Today, March 10, 2009, President Obama gave a speech on education, backing the idea of merit pay for exceptional teachers, which teacher unions have vehemently opposed. He sighted four areas of reform that will be instituted into America’s education system.
1. Investing in early childhood initiatives
2. Encouraging better standards and assessments
3. Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers
4. Promoting innovative and excellence in America’s schools
Comparing himself once again to past presidents, such as Lincoln establishing the Homestead Act during the Civil War and Roosevelt ending the depression and fighting a war (although it is debatable Roosevelt actually ended the depression or the depression ended because of WWII), Obama sited his ability to handle more than one crisis at a time. Obama, who once again referred to the trillion-dollar deficit he has “inherited” (this excuse is really getting old), said he will cut ineffective educational programs that are not working. Obama also made reference to ex-President Bush’s program of No Child Left Behind, in that he would make sure there would be available funding (I guess either he liked this program, his staff just cannot come up with anything better, or he is coming down from a high and needs his next tax fix).
Anyhow, getting back to my original gripe, of which is the Illinois State Assessment Test (ISAT). When the No Child Left Behind program was established, states had to come up with standardized testing for all students in order to prove to the world that America did not have dumb kids, that American kids were just as smart as kids in other countries. Thus, states put together assessment tests following the national No Child Left Behind guidelines. My state, Illinois put together the ISAT.
These assessment tests have done just what educational experts have feared. They have put teachers in a difficult situation of either teaching our children to learn or teaching our children to pass a test, and for schools to be held accountable if the standards are not met. Today Obama has reinforced this by stating, “Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement, and asked to accept more responsibilities for lifting up their schools.”
When Obama campaigned on this subject, I was hoping he had some ingenious plan that would help our children get a better education, empower teachers to really teach and not just teach prep work for tests, but I had no idea it was just going to be a revamping of Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind program. It would appear that all Obama is doing is encouraging teachers to teach children to do well on the achievement tests in order to get a pay raise. The same old thing.
A teacher can be the best teacher on the planet, but if the child cannot or will not learn for whatever reason, the teacher has lost the battle. I have firsthand knowledge of children who have unaddressed learning difficulties, social difficulties, and parents who just do not care if their children do their homework or do well in school. No teacher can win,when all of this is against them, which leaves only one alternative; teach the kids to pass the test.
To me the ISATs are a joke. Children with disabilities are required to take the same test as children without disabilities, unless the disability is deemed severe, such as the child being totally deaf or blind. Never mind about the ADD or ADHD child or the exceptionally smart child that works slow and needs extra time to complete the test.
If you are interested in the ISATs, here is a link to the 2009 sample tests. See how well you can do, and how much you use this “required” knowledge in your day-to-day life.
Sources: WSJ, ISBE