An Alternative To Teaching To The Test

We've endured the atrocities that George Bush thought constituted "education reform" for almost a decade now and I think it's clear to everyone that "teaching to the test" has just made our already troubled educational system even worse.

I'm happy to say that I came across something that sounds like a promising alternative (via Al Jazeera): expert Dr Steve Edwards, nationally recognised for his leadership of East Hartford High School in Connecticut. During Edwards' tenure, violence at the school has dropped by 50 per cent and dropout rates have fallen below two per cent.

His firm, Edwards Education Associates (EES), emphasises cultural factors in its programmes to improve schools, such as facilitating communication between teachers, students, administrators and parents, and teaching leadership skills to students that instil them with the confidence to succeed. Overall, EES uses data-driven methods to individually address the myriad different challenges at different public schools. It may not be as sexy as testing - but it works.

In fact, to Edwards and his associates, the testing fad that has become as ubiquitous as bad cafeteria food is a faulty one-size-fits-all solution, often leading teachers to "teach to the test". According to Edwards, "testing should be about 20 per cent of the pie, not 90 per cent as some want it to be. Testing simply can't capture many significant factors that need to be addressed to turn around schools."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that whole industries have been erected, much like Roman arches, in homage to the glory that is testing and test preparation - just another reason some in the corporate boardrooms may have suddenly (hallelujah!) seen the light in the school classroom.

But here is something with which it is hard to argue. In the Toledo, Ohio public school system, EES worked with 47 high schools out of 61 overall. The ones that hired EES accomplished 75 per cent of the goals set by the district, while the others achieved about 10 per cent of them. Elementary students working with EES reached maths proficiency nearly 50 per cent of the time; those not working with EES accomplished this just five per cent of the time. No, that last one is not a typo.

Meanwhile, science proficiency in high school students showed much the same pattern: At high schools that worked with EES, 60 per cent of students were found to be proficient; in other schools, just 35 per cent were proficient.



Tags: edwards education associates, Education, No Child Left Behind, George Bush, Education, No Child Left Behind, George Bush (all tags)


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