In last week’s coverage of school board candidates, the Pilot reported that “parents” were concerned about declining test scores. While a few parents have raised this concern, many others have voiced concern about teaching to the test at the expense of deeper learning.
I work in textbook publishing, with clients in many countries. It’s been clear for over a decade that America’s prioritization of standardized tests is leaving our students increasingly behind. Finland consistently ranks first or second in international measures of student achievement, and does almost no testing until the end of high school. Employers now say the skills they value most are complex problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication, and collaboration (Google, for example, will no longer even look at GPAs or test scores because what it values in employees can’t be measured by those metrics). Even China is starting to move away from standardized testing.
We all want our students to succeed. But prioritizing shallow-learning tests like STAR leads us down the wrong path. The district has been working on a comprehensive curriculum plan that I hope will firmly incorporate lessons at the Center for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship, giving our students the deeper, hands-on learning they desperately need to compete in a global economy, and make teachers’ jobs easier rather than add just another thing to get through in a busy day. Our social-emotional curriculum is also essential; international studies show that early childhood emotional regulation is the only consistent determinant of life success, whether it’s financial success, healthy relationships, or avoidance of substance abuse. (A well-implemented social-emotional curriculum even raises standardized test scores by an average of eleven points.)
We do not need our school district to buckle down on test scores; we need schools led by courage and imagination, and a deep understanding of the future of education.
Antonia Malchik, Whitefish