The Status Quo in Education, or Test Scores and the Olympics

13 Aug

Colorado’s high stakes testing scores (CSAP) are out this week, and the Denver Post weighs in with an editorial on p. 12B. (Yes, I still read the print edition. It’s much easier to scan for what interests me.) CSAP scores are basically flat, with a slight improvement in a few districts. The Post states, “It’s also exhibit A in the argument against maintaining the status quo in Colorado’s K-12 education system.”

It is mind-boggling that the Post thinks there is a status quo in education. For over a decade they have been covering the extensive efforts at educational reform in Denver Public Schools and other Colorado districts. Classroom teaching today is very different from what it used to be: major standardized assessments several times a year, constant progress monitoring, RTI (Response to Intervention) programs that use data to drive instruction, a literacy program based on research and best practices, and a math program that approaches math in a way so different from traditional programs that parents need programs to learn how to help their students. Teachers have been working twice as hard as they did in the traditional classroom to understand and implement new programs and practices, often radically changing their teaching styles. What few seem to realize is that test scores are like Olympic records. Just because an athlete only beats an old record by a hundredth of a second doesn’t mean that they have been sitting around doing nothing. It takes a tremendous amount of work to gain that fraction of a second, and it takes the same amount of work to raise test scores across a district or a state by a few points. The big difference is that athletes are lauded for their gains, and teachers are blamed for not making more progress and accused of being recalcitrant whenever they express skepticism about a suggested reform. If the Post truly believes the slight gains aren’t enough, couldn’t they at least acknowledge that maybe some of the skeptics about the reforms we have been trying might have been at least partly right?

1 Comment

Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Education and Teaching


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One response to “The Status Quo in Education, or Test Scores and the Olympics

  1. Katy Berman

    August 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Penny, thanks for this post. You have expressed very succinctly what the life of teachers is like today. Really, with the pay we get and the amount of work we do (not to mention out-of-pocket expenses) it’s a wonder that people keep choosing this profession. But we do it because we care about the kids and we love working with them. I know this sounds cliche, but having begun my teaching career only 7 years ago after 20 years doing less significant work, I entered into the world of teaching pretty much as you described it. (Yet my student teaching experience was in a very traditional classroom.) And because it was a second career for me, I have thrown myself into it with considerable zeal and passion (to my husband’s chagrin) and have dedicated myself to it as fully as possible. Yet with all my contributions and talents, I have been forced to change jobs several times before I found a district where I have finally felt fully appreciated and respected. I am going on my third year in this small district, and am about to tackle a brand new challenge – bilingual second grade!!


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