So my wife forward me an article with a retiring teacher 'apologizing' for the little drone test takers that K-12 education is creating:
A warning to college profs from a high school teacher
Overall I feel this retiring teacher's pain, but I do not accept his case that there is nothing that can be done, that the people at the top (who are woefully ignorant) control a teacher's classroom. Though I will admit, right now, that it is hard to not end up in a 'teach to the test' quandary.
I believe we educators must scream for reason. We must create the best students possible! Our end product is not measured on test, but a student's success 8 to 10 years after HS graduation! I know that the "high stakes testing/accountability" people are like a pillbox of machine guns, and our jobs as teachers is to attack that pillbox. While attacking we do not want to be carelessly mowed down, but to take on the enemy and do what is best. When we get results from our students, they will test ok - even when we don't cover everything - so long as we create problem solvers and life-long learners. We must plan the best curriculum, knowing the end goal, and make sure we are continuously improving (a concept I often used in my past career).
I also have the advantage of being the only math teacher in district, having control of the K-12 curriculum and having the school board and administration's trust that we are doing the "right" things. Meaning I teach the skills they need for college/career, and let the test scores handle themselves. I do agreed that if a teacher is not reflective it is easy to feel the pressure of tests and perhaps teach to it.
As a math teacher I do set aside about 20% of my class time to skills, I believe students need numeracy and recursive practice to maintain previous mastered concepts/skills. But I do not teach to the test, and when I talk to neighboring math teachers I almost always find myself doing less topics or lessons - and usually having better test results. That is a result of doing what is right for the students conceptually, creating problem solvers with a solid toolbox of math skills.
So the battle is here, let them test, but when we look at the skills, concepts and traits our students need let us not use the test as a curriculum guide but let us use our end product (a successful student a decade after HS graduation). Let us not accept creating drones, let's attack the pillbox, be student centered and do what is right.