Controversy in other states, as documented on the Center for Educational Reform website (http://www.edreform.com), shows that not everyone is willing to accept testing as a measure of teaching success. For example, the Maryland state superintendent apparently allowed schools to opt out of the eighth grade tests due to pressure from both teachers and parents.
Mirroring this, a rebel viewpoint in New York held that testing is not geared toward the curricula of "alternative schools." "There's no way to memorize all the facts of life," an eighth grader commented from the Institute for Collaborative Education. Many adults, apparently, have re-inforced this sentiment with a "Why bother?" attitude of their own. In addition, the New York Post reported that some teachers, who recently took the Liberal Arts and Science Test (LAST) needed for continuing certification, rationalized their inability to pass. An article quoted Nellie Velez, a teacher at PS 126 in the Bronx taking the LAST for the second time, as saying, "The exam doesn't prove the quality of a teacher...I think, I'm a good teacher...I'm a bad exam-taker."
The sentiment locally from teachers and parents that school officials are putting undue pressure on students to do well on the MAP has not gone unnoticed. But testing as a measure of achievement, which was long supported by the State of Missouri, now has been federally mandated. Successful scores insure funding, and money talks.
We laud R-8's program, if defining performance based teaching really involves not just a regurgitation of facts, but also improved reading, writing and reasoning skills. However, the district's ability to put into practice teaching for the individual child has to be very theoretical at best. Without smaller class sizes, teacher aides, and a limit to the paperwork involved in justifying success, teachers are strung too thin to achieve such an ideal goal.
Then what of Joplin's unmotivated students and parents? And is every child expected to have the same mental road map that can be tested?