by Peter Henry in the Fall 2007 issue of the Minnesota English Journal.
Read and share this award winning article by teacher Peter Henry, one of the founding members of the Educator Roundtable. The article won an award from the Minnesota English Journal in 2007.
From the article...
[The third and fourth of twelve principal harms which] ﬂow from the high-stakes, measurable accountability movement in U.S. education policy. Each contributes its share to making schools a less than welcoming and dynamic place for young people, but, taken cumulatively, they are conspiring to make the experience of school something that children learn to hate. (References - in parenthesis - are available in the original document)
3. A lousy way to teach and learn.
Standardized tests result in the kind of “drill and kill” pedagogy that we know is ineffective. In his ground-breaking book How Children Fail, John Holt wrote this about how and why children learn:
The child who wants to know something remembers it and uses it once he has it; the child who learns something to please or appease someone else forgets it when the need for pleasing or the danger of not appeasing is past.
Brace yourselves: Holt wrote this 50 years ago in 1958! Teaching in a standardized testing environment encourages lousy teaching techniques—memorization, drill-and-kill, rote learning—and results in the kind of shallow, ﬂ eeting and compartmentalized knowledge that is ineffective and prone to turn children off from school. We have known this for over ﬁve decades—why would we go back to a kind of instructional practice that never worked in the ﬁ rst place?
4. Learning is natural and inherently valued.
As mentioned above, a standardized classroom results in poor pedagogy that gets the learning equation backward. Learning should be pursued for its intrinsic value, not because someone is forcing one to learn. Why do students put in hours and hours rehearsing for musical concerts, plays or practicing sports? Because, in fact, they see intrinsic value in those activities; in a word, they choose to pursue them. The same could and should be true for our academic subjects if and when we focus on giving students choices and responsibility for designing a learning plan. Course work should have much greater relevance to a student, as well as a speciﬁc and practical application beyond school. Mostly this means making explicit the connection between a given subject and a student’s life—contextualizing it, bringing it home personally, giving them and their community a stake in seeing that learning matters.(35) Once students are hooked on learning—not for reward or avoiding punishment—they will do far more for themselves and their intellectual development than we could ever imagine. Unfortunately, in the current environment, students are told repeatedly: the reason they need to spend hours learning some abstract, disconnected operation or set of facts is that it will someday be on an exam.
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