Apathy

The greatest threat to (true) education in America is apathy. Students don’t care about their education. I don’t just mean on-level students; high achieving students are apathetic as well, but theirs is disguised in their positive demeanor and outward attitude. There are three forms of apathy that I see in students: blatant in low achieving students, shadowed in average students, and hidden in high achieving students.

When most educators complain about apathetic students, they’re talking about the traditionally blatant, low achieving slacker we see parodied in characters such as Bart Simpson, Jeff Spicoli, Allison Reynolds, and of course, John Bender. These are the types of students who when they’re in class, if they show up at all, sit and stare at the desk, or sleep, or text, or sleep. One of my favorite interactions with them is when I’m about to make a great point in class, I ask a question and they, for the first time ever, raise their hand and when called upon, they ask to go to the bathroom.

What fuels their apathy? Well for me, when I was this kind of slacker, it was a lack of connection of what we were doing in class from anything meaningful in my life. I don’t mean that the work I did, or didn’t do, in high school wasn’t flashy enough, or that my projects weren’t rooted in real world problems, but that I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing, why what I was supposed to be learning was important. I was never shown that my schoolwork would make me a better person. I was just told to “do.”

I don’t mean to lump every blatantly apathetic slacker in the same group as me, but I believe that they just don’t see how education truly helps them.

We try to motivate these students by giving them reasons that don’t really connect. And I believe our reasons are usually quite flawed.

I envision these conversations are normally like this:

Student: “Why are we doing this?”

Teacher: “You’ll need this in college.”

Student: “Wow, thanks teacher for telling me I should spend 5 hours putting together a visual for a project I spend ten minutes actually doing research for so I can continue on a path that I will constantly be doing more work making what I do look good than learning actual content. No thanks, I’ll pass.”

Teacher: “You need to be able to work well in groups in the workforce.”

Student: “So you’re teaching me to be a mindless worker?”

Teacher: “Well you’ll need to make money to support yourself.”

Student: “So you want me to write a paper so I can put food on the table? I’m not sure those two things go together.”

We can’t use the argument that students need to do something to make them value their education. We need to make them want their education.

At times, however, I would rather have students like the ones just described over those in the latter categories because their actions are honest; they refuse to play a game that they don’t want or that doesn’t support them.

Those students in the shadow category are harder to see because they do their work. They turn in their assignments, on time for the most part, and participate in class. However, their work is usually average and lack personal voice. They most likely found a method early on in their educational experience that allowed them to coast through by doing the minimum amount of work. They know if they don’t do their work the teacher, mom, and dad will get on their case; to quote Peter Gibbons from Office Space, “that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.” These students care just enough to do what they’re told, but they never seek out learning opportunities. Although it looks like they’re decent students on the outside (especially in on-level classes), they really couldn’t care less about what they’re supposed to be getting out of the work they’re doing. Without an intrinsic drive to learn, they are not going to grow from their education.

The last group, the hidden apathetic students, are the the most frustrating to me. These students are bright eyed in class every day, always ask questions (usually concerning how to do the work right), and always raise their hands to answer questions. They are normally our go-to students for answers or examples of work because they want to make sure they’ll get an “A,” but really they’re just good at playing the game. They work hard everyday, go above and beyond, but honestly don’t care about anything beyond the grade they need to get into their school of choice. They take advanced classes only because of the GPA boost, not to challenge themselves.

We need to stop the apathy cycle and not just in our blatantly apathetic students. We need to create a real drive in students to want to learn. To want to learn because it will make them a better person and for no other reason. Our excuses of needing good grades and skills for later in life fail because they’re external. Real learning grows from the inside. Let’s focus on the meaning behind what we do.

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Rubrics

I had a great day of assessing students’ small group discussions. My sophomores are getting better and better at deep, analytical analysis. Without giving them a form/sheet/worksheet of what to look for in a text, they are digging deeper, looking for and noticing ways of seeing literature that veer away from the blatant, in your face, elements or strategies that float on the surface.

And better still, they are starting to see the importance of seeing the non-obvious.

But one comment stands out from a discussion I had after a group finished their analytical presentation. One student asked why I didn’t have a formal rubric for these SGDs. Before I could answer, another student responded. She was glad there wasn’t a rubric because if there had been, she would have just done what was required. Not to mention, she added, the list would have broken up her thought process as she tried to make sure everything was covered instead of allowing her to move beyond my expectations.

What a thoughtful response.

Before I continue, let me say that I use rubrics. I use them on a regular basis. I went through college education courses when rubrics were the “it girl” of teaching; it’s in my pedagogical blood.

But this student hit the nail on the head. Teachers design rubrics as a means to provide specific feedback; however, students use them as checklists. “Tell me exactly what to do” they say, “and I’ll do it.” No more, no less. “What does it take to get an ‘A’?”

The students know that I expect them to provide insightful analysis during SGDs, but I don’t tell them they need to comment X number of times and provide Y pieces of text evidence and ask Z questions. That would turn a great learning opportunity into a simple mechanical exercise.

Who knows how much text evidence is needed to support their point, or how often they will have to speak up to defend their analysis, or if they even need to ask a question. Every educational situation is different. All I can do is assess the depth and delivery of their analysis and provide feedback so they can grow. Checklists stunt that growth.

As I said earlier, I use rubrics, especially with writing. But I constantly find myself fighting with them. No matter how much I tweak my rubrics, I always feel they’re incomplete. This may very well be a fault of my own; however, anything set in stone, or paper for that matter, seems limited and leaves my assessment fractured.

Let’s say that I’m going to assess a student’s: depth of analysis, text evidence, organization, and conventions. I attempt to create a rubric that breaks down different levels of mastery of each element into enough sub-categories to provide meaningful, individual feedback.

And then I get started. Student A falls between level 2 and 3 of two of the four categories. Great, how does my rubric explain that in a meaningful way except to circle between two boxes?

I then find that student B’s sentences all start the same way. A rubric can never cover all writing elements. So how do I tell student B to work on their sentence structure, when it isn’t on the rubric? I can make a note, but if it isn’t on the rubric it may be overlooked as not important enough to effect the grade.

Both of these issues limit the potential of individual student growth by predetermining what feedback students will need before I ever see their writing.

Which leads to the third and most important issue with a writing, or any other analytical rubric. How can you see the forest for the trees?

Text evidence and organization are both needed to support depth of analysis. How can they be seen as independent of one another? Writing can’t be looked at, in a meaningful way, as unrelated parts that have no connection with one another. Those parts need to work together to create meaning and, therefore, cannot truly be assessed separately.

Personalized commentary can provide meaningful feedback. A conversation with a student can provide meaningful feedback. Detailed notes can provide meaningful feedback. A checklist will always be limited.

The First Day of School

Nine years ago, I was a brand new teacher on my first day of school. Like all new teachers, I was very nervous. I had arrived at school extra early to check my plans and go over my first day speech for the 100th time. We had read Henry Wong’s book in college and I knew how important it was to set the right example on the first day, to make every expectation of the student and myself very clear.

Then they came. Students flooded the halls looking for their classes. My heart began to race and sweat beaded on my brow; no turning back now. But then they all went into their first period classes and I was left alone; I had first period off.

All panic for nothing, as of yet. I was still so nervous that I decided to walk the halls to see what the other teachers were doing; to see if there were any last bits of wisdom that would help me get through my first day.

I saw what I expected to see from the teachers. They were setting the ground rules, going over what was expected of the students, and especially, what the students weren’t supposed to do: no eating in class, no leaving the room without a pass, no talking when the teacher was talking, no turning in late assignments, no admittance into class without a pass, no backpacks, no sleeping, no chewing gum, no getting out of your seat unless told to do so, no…

I heard a lot of no.

The students looked like zombies. I swear some of them even had drool on their chins.

Is this what I wanted my first day to be like? No. That was the last no I heard that day. Instead, my day would be filled with “we will!” We will have a great year, we will learn a lot, we will have fun, we will be challenged, we will grow, we will challenge ideas, we will do what is right for us.

My students weren’t zombies, we had fun. I still went over what I needed to, but they left my class optimistic about the year. I was told by parents at open house a few weeks later that my class was the one they heard the most about from their kids that first day.

There were plenty of times I needed to and did tell my students “no” that year, but I only had one chance to make a first impression and let them know how excited I was to be their teacher.

Let’s make the first day of school about all the possibilities the year holds, not what we can’t do.

What Grades Do To Education

About five years ago I made the best decision I’ve ever made about my teaching. I decided that I was done with grades.

I had come to this decision after years of students who came to ask why I took points off of their essay instead of how they could improve. I would spend hours and hours providing feedback to students on their writing and on the day I passed the work back to them, the students would look at their grade and either stuff it in their bag, throw it out, or challenge me about how I graded it. Very few students actually took the time to think about what they did and how they could improve.

Some students would be content with, for example, their 95 and wouldn’t change a thing on their next writing assignment. Others would see that they got a 70, again, and conclude that I just hated them and there was nothing they could do to improve. They saw the number that was on the top of the front page of their essay as a representation of their value as an English student. It didn’t matter how much I conferenced with them about what they did well and what they could improve on, they were mostly concerned about the grade.

My IB students have to complete a presentation to the class as one of the requirements for their diploma. In an attempt to provide meaningful feedback I would conference with them after they presented. Unfortunately, the conference was more of me speaking at them than a conversation because they were waiting for one thing and one thing only: their score. After I would tell them the number, they would either say “Yes!” because they got a score that was acceptable to them or feel dejected and hang their head in disappointment. This was a presentation that some of them worked on for weeks. The mere fact that they had done the work and experienced the presentation should make them proud, but the number destroyed any sense of accomplishment. Learning had taken a back seat to the numbers game.

I mean this is school after all. Students are supposed to learn, right? But students today see their education as something to get through to get into the right college; every class they take is a numeric badge that they wear indicating how good they are at playing school.

These interactions with students after their presentations are what drove me over the edge. I was sick of playing school; I wanted my students to actually learn and grow.

So, I stopped giving them their scores at the end of the conference. The change was immediate. They actually listened to what I was saying to them. Because they knew they weren’t going to get their scores, they asked specific questions about what they did, what was good about it, and what could they could do to improve. Another benefit was that they didn’t feel the pressure to share their scores with their peers; there were no scores to share. Their education was specific to them. All that mattered was how they did, not in comparison to their friends.

The students’ reactions were mixed. Some hated that I wouldn’t give them their score and thought it wasn’t fair. Some loved it because they felt a weight lifted off their shoulders; as long as they did their best, they were happy. Even if a student and I both knew that they didn’t do very well, for whatever reason, the simple fact that it wasn’t put into a number made the conversation between us productive: they walked away from the experience having learned something.

Because this approach had proven to be beneficial, I wanted to take it full scale and apply it to my whole class. I got approval from the administration to start it on a voluntary basis. Approximately a third of the students participated that first year. The results were much the same as they were with the IB presentations. The students attitudes about their education changed; they were thinking about their learning, not just showing up to do some work to get a grade.

Students still got grades (unfortunately that is still the world in which we live), but they didn’t see their individual scores on assignments and assessments. They did, however, see their averages at midterm and the end of grading periods. In lieu of providing students with feedback via scores, I set aside a lot of class time to conference with students about how they were doing in class. Not only did the one-on-one interactions strengthen our student-teacher relationship, but also led to more meaningful student self-reflection.

The next year my grading system was implemented for all students in my classes. Some students and parents weren’t happy, but even those students grew in the way they saw education. They asked better questions and the conversations about how they were doing in class were more about improvement and growth rather than numbers. Not all, but many of the students who didn’t like the idea at the beginning of the year liked it and saw its importance by the end of the year.

One of the concerns that parents and students have at the beginning is that they would be failing and not know. This isn’t the case. If a student is failing (or close to it) I let them know as soon as I do. But on the whole, almost every student knows roughly how they’re doing in class. They may not know that they have a 93%, but they generally know that they have a low A. It is very rare that a student is surprised when he or she receives their report card.

This program’s success stems from the relationships I build with my students. I spend a lot of time working with them one-on-one and in small groups giving them specific, timely feedback about the work they do in and out of class. Without this feedback, the students would be lost and not know how to improve.

Education should be about preparing students for the world, not just the inside of a classroom. Let’s teach them how to evaluate themselves and strive to improve without the carrots and sticks we call grades.

The End of School Myth Turned Reality

Woo Hoo! School is over and now the fun can begin!

Such is the message we send students all across the country this time of year. Because of how our system works (school is in session for anywhere from 9-10 months and then it ends) we send a very negative message to our students about what education is. We tell students that school and education are something that can and does in fact end. School is something to get through so you can move on to better things.

What are students and, for that matter, you like at the end of the year? They don’t want to do much because the year is almost over and we don’t want to start a new unit (I hate the term unit in regards of teaching) because there isn’t enough time to finish before the school year ends. Or even worse, now that the AP test is over, there is nothing else to work towards. Excepting of course our summer reading, and we all know how well that works… If we think that school can end, then how can we make students life long learners?

Learning is something that should be happening all the time, not just in the unnatural constructs of our “school year.” But the structure we have created has become our reality. In Freshman year you learn some things and then that year ends and you magically become a Sophomore. In Sophomore year you learn some more things and then you magically become a Junior and so on…

Education, true education anyway, is, or at least should be, continuous throughout life. But we have made it yet another wrung in the ladder of life leading to who knows where.

I am a proponent of year round school.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that students, and teachers, need a break. We all need and benefit from a respite from the hard work that learning is, but by structuring our schools the way we do, we are telling our charges that education is something to get through, not learn from.

Instead of months off in the summer, lets have extended/added breaks throughout the year. Lets get rid of fruitless class levels and make learning about the student and what they need when they need it.

Lets make learning authentic.

Pushing Students

As a teacher, I have always fought with myself about how hard to push my students in the classes I teach. In a perfect world (which doesn’t, has never, will never exist) students would come to school and say, “Make me learn! I love growing academically! Oh, please, I want to know more!” Instead, we may have a handful of students who have a natural inclination towards our subject, most who want a good grade pay attention and do their work, and the rest… well… mehhh, they’ve got better things to do with their time. While at different percentages, this applies to all levels of classes, both on-level and AP/IB.

My first few years I didn’t push enough. I wanted to make students want to learn on their own; so I was fun, I was very creative with my lessons to increase engagement, and I erred on the side of being too easy rather than too hard. While I now recognize the flaws of this approach, it wasn’t without many victories.

I did help students love English when they didn’t before. Students did see the study of English as more than grammar worksheets, book reports, and essays. I made them think more deeply about literature than they had ever before. I loved teaching and the students liked learning… for the most part.

After a few years of this method, I noticed that many students were just playing the game. They were acting the part of the engaged student, but weren’t truly engaged. And because I was so nice and fun, they just smiled and went along with it. My students worked hard enough to get the grade they wanted, but were rarely out of their comfort zone and didn’t grow nearly as much as they could have.

Then I made a big mistake. I became the other kind of teacher. I made class about work and I put all the responsibility on them. “You want a good grade,” I would tell them, “then you’re going to have to work for it and ask for help yourselves.” So I gave them work. And if they didn’t take ownership of their education and seek me out for help, they would drown. I told myself I was fine with this set-up and went to sleep at night with the mantra of: “They need you to push them. If they don’t like your class, well, then, tough. They don’t have to like it, they just have to learn.”

You’ll never guess what happened… I hated teaching. The students hated my class. Learning was even more superficial than before. More students cheated. I’ll stop there, but almost everything that was beneficial about my class stopped and I was left with pain and misery. What could I do? I wanted to go back to the way things were before, but I wanted them to learn more. What I was doing currently, however, was far worse. I needed a different plan.

What I do now is the best mixture of both. Class is fun again; I make it engaging, joke around with the students, recognize when they’ve been working their tails off and give them a break, and seek them out when they need support. However, what I expect them to do, how well I expect them to perform, and how analytical I expect them to be is through the roof. I let them know from the beginning just how hard they’re going to have to work, but balance that with how much support they are going to have from me to get them there.

At the beginning of the year, their jaws dropped when I described what they were going to be capable of by May; they didn’t believe me. But when I have them reflect back on the year, they are proud of themselves. I’m proud of them too.

Transformation (part three)

Overall, on our visits, we saw education that was changing in form, but not necessarily in function. I don’t mean that we saw students sitting in rows listening to lectures. Rather, more emphasis is placed on the programs offered to students instead of the way students are led in their education. We saw many different schools within schools, but not much that had to do with specific instructional strategies.

It is easy to see a culinary, automotive, medical, or engineering program. It looks good. It’s specific. You can point to it and say, “Look, we’re doing things differently.” It’s harder to showcase individual student learning and achievement through different forms of instruction in a 45 minute tour. Therefore, districts lean toward what looks flashy, what will give them the most bang for their buck. We want change to be seamless, but it isn’t. There are always gaps, and we think the gaps are a sign of weakness and mistakes so we hide them behind our strengths. However, this is a false reality we create and the effort to maintain the facade of being perfect detracts from actual improvement.

I don’t mean to imply that students don’t learn or grow in these programs, but I wanted to see the nitty gritty of what they do, not just the generalities. I wanted to see how students are pushed to be independent thinkers who want to learn intrinsically. I didn’t want to see what the program has them do, but what they do in the program.

I was looking forward to seeing what transformation looks like in an English, math, science, history… classroom. All we saw was how whole schools were changing their structure and focus. I feel that this is extremely limiting to our students. It tells them that it is what they can do, not their ability to think, that’s their most valuable asset.

Transformation (part two)

School #2

At the second school we visited, unlike the first school where we wandered around the school on our own, we were lead around by the principal to various classrooms. This made me feel a bit uncomfortable. The tour had a feeling of showiness; it felt like we were seeing just what she wanted us to see and nothing else. There were a few other things that worried me as well.

1) One of the things the principal was most proud of were the bulletin boards outside of the classrooms. They had examples of student work with lesson design information. I kept asking myself, “what student benefit this could have?” One of the other teachers in my group commented that he liked the idea of showcasing student work. I asked him about the effects on students for having their rubrics (including scores) displayed in public for the whole school to see. I asked him about the pressure put on students who’s work was displayed and what the learning focus might be of students looking at old, finished units? After our conversation, the bulletin boards didn’t have the same luster to him.

2) As we were moving through the hallways, the principal paused for a moment at an open classroom and said, “Look, we also use technology” as she pointed at students using laptops. There was no explanation of how they were using technology, or how it was transformational, or how it aided their learning, or what struggles they had with it…just, ‘look, technology.’ When asked about various specifics about their implementation of various transformational strategies, the principal would look either to the AP (who would give the same searching look back to her) or the teacher who would scramble to come up with an answer. There seemed to be no top down direction. The administrators knew the lingo to use, but failed to understand the why or how.

3) One of the things that worried me the most was the way that we would burst into classrooms. It didn’t seem to matter to the principal that the teachers were busy working with students. She would just ask them to stop everything to talk to us. In one instance, we walked into a Spanish classroom and the teacher was asked to describe not what he was doing with his Spanish class, but instead, what his business class was doing. I wanted to apologize to the teacher and students for taking them away from their learning, but it looked to me, unfortunately, like they were used to it.

4) At the end of the day, during our debrief, the principal stayed in the room reminding us of all the wonderful things we had seen. What was this? Was she showing us innovative, transformative ideas for education? Or was she trying to show us how awesome her school was?

I wanted to hear not only the school’s triumphs, but also their struggles. If I was to implement some of the strategies they showcased, it would be beneficial to learn from their mistakes. Transformation should be messy. We need to have an open conversation with one another if we are to improve education; if we’re too concerned about how we look to others, we can’t put our effort in the right place and truly transform education.

Transformation

What does transformation look like in education?
That’s what I was looking for when I toured two local high schools today. I will present my thoughts about these schools and how they’ve transformed learning in a multi-part series over the next few days.

School #1

A career prep school where students traveled from their main campuses to be trained for service in various industries.

I was very impressed by the learning environment created by this school for its career tech students. The schools had great learning areas for their medical training classes. The classroom was joined to its own computer lab, which was joined to a practical lab. Everything at this school was thought of from a student’s perspective; everything flowed. Student work areas were practical, useful, and aesthetically pleasing. Each content area was interconnected and had a very professional feel to it. If students are expected to act professionally and prepare for a profession right after high school, then their training needs to be set up in the same way. It was.

I feel strongly that not all students should or need to go to college. There is a big push for students to attend college because it is seen as the only way to make a “good” living, but this sends the wrong message to students. You can be an educated person and not spend four years at a university. I don’t mean to say “we need workers in addition to academics,” but instead, we need to value everyone, not just for what they can add to the workforce, but who they are as human beings. This school was a great example of how to meet the needs of the students and provide them with an education that works for them.

But then I found out that only about 20-25% of students who are enrolled in these courses actually work in the industry they receive training in. Only 25%? One of the automotive teachers said he was happy with that figure because everyone should know how to work on cars. As he said it, “It would be good for a lawyer to know how to fix his car.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. I worked at UPS in the automotive area while I was going to school, and I am very grateful for everything I learned while there. I can work on my own brakes, change belts, change my oil, change my spark plugs, and have a much better working knowledge of how cars work than I did prior to working there. But these students are spending two and a half hours of their educational day learning the intricacies of automobile technology. There’s knowing how to maintain a car, and then there’s knowing how to rebuild an engine. In New York, where I grew up, all students (male and female) had to take Home Economics and some kind of technology (wood shop, automobile repair, metal working…). That rounded out my education and I still use what I learned in those classes today. However, I didn’t put in the same amount of time that these student do. I don’t see this as wasted time, but time that could be allocated more effectively.

Some of my colleagues who were touring with me commented that it was amazing to see students being prepared for their futures, that this school was producing adults ready for the workforce right out of high school. Do we want to produce a workforce? Or do we want to produce thinkers? At the risk of sounding overly optimistic (like Walt Whitman), I want my mechanic to be a philosopher in his own right, I want my plumber to see poetry in his work, and I want my nurse to know the history of Ancient Greece and early medicine. If all we do is prepare students to be workers, then we only value them for what they can accomplish, not for who they are and what they think and believe.

Standardized Testing

Note: I teach high achieving students in a high achieving school district. What I’m about to talk about differs from teachers who struggle to get their kids to pass state standards tests. Their struggles are important and mustn’t be marginalized. This is simply meant to show another perspective.

What a perfect time to discuss the dreaded standardized test. My sophomores just spent five straight hours taking their reading and writing STARR/EOC. But actually, I don’t want to discuss that. So much has been said already about the CCSS that I feel anything I say about it will just be a regurgitation of a regurgitation of a regurgitation. Instead, I’d like to take on the grandaddy of them all; the S. A. T.

While I don’t like the time taken away from honest learning in my class for state tests, what I see as a much bigger problem is the SAT. Since it’s roots can be traced back to 1926* and has a larger impact on students’ future goals, it hinders true student achievement more than the CCSS and any test that comes along.

In theory, I have no problem with standardized testing. You want to give a test to see what level students are working at? OK, that’s fair. In it’s early years, the SAT was a test used to see which university a student would succeed in, be the best fit for, or which students were deserving of scholarship money. I have little issue with this.

But the problem with testing is that it influences student and teacher behavior. The pressure is to do well, not to show what you can do. Now everything in academia is a competition; a game to be won. A student’s goal in school is to do well on the test that will get them where they want to be, not where they belong. They prepare for the test, not for the college. Many students see high school simply as a stepping stone to the next level, not an opportunity to learn and grow.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked by parents at open house what we do in class to prepare them for the SAT. I want to scream, “We read and write and think and question and discuss and learn!” But they want to know about pure test prep. Do we study vocabulary? Do we look at testing strategies? Do we practice SAT writing? Parents spend thousands of dollars putting their kids through torturous prep classes where they memorize long lists of vocabulary words, learn the best way to narrow down the answer choices, and what topic to use on their essay.

I say that if we want our students to have a higher vocabulary, let’s have them read more. If we want them to narrow down answer choices, let’s teach them critical thinking. And if we want them to be more sophisticated in their essays, let’s have them read more, think more critically, and write more. However, all of this takes more time and effort than the quick fixes and splinter skills that prep courses offer. Students and parents want to look good for universities, but care less about the real education they need in order to do well once they get there.

The only job I’ve every been let go from was a SAT prep company. After five days of kill and drill, I began to actually work with students, not just to improve testing skills, but intellectual skills. I wasn’t asked to come back and I couldn’t have been happier. I taught some of those students from the test prep business a few years later. They not only remembered me, but thanked me for running the class differently, making it more engaging, and actually teaching them. That wasn’t what the company wanted though.

So, what’s the end result of all this test prep?

The problem is that we have students who treat the rest of their education as test prep. Instead of getting a new group of students every year who are bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to learn, we get students who ask us if what we’re teaching is going to be on the test. They argue with teachers about taking points off, not because they want to improve and get better, but because they want the best GPA possible. Students use their short term memory (cramming) to prepare for assessments instead of knowing the material because they’re going to need it later. They do work for one class in the class before because they’re focused on the immediate, not the long term. They don’t see the value in learning to make them better people, they only want the highest number for their transcript.

Standardized testing has set a tone and created an atmosphere that is detrimental to true learning, making it difficult for teachers who strive against that culture. Colleges and universities need to value test scores less to support the learning high school teachers try to create.

*http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/sats/where/history.html