I have stated on many occasions that I don’t have an opinion yet about the pros and cons of Common Core. I am aware of the controversy, and I know that I respect the opinion of those who are most concerned about the validity of the standards and how they are being used–or misused–as the case may be.
I have been interested in following the buzz that was created recently by Louis C.K. It all started, I gather, with a tweet that Louis C.K sent out on April 28. The tweet was this: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core.”
And that is just the beginning. Louis C.K. has also tweeted photos of actual questions, some of which seem to be nonsensical, and finally, he tweets this with regard to testing in general: “It’s a massive stressball that hangs over the whole school. The kids teachers trying to adapt to these badly written notions.”
“Stressball” pretty much sums it up for the teachers and students that I know. I recall only too well the feeling of tension rising from mid-February through the end of the year because of the pressure created by a need to do well on the state-mandated and later the federally mandated tests that are presumed to be a measure of the learning that is taking place along with it being a test of the quality of teaching that takes place in each individual school. The problem is that the tests don’t do either. They don’t measure the quality of teaching OR learning. They only measure the effectiveness with which the teachers have taught the students to test well. Hours of preparation for the tests take away from real learning. Instead of learning for the sake of learning, students are taught both explicitly and implicitly that the only measure of them and their self-worth is what their SOL score reveals. It’s a travesty. It’s a tragedy. And it continues to go on with the silent compliance of teachers who know that the tests are not serving their students and is not a measure of their effectiveness as teachers. It also continues because of the silent compliance of administrators who know that the requirements that have been set for them are often meaningless if not ridiculous and the people “in charge” continue to set impossible goals, create impractical benchmarks, and the damage done to our children continues unabated.
I applaud Louis C. K. for saying something about the testing travesty. It’s about time someone spoke up, and given his stature and popularity, people are certainly paying attention. Those who think that testing is the only way to measure learning will probably scoff at Mr. Louis C.K.’s commentary, but I hope he will continue to make the point. If nothing else, it will make the teachers who are experiencing the feeling of being caught up in the “massive stressball” during the next few weeks feel like they aren’t the only ones who are concerned anymore. More parents need to speak up. Let’s not forget that we need to teach the whole child and that a child is not the sum of a single test score taken from a single day in the entire school year. That is a message that needs to be conveyed more clearly and more loudly to our policy makers. The drive to test everything and to spend so much time and money and energy on “the tests” takes away from teachers’ love of teaching and children’s love of learning. It’s time to stop and assess what we are doing to children.
Thank you Louis C.K. Keep up the good work.