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de-testing and de-grading schools

Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization


Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas

A century of education and education reform, along with more than three decades of high-stakes testing and accountability, reveals a disturbing paradox: education has a steadfast commitment to testing and grading. This commitment persists despite ample research, theory, and philosophy revealing the corrosive consequences of both testing and grading in an education system designed to support human agency and democratic principles. This revised edited volume brings together a collection of updated and new essays that confronts the failure of testing and grading. The book explores the historical failure of testing and grading; the theoretical and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; the negative influence of tests and grades on social justice, race, class, and gender; and the role that they play in perpetuating a deficit perspective of children. The chapters fall under two broad sections. Part I, Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education, includes essays on the historical, theoretical, and philosophical arguments against testing and grading. Part II, De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform, presents practical experiments in de-testing and de-grading classrooms for authentic learning experiences.
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Chapter Fifteen: An Oath to Stop Degrading Students: A Story of De-grading an Elementary Classroom


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An Oath TO Stop Degrading Students

A Story of De-grading an Elementary Classroom



Would our classrooms and schools look and function differently if upon entering the teaching profession each of us committed to a professional oath to first do no harm, an Educators’ Hippocratic Oath?

In the summer of 2014, I was part of a group of educators from the Greater Madison Writing Project in Wisconsin that began exploring this question by looking at our own classroom practices and considering what each of us is doing and/or being asked to do that we feel might run counter to a professional oath to do no harm. To no one’s surprise, standardized testing was at the forefront of the discussions on the educational policies and practices that are squarely in the realm of harmful to children. But stopping the standardized testing movement feels, rightfully so, like a futile endeavor for most individual educators. However, we can individually do everything in our power to mitigate the testing and accountability culture within our own classroom and school. By ensuring our instruction focuses on deep learning and engagement rather than facts, rote memorization, and test-taking skills, we can work to create and maintain an environment that minimizes the importance of the standardized tests. Nevertheless, come testing season, whether we individually participate or not, our students will still be subjected to...

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