Let Our Kids be … Problem Solvers and Fight Against High Stakes Testing

May 2, 2016 by

Why are parents keeping their kids home from school on Tuesday?  They are fighting back against high-stakes testing and the dilution of higher level thinking in the curriculum.

The easiest way to look like you are working hard on education, without actually investing in it, is to raise standards and test how kids are meeting the new benchmarks. Our government has justified this approach as the best way to help children in underperforming schools.  There are peer-reviewed, time-proven, common-sense ways to improve the education outcomes in schools with poor results: alleviate the affects of poverty and provide extra support for students.  Administrating tests and striving to increase the scores gives the appearance of someone trying to improve education without actually investing in education.

This government has used testing as a means to accelerate academisation, or the removal of schools from the local education authority.  The Education and Adoption Bill of 2015 stated “coasting schools” would become academies; this recent white paper states all schools will become academies by 2020.  The benchmarks being tested have suddenly changed and children are measured on work that is two years beyond what was tested last year.

Schools and teachers faced with high-stakes testing are compelled to use classroom time practicing for these tests.  It is difficult to see how there will not be time taken away from the rich, education experiences where children apply their skills to design a science experiment, write a play, research a person of interest or decide which resources in the classroom could be used to create a topographic map of the UK.  Kids will be losing out on higher level thinking and experiential learning in an effort to increase test scores.

It may be helpful to take a giant step back and reflect on why we have state education, what function school serves in our society.  The genesis of state education was to ensure that we have a robust democracy, an intelligent population that actively participates in the functioning of government.  We established state education to give children the skills to become future problem solvers.  A strong democracy needs risk takers who can take the initiative to question the status quo, to find information, to organise and find the best ways to solve problems.

Parents are critically examining the changes in education put forth by this government and they do serve their children or this country well.  This is not the best policy.  England needs future problem solvers not students subservient to standardised exam results.  Write your ward councillors, your MPs, support your teachers and heads when they take action and help protect our democracy.

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