Testing or Teachable Moments?


If you read my blog you’ll know that while I support accountability, I’m outraged by the fact that a generation of teachers and students have become slaves to corporatized testing. While our school district mission statements all claim to “foster life-long learners,” in reality, teachers are forced to spend increasing class time prepping kids for predictable tests. … Maybe after they graduate, students will learn how to function in an unpredictable world that devalues routine work and rewards adaptable learners with marketable “soft skills.”

And so today’s Oregonian guest column by Portland teacher, Allen Koshewa, struck a chord with me. He writes:

Several years ago, after I brought in tulips from my garden, my fifth-grade students wanted to plant their own. I learned that few students in my school’s high-poverty community had ever planted anything, so we planted tulips (not in the curriculum). In the process, one student found part of a rusted horseshoe, so we studied the history of the neighborhood (not in the curriculum), discovering that a farm had existed there 90 years earlier. Then, because of the proliferation of questions about the artifacts we’d unearthed, we studied archaeology (not in the curriculum). With the new push for common core standards nationwide, perhaps no student in any fifth grade in the United States will plant tulips, explore the history of his or her neighborhood or learn about archaeology ever again.

I urge you to read his entire essay. As you do, reflect on how the test regime has extinguished the teachable moment. Tulips… to planting… to discovery of horseshoe create the incentive to study local history and techniques of archaeology. Students using one discovery, to pose, and then answer their own questions. Teachable moments that inspire students with purpose, mastery and accomplishment.

Image credit: Flickr/FrasSmith

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