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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A shallow victory

September 11, 2012|By Joe Puglia

Holy smokes!  La Cañada did pretty good on the standardized tests as reported by the California Department of Education.  Traditionally, La Cañada Unified is a superstar when it comes to achievement tests.  This is a credit to our teachers, support staff, administrators and a pro-active board of education.

This means we can re-finance our house, as our property values will not be plummeting anytime soon.  I might even be able to afford my daughters’ cheerleading uniforms.

If you know me well, you know what’s coming next, so let’s get this out of the way at the onset:  Standardized achievement tests are a marginal predictor of student success and a static determinant of a school’s accountability to the process of educating.

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So, as we break open the champagne bottles, remember it’s a shallow victory.   

Standardized testing doesn’t measure initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, effort, irony, judgment, commitment, nuance, good will, ethical reflection, or a host of other valuable dispositions and attributes. What it measures is isolated skills, specific facts and function, which are the least significant aspects of learning.  Learning and teaching doesn't fit into bubbles. I don't think a simple pencil-and-paper test is going to capture what students know and can do.

How do we define student success?  Is it building better test takers, or competency in skill acquisition?  Is achievement defined quantitatively?  Or should we be developing productive citizens who can conceptualize ideas, think critically and, according to Plato, maintain the moral base thus ensuring the continuance of civilization.

The state wants performers.  Pure performance feeds the dictates of a socially and culturally regressive society.  We can teach children the mastery of testing and the regurgitation of information. That’s a good-looking suit, but an empty one.  Performers without an ethical, intrinsic and intentional make up do not define an educated individual.  I know you know this. Standardized tests do not evaluate the entire person.  So what’s the big hoop-la?

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