Monday, September 20, 2010

Stand up for your work

A link to this thoughtful op / ed piece in the NYT just circulated on a teaching listserv to which I belong, accompanied with a comment that it was relevant not just to elementary / secondary school, but also in higher ed.

In particular, author Susan Engel's concluding remark resonates with me - that testing ought to be "one tool among many for improving schools, rather than serving as a weapon that degrades the experience for teachers and students alike."

We are only in the first few weeks of first grade at our house, but already I have become aware of the long shadow that standardized testing casts over teachers and students. I think about Beanie's teacher, whom we already have come to respect and admire in just the few weeks that we have known her: I cannot imagine that assessments and measures are what motivated her to become a teacher in the first place. She seems like a caring and creative teacher with a lot to share, but the more that the "job" of teaching becomes degraded to test preparation, the less room there is for the exercise of talent.

The imperative to assess is being felt also in higher ed. The perceived recalcitrance of faculty, I think, ought to be understood, at least in part, as the stand we are taking on the importance and meaning of our work. We do not want it - and our students and ourselves - to be degraded.

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