Diane\'s Blog

Kerry Lozito

Dear Ms. Ravitch,

I have taught high school math and science in the small rural town of Bishop, CA since 1984. I consider myself dedicated and philosophical, and I’ve seen many trends in education come and go. I heard your interview with Terry Gross on NPR and then bought your book The Death and Life, intrigued because our school was smack in the middle of standardized testing. This evening I had the chance to start reading.

This is the quote that moved me to tears: “Testing, I realized, had become a central preoccupation in the schools and was not just a measure but an end in itself. I came to believe that accountability, as written into federal law, was not raising standards but dumbing down the schools as states and districts strived to meet unrealistic targets.”

I can’t tell you how demoralizing it is to watch young adults suffer round after round of multiple-choice review for high-stakes testing (as well as the testing itself) as compliant as church mice. All so their school can avoid the much dreaded “Program Improvement” status. Meanwhile, the kids’ understanding of the world around them, their schema, is growing fragile, as black-and-white “pencil and paper” curriculum displaces meaningful activity. Compound this with the growing popularity of cell phones, computer games, and texting, and we now have a generation of people whose cognitive world is narrow indeed.

Here in California the kids are quite aware that their test scores bear consequences for the teachers and administrators alone. The cynics among them find it funny. Meanwhile our school has put increasingly more resources into finding ways to beg, wheedle, cajole, and trick kids into performing on high-stakes tests. In fact, it’s been the guiding light of our “staff development” for years.

Perhaps the accountability movement nudged some recalcitrant teachers along, but for those of us who’ve always taken the job seriously, it’s put our feet in concrete. Unfortunately, some of us were born to teach anyway.

I keep wondering, why don’t politicians trust professional educators to lead school reform? We work with kids year in, year out. Why wouldn’t we have meaningful insight?

Please, Ms. Ravitch, continue to daylight this grim scenario. Fight the good fight.

Ms. Kerry Lozito