I was lucky enough to teach at a few schools where I had a lot of freedom. As a result, I was able to step outside the curriculum and tailor activities to each student’s need. However, this is not the case in every school. In fact, I interviewed at one district who liked all of the teachers (in one grade) to be on the same lesson in the district adopted textbooks. No thanks. Over the years, those opposed to standardized testing have mentioned that a “one size fits all” test stifles children’s creativity. However, the push to raise test scores is inhibiting the efforts of imaginative teachers too.
Of course, it’s not the test itself that stifles creativity. It’s the way the test is emphasized over the course of the entire school year. As a public school educator, I have worked with dedicated, inspired teachers. As a team, we tried to think of as many real life activities as possible. Yet, standardized testing was always part of the picture. Number crunching, assessment making and submitting lesson plans to administrators often took up precious planning time.
Measuring Teachers’ Worth with a Test
Each year, students are labeled with terms such as Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic. At the same time, teachers with a lot of “far below basics” may be labeled as incompetent. According to reuters.com, Seattle public school teachers boycotted a standardized test made to help students with the official standardized test. The teachers griped that the test was “not aligned with the state’s curriculum,” and was, therefore, useless. The boycott reignited the debate on whether or not standardized tests were the best way to measure both students and teachers. Bill Gates’ foundation funded a study which concluded “student scores have a useful but limited place in measuring a teacher’s work, and that some other measurements, such as student surveys, are more consistent.”
Teacher’s Creativity Being Stifled Too
Recently, veteran social studies teacher Gerald J. Conti resigned after 27 years of teaching at Westhill High School in Syracuse, N.Y. In his resignation letter, Conti said, “creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.” I think Conti has expressed the frustrations of many teachers who feel like their autonomy has been taken away.
Bringing Creativity Back into The Classroom
When my husband and I started looking into schools for our daughter, we decided on a school that emphasized student-led learning and projects-based assessments. It’s not that I’m completely against any type of standardized test. After all, many professions require adults to take a high-stakes tests to see if they are proficient in their fields. Yet, in order to encourage creativity, students need to be able to explore, create and contribute. Giving children open-ended problems and opportunities for creative play are also helpful.
As a teacher, I may have been given more creative freedoms because my students’ test scores were good. Yet, I believe my administrator evaluations, my students’ portfolios and my classroom environment were bigger indicators of my performance. And, that’s the way it should be.
More from Melissa:
More High Achieving Students Are Cheating, Why?
Teacher’s “You’re Not Special” Speech Gives Graduates a Dose of Reality
How Involved Should Schools Be in the War on Obesity?