Thursday, March 10, 2011

Testing Fear against Freedom

This week, USA Today ran a story called "When scores seem too good to be true" about a teacher who admitted he had cheated in order to raise his students' scores, and about school officials' uncertainty about the difference between scores improved by hard work and scores improved by unethical means. Take a look:

Seipelt's gains and losses are typical of a pattern uncovered by a USA TODAY investigation of the standardized tests of millions of students in six states and the District of Columbia. The newspaper identified 1,610 examples of anomalies in which public school classes — a school's entire fifth grade, for example — boasted what analysts regard as statistically rare, perhaps suspect, gains on state tests...

Given the mounting pressure on teachers, principals and superintendents to produce high scores, "no one has incentives to vigorously pursue" testing irregularities, says Gregory Cizek, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who studies cheating. "In fact, there's a strong disincentive."

Although the emphasis in this story is not on placing blame, bloggers and commentators are now tossing accusations back and forth at supersonic speed. In the process, I think we've missed the point.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. Tests are just small steps in a life-long process. One of the joys of home-centered education is the ability to separate test scores from personal worth. We don't have to be afraid of test results because we know that as free people, the point of a test is to train for things that really matter. We use tests often as a way to measure learning, but we understand that a test is used for measuring where we are right now, not judging whether we've succeeded or failed.

So how can we show others in our community what it looks like to live, learn, and test in a spirit of freedom, not fear?

French writer Albert Camus once said, "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."

I love watching our CC students reciting history timelines, giving presentations, filling in geography maps, and even taking tests. They encourage each other and compete with each other, but we want them to know it's okay to make mistakes because that's how we learn.

In our CC Parent Practicums this summer, we'll be talking a lot more about what it means to be free and what freedom requires of us. Remember Galatians 5:1 - "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."

So, as we see and hear news stories about our nation's education anxieties, let's not forget our purpose. We have the privilege to know God and to make Him known, through learning, as an echo in celebration of our freedom in Christ!

2 comments:

popsiclesontheporch said...

Very insightful! Thanks for the reminder that "Tests are just small steps in a life-long process." As a homeschooling parent, there is also a tendency to fall into the pattern of thinking if our children don't get "it" then we have failed in teaching them. It's good to be reminded that test are not used to determined whether we have succeeded or failed, but rather serve as a guide to help us move forward in the learning process.

Thanks for sharing!
Mel

popsiclesontheporch said...

Very insightful! Thanks for the reminder that "Tests are just small steps in a life-long process." As a homeschooling parent, there is also a tendency to fall into the pattern of thinking if our children don't get "it" then we have failed in teaching them. It's good to be reminded that test are not used to determined whether we have succeeded or failed, but rather serve as a guide to help us move forward in the learning process.

Thanks for sharing!
Mel