"Let the Teachers Teach"

David Patten, an award-winning history teacher and writer, has a solution to the problems facing public school education in America. This is yet another sad story about the way testing is destroying the teaching of history.  An approach to teaching history that relies entirely on the current form of standardized testing will not be effective in teaching historical thinking skills.  Here is a taste of Patten’s piece at History News Network:

From the moment I was hired to teach history and government at a public high school to the moment, years later, when I walked away, I had the audacity to believe that I had been hired for my expertise. I taught the entire range of students, seventh through twelfth grades. No matter what the age or ability level, I actually believed that I had something to convey to my students and that I could truly refine thought and inspire learning. And why not? I graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA in two majors. I was already a published writer and had traveled extensively. Given those brazen assumptions, to me the textbook was a mere afterthought, something to reference every now and then. State and district curriculums were only skeletons and I would flesh them out. My students would learn through highly detailed learning packets hundreds of pages of learning packets that I wrote. I also created slide shows and later on PowerPoints which dovetailed the information contained in the packets. These tools formed the basis of class discussions, thus touching all the learning styles. The students read the packets, learned visually, and learned orally. It did not stop there. Projects that I created became a hallmark for many of my classes. My students would write historical fiction stories along with modern and historical position papers. They would participate in “great debates”, their own teaching project, an historical magazine project, and a world geographic magazine project. Last, there were the required reading books.  Books such as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Son of the Morning Star, The Prince, and Treblinka were read and thoroughly analyzed through lengthy class discussions…

It came upon us slowly at first, as most evil does. States such as Florida and Texas had been applying the new methodology for a few years. Ohio, my state, would soon follow. We heard rumors, had a few discussions concerning what it all meant, and merely wondered what impact if any the testing would have. We soon found out just how serious it all really was.  We endured district-wide meetings where administrators admonished us as to the critical importance of these fifty-question tests. Everything was going to ride upon student success or failure on these exams. Results were going to be published, levies would fail, and jobs would be lost unless we scored well. The meaning was truly driven home when a normally reticent assistant superintendent began jumping up and down on the stage while screaming into a microphone, “Ram it down their throats!” She later apologized for the outburst, but the message was clear; testing would direct the curriculum, dictate the programs, and determine the future of our students and school district.

2 thoughts on “"Let the Teachers Teach"

  1. Here's a deal I'd be willing to make: Let teachers teach whatever they want, let school administrators fire whenever they want, and let local parents vote out whomever they want.

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