Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

What Gets Tested Gets Taught

We all know the adage, “What gets tested gets taught.”  We’ve (many of us, if not all of us) been in the position of feeling the pressure to teach the state standards in ways that will assure our school a decent, if not high, pass rate.  And, we know that when the principal asks teachers to do something, teachers feel an obligation to do so.  (If you don’t believe that, go read @mssackstein’s book, Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective.) I was lucky enough to help her do some last minute editing and got to read part of her work. She does an awesome job of explaining how teachers feel obligated not to say no when the principal asks for something. So, I see an “if, then” statement happening here.

If what gets tested gets taught, and if the principal can ask teachers to do things and expect them to do it, then   the principal can call the shots as to what and how the teachers teach, right?  That means all of the woes in schools today are the principal’s fault, aren’t they?

So what follows is that we need NOT to fire bad teachers, but instead fire all principals in any school where teachers complain about having to teach to the test and that all they have time for is the state mandated curriculum.  Then, pull in a principal who can lead the school, telling teachers what to do to make schools better, support kids to learn more and in different ways, following their passions, learning to code and make, and becoming well-rounded citizenry.

So why hasn’t that happened? I’ve heard about principals telling their teachers to use our new learning spaces all over our county. I’ve watched my principal tell our teachers they have to get connected-and so they Skype, join the Global Read Aloud, collect and pin on Pinterest, interact with one another on Facebook, and some even blog, have their students blogging, lurk on Twitter, and do who knows what else online? I’ve watched many a principal say “Your PLCs will meet this week” and so they do.  I’ve worked with many a principal who has told us to do many a different thing, and we do.

But, you know what?  No matter how much our legislature and the public point to schools and say “close the bad ones”, or to teachers and say “fire the bad ones” or to principals and say “be a different kind of leader,” it’s NOT about individuals and individual schools, or even, (most times) individual leaders. It’s about systems and changing  them to meet new ideas and our changing world.  It’s not about integrating technology but recognizing and supporting technology-enabled learning for everyone at all times. It’s about belief systems and philosophies and honoring students as learners and everyone asking good questions (not just the adults) and believing in competency and having a growth mindset and trust and a whole bunch of other things that come whenever a group of people congregate. It’s about human interactions and human feelings and expectations and support and helping one another be the best we can be. It’s about acceptance and yes, love–of oneself and others.

So if we believe what gets tested gets taught, why don’t we test whether we treat each other as humans first, and whether we can grow in our abilities to build a better world, for this generation and the next?  Why isn’t our focus on the future instead of solely learning what has already happened to the human race and what science we already know? Why aren’t we fighting to develop our abilities to think mathematically or scientifically or engineeringly, or codingly, or architecturally (that one’s for you, Emilia!) or however we need to think to make our world more sane, more humane and more wonderful for everyone?

That’s where I’d like to see our emphasis–more on engagement, deep learning through the use of various tools, and empowering people to be competent and efficacious learners who lead us to a better place.

(And, for the record, the first part of this post was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. Principals don’t deserve to be blamed any more than anyone else does.  I appreciate mine pushing us to push ourselves, and try something new. I wish we all pushed each other a bit more. )

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One thought on “What Gets Tested Gets Taught

  1. I ran into my neighbors, who are in their 70’s and retired Math professors from Connecticut. They asked me how I was feeling rather than how I was teaching and it felt appropriate. They mentioned that it was an anxiety-ridden position for them all of those years. They stated their causes of this anxiety stemmed from student performance, standardized testing and occasionally the pressure from their administration. They mentioned they would take at least two weeks out of each quarter to focus upon standardized testing practice. It is a shame to turn to such robotic measures. How can learning remain authentic? That seems to be my ever-present question.

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