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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Teachers teach beyond the limits of testing

Photo by Nell Conway/

With all the testing and new Common Core standards coming to education, there was an interesting discussion on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” program.

“More Than A Number? Educators on What Standardized Testing Means” offered no shocking revelations. No teacher thinks of a student as “just a number.” Teachers know their students as individuals.

The three teachers interviewed on the segment affirmed the fact that high-stakes test scores are just one factor in understanding student progress. Teachers can tell how and what students are learning based on what goes on in the classroom. The segment showed how teachers view students and how they work to make sure students learn skills that might not be measured on standardized tests.

One of the teachers, Rafe Esquith, who teaches fifth grade in Los Angeles, has more than 30 years of teaching experience. He said Common Core standards will bring even more standardized tests.

The most interesting bit of the story wasn’t about testing, but technology in education. A grad student phoned in a comment: “I’ve surpassed what most of the teachers are even able to do with new media at a very young age. I only see this issue getting worse because most of the teachers are only at, I would say, about an elementary school level of technological proficiency, and as they get older and technology moves faster, I don’t really see them being able to keep up.”

Esquith countered that viewpoint saying, “I want to point out [something] about technology. Sometimes we think that we  — because we’re great at technology – are becoming scholars. It’s becoming overemphasized. Let’s never forget that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet with a goose feather and he didn’t need technology for that. So let’s not confuse being technologically savvy with real scholarship.”

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Daniel Friedman

Daniel Friedman is a staff writer and photographer and a former classroom teacher.

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