I have heard all my life that fads come and go in life – and in education.

The current fad is to change the process for “accountability” in schools – and that means drastically lowering the number of required tests.

It is a noble idea since a recent state law reduced the number of required tests from (don’t use these numbers) something like 32 to 24. I don’t remember the numbers, but even with the change they were far too high.

I was struck by the fads comparison by something I read over the weekend. A comprehensive change was made in the early 2000s when No Child Left Behind was passed at the federal level – at the insistence and with the support of – a Republican president.

That put the federal stamp of approval on standardized testing – what educators call “summative” tests and derisively talk about all the pressure being placed on the teachers and students for “one day.”

Now we (in Georgia and other states) are in the midst of experiments – also known as “pilot” projects – to redo the testing so that it is more a part of a routine classroom experience. It is a noble goal.

These tests are “formative,” educators say. They are given three times a year and provide near-immediate results so teachers can make adjustments.

One version, GMAPS, which Barrow and Jackson counties are involved with, can adjust each question for the students – if the kid gets a “wrong” answer, the next question is at a lower level in difficulty until the student gets the correct answer.

That helps the student and teacher know at what level the student has accomplished and where he needs to go. It is a noble goal.

One of the keys is figuring out how to use that process and layer it on an “accountability” structure that gives a teacher a “grade” that is used in an evaluation.

Teacher evaluation is a separate area in education. Teacher pay is supposed to be tied to that, eventually.

Then, principals’ pay also would be dependent, at some point, on how their teacher’s students do on required tests.

Getting dizzy yet? Think about the educators who are pulled in different directions. As I said to an educator last week, I thought the “common core” – a set of standards that could be applied nationally – made a lot of sense. The fact that the impetus and support for those standards were driven by businesses and Republican governors provided political cover and made sense.

That, of course, was before the Republican governor of Georgia joined the crazies and attacked the “common core” as a liberal notion. Brian Kemp has turned the education standards upside down and promised to stamp out that idea.

What might replace them has not been outlined?

Pardon that detour.

School calendars are dictated by the testing schedule to a certain extent. Several years ago, schools began starting school in mid-summer. It is to ensure that tests are completed in the first semester, and before the long break at the winter time off. Students remember more if they are tested while the material is fresh.

Some of us remember when the first semester in school ended in mid-January. That also was before “block scheduling” and end-of-course tests.

I’d still like to know that students are learning basic knowledge and that public schools are functioning more or less as they are intended.

Accountability is as important for students as teachers and educators should decide how to get there.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Send him email to ron@mainstreetnews.com.

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