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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 Seventeen: One Week, Many Thoughts


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One Week, Many Thoughts


Have you ever had the pleasure of watching a school bloom? I have. I watched walls around me burst into color, like flower petals extending themselves to the great warmth of the spring sun. Splashes of primary shades crawled throughout the school thoroughfares in which I spend my professional days. The entrances to classrooms became bustling hives of activity and also creativity. Suddenly my small elementary school in upstate New York resembled a field of flowers in the full throes of its spring awakening! Many of you are possibly wondering what ignited such a school-wide explosion of creativity. Quite simply, it was the result of a week without test-driven instruction. My principal in 2011, Dr. Peter DeWitt, unveiled the idea in the fall to give us, as a school, a much-needed break from the relentless drive of standardized assessment-based instruction. A veteran of the classroom himself, he recognized a way to reinvigorate his teachers and bolster the value of creativity to foster deep learning. No Test Week became a huge success. Interestingly, for me it also became a catalyst for reflecting on the environments and relationships that are created by a school climate that is or is not based on high-stakes assessment. What I will discuss in this essay are the more far-reaching intellectual and inter-relational damages among teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, student-to-learning, and community-to-school interactions at the hands of high-stakes testing.

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