An educator draws attention to the social and emotional factors of test-driven school reform.
Koplow (Bears, Bears, Everywhere, 2008) here focuses on the many personal tales that the education-reform movement often ignores. Much of her book consists of stories of individuals: a kindergartener who recently arrived in the United States and needs to adjust to a new culture as well as to a new school; a teacher whose first reaction to learning a student is dyslexic is to worry how it will affect test scores and performance evaluations; and a pair of neighbors who respond to their children’s classroom stresses in very different ways. The anecdotal narrative effectively shows the shortcomings of the modern elementary school classroom and the constraints that prevent teachers, students and parents from making substantive changes. Koplow backs up her vignettes with data, drawing on studies in child development and psychology to demonstrate how environments that are too rigorous, particularly in lower elementary school grades, often do harm to the learning process. An overemphasis on testing, she says, removes physical movement from the classroom, omits foundational concepts best learned through open-ended lessons, and places demands on teachers that prevent them from establishing emotional connections and trust-based relationships with students. Although Koplow doesn’t present a detailed road map for moving educational leadership away from this mindset, she does offer several examples of possible paths to success—specifically, elementary schools that have the organizational fortitude and community support to place student needs ahead of bureaucratic demands. Such schools, she says, deliver a solid education by both academic and holistic measurements.
A story-driven explanation of the problems of high-stakes testing that will leave readers with hope for more effective educational environments in the future.