wasting bandwidth since 1999

Wasting Time and Other Stuff

I’ve ranted a little about the new “curriculum resource tool” being rolled out here in the overly-large school district, another big topic for our school-based trainers this year.

The goal is to give teachers a database of practice standardized tests and other materials to use in their classrooms.

So what’s wrong with that?

It’s hard to pin down exactly what bothers me but the fact that a primary purpose of this application seems to be to pump out multiple choice tests is a good start.

Accompanying the online tool are “pacing guides” which look for all the world to me like the beginnings of a script for each topic in the curriculum.

They offer the teachers “time and sequencing guidance through the school year to ensure that students have access to the entire curriculum.”

Again, what’s wrong with that?

Well, a script implies that teachers are never supposed to improvise, which to me was always the point at which some very real learning occurred.

Another concept that disturbs me is the implication that we are moving to having all students take their standardized tests online. Which means they will also spend a lot of time practicing taking those tests online.

Again, is that a good thing?

Well, some might say it is. But even in our fairly well-off schools, computer equipment can sometimes be hard to come by.

How much valuable time is going to be sucked down by testing, preventing the computers and networks from being used for creative activities and actual learning?

In the high schools, where all our state tests (ironically named the SOLs) are given electronically, computers for instruction are basically not available for six or so weeks every spring.

Six weeks out of a 36 week school year is a large chunk of time and doesn’t take into account the time and machines scheduled for practice tests at most schools for weeks prior to the real ones.

Ok, I’ve now wandered through several different issues and moved way beyond the online database project that triggered this rant

But that’s fine since there is a common thread here.

All of the above are examples of how we waste large amounts of time, money, and resources, including human intelligence, on the care and feeding of our massive and growing standardized testing-driven education system.


  1. KarenR

    I’ll just take on one part of your rant…scripting teachers. When I started teaching 6th grade reading, they handed me a basal reader. In the teacher manual, there was a literal script with specific text for the teacher to say along with “suggested” responses from the students. I found it very funny and quipped that perhaps I should xerox the manual for the students so they knew exactly what they should say. I did not do a very good job of following the script and by the second year had implemented a reading workshop approach where kids got to pick their own books and talk about them. I’m pretty sure we got in the same skills in a much more student- and teacher-friendly way!

    The scripts drive me crazy because they demonstrate a fundamental lack of respect for teacher knowledge and student differences. Plus research into school reforms shows that the long range reforms ONLY work when the teachers can customize and modify based on their students.

  2. Melissa A. Cochran

    I have mixed emotions about standardized testing. I think it takes away from so much of the learning that could be happening in schools today. So many teachers just teach to test and its not because they are bad teachers but because their job requires it. It is sad really. And some school districts even offer bonus money for third grade teachers who show improvements on their testing. So, they don’t teach on purpose for the first few weeks so that the students bomb the pretest and a lot of growth is shown. But as a student teacher I cannot say yet whether I would give in to that system yet or not. :)

  3. Eric Hoefler

    Our county was sold on a similar system and pumped depressing amounts of time and money into it. It was packaged as a tool: a way to collect quality test questions, configure our own tests from that database, and compare the results of our students with others across the county. A resource, nothing more. Even the name sounded OK: CMS (Curriculum Management System).

    Until a series of “set” CMS tests for every grade level was instituted, and students were required to take these tests, and teachers were evaluated on the results. In 3rd grade, students took 32 CMS tests per year (in which there are only 36 weeks of school). And of course, the system required $pecial answer $heet$ and $canner$.

    Not to be a Debbie Downer, but … wah, wah.

  4. Clay Atlas

    Multiple choice tests are never the most effective gauge for how well your students understand the curriculum.

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