share Popper’s dream. I think that school becomes more enjoyable and more effective when, instead of simply teaching students to pass examinations, they teach students to think for themselves.
Testing from our first year of operation in Marana, Arizona. These results were from 550 +/- scholars that came to our campus from all sorts of educational systems including, private, public and home schools. None of our third grade scholars where held back, a major benchmark in Arizona reading standards. I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work of our Administrators, Teachers, Scholars and their families.