homethe billthe standardsthe testdiscussiontesting our schools
homethe billthe standardsthe testdiscussion
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Will more testing and tougher accountability change public education for the better?


Dear FRONTLINE,

I agree with Ms. Gilbert. There was an issue about testing that PBS left unaddressed. I am a retired high school teacher who also helped write curriculum for our district. With two nationally standardized tests a year (which may or may not reflect state requirements), lasting three days each, and a state required test, also lasting several days, throw in various assemblies, games, plays, etc., that students are required to attend, many daily announcements from the administration over the intercom system, fire drills, and other interruptions to the school day, teachers who are excellent are unable to keep up with lesson plans for the curriculum. Add into this mix the "Block Schedule" in any of its forms and the only hope a teacher has is to "teach to the test." I am not saying that elimination of testing is the answer, but states need to consider the actual teaching time per class before determining if testing should be as emphsized as it is in a student's success formula, or if perhaps other items on the full agenda of public schools need de-emphasizing.

oklahoma city, ok


Dear FRONTLINE,

As a secondary school teacher I see the effects of standardized testing to be detrimental to all involved. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the ideal of learning itself all suffer at the hands of half-wit politicians. Having listened to the blather of George W. Bush and Rod Paige for long enough to know, I am confident that neither could master their own state's basic skills test (TAAS: Texas Assesment of Academic Skills).

Public education is being hijacked by a functionally illiterate President, corporate interests, and the multi-billion dollar testing industry.

Brian Paradis
houston, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

The show on testing was so biased. It is obvious that PBS has an agenda here. Teachers hate the thought of actually having to answer for their failure. The only way to get them to teach seriously is for them to be held accounatable. The argument was given that different schools teach different things. Math is math and English is English, there is only one way to do them. As far as history goes, the Constitution and our national government are the same for all. Stick to that. PBS has a bad reputation for being biased toward teachers unions and other liberal organizations, this just makes it more obvious! I am a college student and I benefit greatly by standardized tests. It is a great way to tell me whether I am being taught what I should.

Rob Hansen
mo, iowa


Dear FRONTLINE,

Public education is about education, not test scores. I for one am all for testing as an evalutation for me (I am a high school student), but many people, because of test anxiety or bad skills, are horrible test-takers. Therefore, this is a rather idiotic idea for people who cannot handle testing. Teaching children, especially the younger ones, that scores are more important than learning will ruin the future of this country. Tests should be used as an evaluation to better EDUCATION and teaching practices, not to raise test scores. Basing whether or not a school will stay open based on standardized test scores is as ridiculous as it would be to base it on gender or racial ratio. Besides, most teens could care less how they do on these tests. "They don't count for anything do they? So why should I try?" For the older generation: remember when "learning" was simply memorization and regurgitation? And remember when they finally changed school (though not by much) to actual education? It is time for another change. Standardized tests should be used to evaluate and correct student retention of learning, not regurgitation of memorization to raise test scores. Studying simply to raise scores, not to learn or for the pure joy of learning, is nothing more than the revealed false pride and greed and materialism that is the epitome of everything bad and phony and disgusting about America. TEST SCORES ARE NOT EVERYTHING! Like America's pathetic obession with sports and winning, this is no different than a contest between schools to see who can get the best academic vomit out of their students. Written tests are NOT the answer. Neither is tougher accountability. What American schools really need are better teachers, better curriculum, and a stronger interest in the students themselves. American education today does not pay attention to the individual student, but rather the entire class, which can often top 1,000 students. To quote someone I can't remember, "You can't measure all men with the same yardstick." This obviously goes for students too. In case you haven't noticed this yet, WE ARE YOUR FUTURE! And you are teaching us everything we don't need to know, and nothing we do. Life is full of tests, but none of them are graded. SCORES DON'T COUNT!!! I don't know how I can emphasize this any more. The only way American education is going to change is if these mandatory testing fiascos are halted, and more attention is paid to cirriculum and the individual student, not the whole school and idiotic tests that by no means measure how much they have learned or retained.

Sarah Wassberg
fargo, nd


Dear FRONTLINE,

And the testing goes on and on. It happens in college. It happens in the work place, every day. When will this whining end? Life isnít perfect. Get on with it. At the end of the day in school you get a grade, in the work place you get a paycheck

duluth, ga


Dear FRONTLINE,

I feel that testing is a good thing. We need testing. What we DO NOT need, is a failure stamp on schools. We need tests to enhance the ability of teachers and parents to identify problems, then apply a course of action.

My fear is that public schools are under fire and are being placed in a position of failure. Then the political will of privitization will bring the public dedication to education to it's knees.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I am scared.

Michael Delano
richmond, va


Dear FRONTLINE,

The only thing that will change education is the people who are in it - the parents, the students, the teachers, not the administrators or the legislators or even the president himself. Anyone else who thinks that they can change education by having students take tests that are mandated by legislators has no idea what is happening in our classrooms. The best teacher is the one who TEACHES - not one who gives tests. The Virginia math teacher who would take his students to the river to teach them math is a REAL teacher. Pencil/paper testing measures a student's knowledge by numbers and that is exactly what it is - numbers. It's a question of quantitative vs. qualitative education. What do we really want for our children who are the future of our nation and the caretakers of their elders? Will state testing measure how they can think and solve problems?

I have been an art educator for over 25 years in the public school system. I hope I never see the day when any state tests for creativity, visual perception, aesthetics and art itself. Research has shown that the arts are vital to our children's learning. But I see that the exclusion of this subject area in the state testing will put the arts in jeopardy and put them farther down the list of priorities in the education process. What will mandated testing do for our children in the arts? A civilized society keeps the arts at the top of that list. Without the arts you have nothing.

dolores bradbury-russo
kissimmee, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

You should demand far better programming from PBS central and its programmers. The Frontline discussion of standards and testing for education presented far more fog than clear vision. Several things were particularly notable. First, teachers and officials in schools not meeting the standards had poor command of the language compared to those from schools meeting the standards; no one mentioned that fact or that people who don't know even the fundamentals cannot teach. Secondly, it is blatant idiocy to suggest that teacher opinions are a reasonable measure of the level of education of a child; without some impossibly complex system to manage that measure, its use can only create a probability of error in the assessment of the child far greater than anything standard tests produce, thus watering down test scores to the point where they would once again be meaningless. Thirdly, most of the people who appeared have no idea of what the probability of error is or how it is to be used; by intoning deep misunderstandings of its meaning and use that are common in the public, they reinforced the public resistance to the soundest way to promote public education - measuring the process, not just by testing but by constantly asking questions of the child when teaching to assure understanding; how soon we forget the teachings of Socrates! The three aforementioned items are only a tiny sample of the foolishness that you broadcast tonight and of the truths that you failed to broadcast. I am as anti-Bush as anyone in the world; he has failed in virtually every effort he has undertaken including his War on Terrorism, his foreign policy, his economic policy, and his recent self-serving highly political (and deadly wrong) decision on steel tariffs; on the whole, he has been a miserable flop. On the other hand, thanks to the guidance of Ross Perot, he is as right as anyone can be in his demand for standards and testing to prove accomplishment or failure in education, the only sound basis for correction of problems with quality. The sad part is that we have left the management of the details to Boards of Education and educators - the people who had to be prompted because they lacked the simple insight that assessment of education quality is as fundamental a need as are students and teachers. Frontline blew this one. Since you don't seem to be able to find enough material with sound ideas, must we be burdened with pointless drivel?

Hobart Hummer
lima, oh


Dear FRONTLINE,

NO. There are so many flaws with the idea that standardized testing results can be equated with accountability. What we need is better teachers, more focused goals and suggested outcomes for the different grade levels. Rather than being torn in 3 directions, teachers should be directed toward a projected outcome.

Public education will not benefit from more testing. Nor will it benefit our children, who are the immediate victims of standardized testing. Real, authentic assessment of a student's performance is what we need. The problem of course, is money and time.

baton rouge, la


Dear FRONTLINE,

The problem with testing is tests frequently do not provide an accurate picture of what a child has or has not learned. The problem with teacher accountability is that it assumes that the teacher has sole responsibility for what the child will learn. Schools will improve when there is support from the parents and the community. Schools will improve when parents value education. Schools will improve when the accountability for learning is divided between the parent, child and the educational system

conover, nc


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a fifth grade teacher in the Louisiana Public School System. I have seen the advent of high-stakes testing and the toll it is taking on education, both from a teaching standpoint, and also from a parent's. It is good to know whether or not our children are learning what they need. Unfortunately, because the test scores are so weighted toward illustrating actual student knowledge, it is impossible to actually teach students anything outside of what will be on the test. In other words, in order to ensure the students pass the test, a teacher has to teach the test. Because I am also a parent with a learning-challenged child in the public school system, I am faced with great frustrations because of the way and manner in which subject materials need to be taught. My son is falling horribly behind and, I fear, will have little hope of catching up if his needs cannot be met in the early grades. Because of the focus on testing, my child is not receiving the help or education he truly needs. For this to change, three things must change: politicians need to get the HELL OUT OF THE CLASSROOM; the companies that make millions of dollars selling useless textbooks and worthless additionals need to figure out what is truly needed in education and publish that; and finally, if we don't restructure the educational system to focus on the individual learning styles and needs of students, then the students like my son who are already falling through the cracks will not only be left behind, but will become the new class of people in our society -- the partially-educated outcasts.

Amy Melancon
houma, la


Dear FRONTLINE,

PBS Testing Our Schools

I work in the field of electron microscopy, and I give talks on the work and people I work with. When I am in and outside of the US traveling, I try to set aside some time to give talks to the local schools. This has been made impossible in Texas, because the teachers do not have enough time to allow students (11 and 12 grade) to learn anything but the TAAS test. This I think has brought down the schools and not allowed the students to experience science or other subject from people who are experiencing it today.

Unless a student can experience something first hand or relate to a person they meet who is doing it, it will remain foreign to him or her forever.

The math teacher from Virginia has it.. You learn by getting dirty... Doing it for real gives you a sight beyond any test.

houston, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

The standardized testing movement meets the needs of the corporations not the hope and dreams of our young people. Success in the global economy requires a docile populace and obedient, unskilled workers who are afraid to organize and who will settle for less than what their parents had. If students are convinced that they are failures because they didn't pass the "test", they will blame themselves for not doing better and will settle for minimum wages as hamburger flippers and big box store clerks.

Constant testing turns reading and writing, which should be natural, joyful, and rewarding activities, into dull school subjects. If kids learned to play baseball the way standardized testing requires they be taught, no one would play ball. Instead, students would measure the length of the bat, measure the distance to first base, and practice filling out score cards. We can help our young people to take the road of creativity, real literacy, conceptual thinking, and individuality, or we can take them down the path of mindless drill and repetition and memorization of isolated facts.

For politicans, testing means votes. For testing companies, it means more millions. Do we want to trust our children's education to George Bush, or to McGraw-Hill and Prentice Hall, or to teachers who have a strong sense of commitment to the welfare of children?

Please join one of the the anti-test groups that have sprung up in over 40 states.

Gerald Oleson
bangor, maine


Dear FRONTLINE,

The state of education in the US is so disjointed and epistemologically vacuous that testing or no testing will have little impact. That being said, no evaluation ought to be based upon a single criterion. No other professional organization or individual would consider doing such a thing.

Troy McIntosh
columbus, oh


Dear FRONTLINE,

Although the program was very enlightening and well done, I wish it toched on the testing in NYC public schools where test scores of 4th grade students determine what middle school they will go to, be it good or bad, safe or unsafe.

karuna grotrian
brooklyn, ny

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