The New Scarlet Letter

Something’s Gotta Give

Educators abound spend 90% of their time prepping students for state exams, and the other half of their time is spent complaining about them (my apologies to Yogi Berra).

The main complaint from teachers (and parents, and some legislators, and…) is that state exams zap too much valuable instructional time. The time spent in testing sessions is draining to students and ultimately results in a loss of class time.

The bigger argument against the way we mass assess our students (and the one that goes largely unvoiced) is that it does relatively little to prepare students for life and their future ahead.

I don’t blame teachers (and others) for having a bad taste in their mouths these days. Things are not good. They know we are not properly preparing students. But, in many cases, they feel trapped and helpless to provoke Confusionnecessary change.

    How will my evaluation be affected if I focus on project-based assignments that don’t follow the district-adopted text?

    My students are heavily engaged in the lesson and are actually having fun. How will this be showcased on their state assessment?

Quick answers:


    *It won’t

This is our current reality. We don’t place enough trust in our educators to make decisions in the best interest of students. We don’t prioritize student needs above politics and standardization.

And then there’s the scarlet “A”—Accountability.

I have heard all the arguments rationalizing the need for accountability in our schools. And I agree that some degree of…the A word…is necessary. But I also believe that

our overall focus on accountability has overshadowed our ability to take a couple of steps backward and give ourselves a necessary dose of reality.

Students are not learning. Students are not engaged in the educational process. To quote from my #NeverSummer co-brain, Elaine,

We give them too many answers… usually too quickly. We seldom ask them enough real questions… the kind that make them think long and hard… the ones that require more than a 5-second thought process… the questions that take them to the edge of what they already know and challenge them to assemble multiple ideas or facts to create a solution. In the grand scheme of education, we just don’t do this. Give students a test where they can show what they learned, not what they are capable of producing.

Do you seek to make change but have no idea how to go about it? Don’t worry. It can start right here. Are you doing things at your school that are not-the-cookie-cutter-way-we-have-always-done-things-and-truly-engage-your-students-to-become-life-long-learners?

Share the wealth! Tell the world! Collectively we can make the necessary change!