Last week, President Bush announced his plan for education in his second term. Without much surprise, his newly proposed educational initiative, aimed at secondary education, will play off of his first term education initiative, No Child Left Behind. The new initiative will dedicate $1.2 billion for high school intervention to help students who have fallen behind their peers. An additional $250 million will be spent for high school testing. Bush’s desire to see students equipped with skills equal to their peers is admirable. However, his means of ensuring this program, specifically his dedication to testing as a dependable means of analysis, are flawed and need to be reevaluated.
The plan will call for testing in the freshman, sophomore and junior years of high school, which, if one listens to most educators, means that students in the freshman, sophomore and junior years of high school will be taught whatever is on the test, not what is important to the educator of these young pupils. In fact, so much has “teaching to the test” become a problem that educators may no longer be the correct word, for an educator is one who knows his or her students and teaches those students the skills that they can both comprehend, as well as be expanded and challenged by. An educator feels out the specific needs of specific students and strives within the resources they have available to meet those needs.
The president’s concern is best summed up in a quote, in which he said, “ … I’ve heard every excuse in the book not to test. My answer is, how do you know if a child is learning if you don’t test?”
The answer is as it has always been in education: You trust the educator to be a fair and reliable barometer for each and every student’s aptitude. The simple fact is that teachers do test, but they test on what they choose to teach and they, if they’re good teachers, will teach what they know students need to succeed in life. This proposal by the president is, at its core, an infringement upon the rights of educators. No longer should the students in White Hall feel as if they are studying to be educators, should this initiative see life, but they are now studying to be facilators — of whatever the government deems most important.
Another problem may arise in the minor, though significant, differences seen throughout the vastly diverse populace of the United States. A federal control of education would necessitate a homogenizing of education– — a stance that will directly conflict with the current ideal of embracing diversity. At its core, education needs to be relevant to students and it seems unlikely that a federally-controlled, homogenized education could equitably serve inner-city Oakland, Calif. children, as well as small town Texas children and all the students in New England. Though the basis for educational success may be the same (the basic ability to read, write, think and communicate), the means to which these ends are achieved are as different as the diverse personalities being taught. Thus educators must be given the freedom to teach to the student (never the text) and be trusted as reliable measurers of student success — at least as reliable as an imposing test.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.