Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The TEA Party: Tested Enough Already

I've no great love for the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) movement. I'm all for fiscal responsibility, but too much of their rhetoric has a racist and social Darwinist undercurrent that I can't buy into. Not to mention that I find it perfectly appropriate that the extraordinarily fortunate should have to pay a great deal of taxes, and have never complained about my increasing tax bill; to me, that's a sign that, for better or worse, I'm making it in the U.S.A.

But administering the state's social studies assessment today made me think I could get behind a different TEA Party. It could stand for Tested Enough Already. Because, middle school humanities teachers like myself, do we know of a more useless and pointless test than the social studies test? Without getting the scores on the exam, which we don't, they don't really help to inform instruction. What this does other than help us kill 2 days at the end of the year is beyond me, particularly when left with a room of 30 hyper eighth graders for the rest of the day who are entirely uninterested in doing any more work.

I'm not totally anti-testing, not even anti-standardized testing. Testing can be helpful and tell us useful things. Being anti-testing is like being anti-rain or anti-fiber; sometimes things that are unpleasant on their surfaces do an awful lot of good a little down the road. But sometimes testing lacks a sense of purpose, or tests are used for the wrong things. That's when testing is unhelpful to the point of being counterproductive. I'm sure that today's test helped to kill some interest in history, which is of course a rich and rewarding subject and one that can be made accessible to even very resistant learners.

As always, I welcome your comments on testing, social studies, and tea.

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