Scott Paris

SCOTT PARIS

Scott Paris:  OK. I’m Scott Paris, University of Michigan. And I suppose that should be /Siera.

Self-regulating learning is usually meant to be a student who uses good goals, good strategies, appropriate motivation to do the kinds of academic tasks that we like to see in the schools. But I always say that self-regulated learning means a little more because sometimes children are oriented to the same goals and tasks as teachers and sometimes they’re oriented to their own agenda. So I think self-regulated learning doesn’t always mean that children are doing the right thing. Sometimes they’re learning how to look busy when they’re not really working, sometimes they’re learning how to take shortcuts for um projects, essays, exams.  So sometimes children learn how to be very self-regulated to avoid working too hard, to avoid some of the difficult tasks, and we need to be careful about children who learn the tricks of school and how to get by without really being engaged. I think the positive thing about self-regulated learning is when kids have these mastery goal orientations and effective strategies. 

It’s hard to teach self-regulation.  I really don’t like to see teachers teach it like a recipe. I—I don’t think it’s a set of things that they can do 1 through 10. Uh, I don’t think you can put it into a lesson plan exactly. It’s more like being a parent uh where you encourage autonomy and independence but you have to do it a little bit at a time. So children need to achieve success on their own to feel empowered to—to use the strategies, to be motivated, to set their own goals. One of the things that we think is important is that children have a sense of choice, a sense of control, a sense of challenge, and a sense of collaboration in the things they do in the classroom. And if teachers design their tasks and activities to reward those kinds of—of motivational influences, the kinds of intrinsic motivation that psychologists talk about, I think that teachers are more likely to encourage uh strategic and independent learning.

It’s always difficult to say that there’s a short list of things that children need to acquire in order to be literate. The kind of approach I like is a developmental approach. And so when we talk about what children need to be literate it depends on the age, their background, their skills. So when we’re talking about young children, say kindergarten, 1st, 2nd grade, I think that the primary emphasis is more on the foundational skills and that seems to me to be making sure that children understand there’s meaning in the text and that they need the rules—the phonological rules and knowledge to crack the code. Those two things plus the frequent uh daily use of reading and writing are important. To go a little bit further uh and say in late elementary school, I think that the emphasis there is really on the strategies the children need to use because more and more they’re using um text to learn about other kinds of content areas. So they need to be able to skim, to preview, to do things before the read. They need to be able to monitor their comprehension, repair their comprehension, re-read, paraphrase as they go, and they need to know as they finish reading that it’s not just closing the book and it’s done but they need to check their understanding, to go back to see if there are points that need integrations, synthesis, a little of that self checking uh that you can do with the retelling or a summarization. That gets kids through about 5th, or 6th, or 7th grade and after that I think the biggest problem is for children to really understand what’s important in text. When they read the text, read the words and are fluent readers but they’re not sure what’s important, they have a great deal of difficulty studying. So I like uh strategies in instruction that emphasize underlining, highlighting, note taking, the use of graphic organizers, discussion groups, book clubs.  The kinds of discussions the children have with the teachers or other children that begin to examine “How do I think about this text?  Have I really thought about it from the different angles?  Do I—do I understand it thoroughly or do I need to go back and do a little bit more?” And there the premium, I think, is really placed on negotiating the meaning within the group, within the purpose, within the task. And so that’s quite a—quite a change from the early acquisition of skills to the later application of these complicated thinking processes.  

Developmentally appropriate practices, a term that came out of the ear—early childhood education—and I think it was most appropriately born there because children come into preschools and kindergarten with such huge differences in experience that teachers were really forced to change their practices to suit the individual children.  Now whether it was language, or experience, or background, or other factors that led to these differences, um a child with little book reading or little text experience might need something different from a teacher then a child who is already saying the alphabet and identifying his or her name. So the developmentally appropriate practice tried to honor these individual differences.  Uh, I think it applies across the curriculum because when we talk about individualizing instruction we’re really talking about teachers being sensitive to the needs of the child.  And for me what that means is that teachers need to be good diagnosticians. They need to know what do children know, what do they like, what’s their style of learning, where are their strengths, where are their weaknesses?  And the teacher who does that on a daily basis is able to select materials and select activities that are challenging yet are within the grasp of the child because nothing breeds success like children accomplishing a difficult task.  

Well, that’s one of the primary difficulties that teachers have is how to balance the individual needs of the student with the rest of the class.  And there’s no magic uh or single solution to this.  Some teachers use uh multiple grouping and flexible groupings so that different curricular areas are grouped by different children.  We know that tracking has some liabilities and so putting children in the same tracks all day with the same children is probably not good for either the high or the low achievers. So the—the—the pressure is on teachers to try and create these individualized instructional programs for 25 or 30 children in the classroom. It’s very demanding and I—I wouldn’t expect teachers to be able to do it every day successfully. So some days there’ll be groups that are fixed. Some days there’ll be multiple groups. Some days there’ll be tutors doing individualized tutoring. The—the thing about a developmental approach is that it’s adaptive, it’s flexible, it’s child centered or learner centered instead of centered on the curriculum. Um, we don’t like to think of education as a ‘one size fits all.’ If we have a developmental and an individual approach it really looks at the learner first. Now what teachers need to do is collect evidence about learners’ strengths and weaknesses. And I think now days people are much more inclined to see that as a profile or as a battery of assessments because children have so many aptitudes that they may be good in part of the curriculum and not so good in other parts and to give a single test just doesn’t do justice to the child. So I think there’s more and more pressure now on teachers to be good diagnosticians and collect good evidence. Uh, they do that with portfolios, with work samples, with daily observations, with the kinds of assessments that we call internal assessments, they’re—they’re internally controlled by the teacher in the classroom. 

Right. One of the biggest difficulties is the—in assessing children’s progress is the fact that teachers have such a variety of assessments available to them and so part of the—the job of teachers now is to become informed about the commercial assessments, the curriculum embedded assessments, the district mandated and state mandated kinds of assessments. But most teachers aren’t testing experts. They come into the classroom because they love kids and they want to foster a love of learning and they want to nurture these children’s’ development.  They don’t want to test them.  And so the—the pressure is on teachers really to devise these informal ways that provide solid evidence, robust, good, solid evidence, without um the—the—the ideas of bias without the hint of subjectivity. A lot of people think um a multiple-choice standardized test is more objective and—and fair, but in truth I’d rather trust the evidence of a teacher who works with the child every day and collects the work samples, the portfolios, the kinds of evidence that the teacher says, “This is a good piece of work or this isn’t such a good piece of work.”  Now the—the teachers who do that collection of work samples uh in their daily work uh often times find ways to let students manage it. So the collection of portfolios or work samples become part of what students do in their writing folders, um in their journals, in their project folders, in their notebooks. And then these are assembled by the students into their own collections and evidence of their progress.  Now what I—what I’ve seen effective teachers do is to use that kind of evidence uh in parent conferences and in student conferences or even in student led parent conferences. So that’s the beauty for me is when I see a teacher and a student work together to spread out an array of work in front of a parent and say, “These are the kinds of things we’ve been doing.  This is what I didn’t do so well, but I did this kind of thing to improve it.  I spent a lot of time on this project and you can see what I’ve been doing in the class.  You can see my achievements right in front of you.”

Teachers need to know a lot about standardized test scores. Unfortunately, it’s a part of the life of every teacher in America now because of the press to have accountability. And parents want to know if their children are learning. District administers and principals the success of their schools and so teachers are um—are required to be experts about standardized tests when in fact they probably weren’t trained to be. So they need to know how to administer the test, they need to know how to interpret the tests, and perhaps most importantly, they need to know how to prepare children for the tests. And I think that’s the danger because some teachers think that if they give a lot of test preparation and they orient their curriculum toward the particular content and format of the tests, that they’re doing a good job of teaching.  And I think we’ve seen that problem in some states where teachers have excessive test preparation. The test scores might go up but have the children really learned and mastered the curriculum that we think is important or have they just gotten really savvy about how to take a test?  Now teachers who know that a little preparation is needed but what they really need to do is embed the kind of skills for the test within their regular curriculum, I think are the ones that prepare their students the best. 

It’s always difficult for teachers to explain test scores to parents. Most parents want to know two things about their child. They want to know “How’s my child doing and how’s my child doing compared to other children?” So most parents want an explicit comparison to know if their child is succeeding above average or below average or compared to some kind of percentile. And I think that’s a dangerous kind of um assumption that parents bring to the assessment of children. If we go back to a developmental approach to assessment, I think what most parents expect from their children when they learn music or sports or other things is that they’re getting better over time and so they have a—a developmental view of achievement in other areas. I’d like to see a developmental approach to assessment by parents in academics so that they would say, “Is my child reading better, more fluently, with better understanding?  Is he writing more? Is he showing more insight into science and social studies?  Is he using his skills across the curriculum?  Can I see it in the projects that he’s doing?” So that hopefully teachers uh won’t be confronted by parents saying, “What scores do my child—did my child get?”  But rather parents will say, “Can you show me what my child’s been doing in school and how I can help?”  And with—with that orientation I think teachers and parents work together a lot better.

We’ve done a lot of research on the impact of standardized testing and, in particular, we’ve looked at how standardized testing influences children over time. So we’ve interviewed children from grades 2 to 11, for example, around the country. And it’s a rather depressing kind of picture. What we find is that children in 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade are excited about the tests, their motivated, they believe that this test important, they work hard for it, and by middle school or high school, children are beginning to be a little suspicious.  They say things like, “It doesn’t—the test doesn’t measure how smart you are.”  Um, and they begin to think that maybe if they uh don’t try their best it doesn’t make any difference. So some children begin to devalue standardized tests because they’re skeptical about its value and its validity.  And what we find is that the children who are most at risk for taking the short cuts (cell phone rings in background) and undermining the uh (interruption) So students who are most (interruption) OK. Students who are most at risk for the negative effects of standardized testing are those that have a history of doing poorly on the test.  So that if you’ve taken a standardized test for 4, or 5, or 6 years and no that you don’t score very well, it’s difficult to be motivated in 10th grade to take the test again. And, in fact, what a lot of students find out is they’re more willing to give half-hearted effort and say they didn’t try, then to give their maximum effort and then fail again.  So we find this effort ability trade off that we see in motivation uh where children are trying to protect their self esteem by not trying very hard and saying, “Well, I didn’t care,” which is a lot easier then saying, “I cared, I tried hard, and I failed.”  Now children who have uh recent immigrant status, they have second language—English as a second language, the children who have a history of achievement difficulties, the—the children who often times are identified as at-risk often times have the least valid test scores because they don’t try hard. They take the shortcuts or they devalue the test. And so, ironically, they have a self-fulfilling prophesy where they get the low test scores and in the eyes of the external test givers they—they look like um unachieving, low achieving students. But in fact I think the motivational dynamics are—are much more complicated here. So what I worry about is the fact that as children progress from school—from elementary to high school, that some children—and I don’t know what the percentage is, but maybe it’s 10 or 20 or 30 percent, they learn to distrust these tests. They learn to become anxious about them. They learn to cheat, or discount, or devalue these tests. And so the kids who are most at risk for failing are the ones that are most in jeopardy about their own educational self-esteem. So I—I really think that it’s unfair for those children.  The children who pass the test usually just endure it and say that um it’s just a terrible thing and they disagree with it but they go through the mechanics of doing it and it probably doesn’t hurt them very much. 

OK. Um, in order to foster student’s independent learning, teachers have to be very creative about what they provide in the classrooms. I think we’ve moved away from giving uh scripted lessons, from giving worksheets, from giving the same kinds of uh routine assignments.  We know that children can do that.  Uh, they can become obedient and compliant, but it’s not the same thing as an independent, and creative, and strategic learner.  The best teachers that I’ve seen are the ones that have projects and problems that transcend this simple daily lesson so that children understand the big issues and the driving questions.  Whether it’s in science, or history, or social studies, or current ev—events in their neighborhood, they’re given a problem to solve and a project create.  And teachers don’t structure it too much for children so that it might take a week or two or something for kids to research the problem, to try experiments, to interview people, uh to look up uh resources and information on the Internet, to really use their investigative powers to find answers to questions and then to work together uh with other students or with other adults to try and put together what they’ve found into a coherent presentation. Sometimes these might be videotaped and oral presentations. Sometimes they might be um group debates or group projects. Sometimes they’re put on a poster board. But the—there’s a culminating event that children take pride in producing that showcases their learning and that’s so much more powerful then just filling out worksheets, filling out book reports, taking multiple-choice exams. So for me the—the real secret to effective teaching for independence is to give children these bigger engaging projects and problems to worry about and to investigate.

Comprehension doesn’t have a simple definition. Most people think reading comprehension is answering questions correctly about something that kids have read. But it’s more like thinking. The comprehending includes any aspect of thinking. It might involve a literal interpretation, it might involve inferential comprehension, it might involve critical analysis. It might involve a—a great variety of deductive and inductive kinds of thinking skills so that reading researchers are really reluctant to put comprehension in a small box. I—and, in fact, that’s one of the—the debates that they have is “What does it mean to comprehend something at 1st grade, or 5th grade, or 10th grade?” So I—I think that we’re seeing some exciting controversy about what researchers and what teachers think comprehension is.  But I—I think teachers would say it’s not simple. It’s not multiple-choice answer.  It’s not a score on a test. It’s certainly not something that all children have and use well in schools.  So for me comprehension uh that’s derived from reading and writing and literate activities is really a larger goal of education. It’s part of that inquisitive mindfulness that students develop about an issue. It—it’s that never being quite sure that you understand it fully or never being too confident that there’s a single answer. So I think comprehension is a way of approaching problems and a way of thinking.  And clever teachers that use dialogical methods of discussion, and question and answer, and Socratic teaching are able to—to inculcate that in students so that students see that there—there aren’t simple answers to the textbooks and the questions that they have.  And when they understand that, I think they really begin to know what it means to understand something that they read and study and it makes them thoughtful students.

The task of the child in understanding and comprehending the material that’s presented in class is much more demanding. Children have to take responsibility for learning. They have to take ownership in their own learning. They have to understand that it’s hard work. And that’s something that some children resist.  Uh, certainly as the ante gets raised when children go to middle school then to high school and there’s less teacher nurturance and perhaps more routines and the bar gets raised in the expectations, some students resist that because it means homework, it means trying hard. Uh, for others that decide that this is worth the effort, uh they take the responsibility, they understand that an hour or two of homework every night is—is necessary, um those are the children that succeed.  I think that the ability that the children have as they move from middle school into high school sometimes doesn’t predict their uh achievements in school as much as their motivation and their drive. And I think that’s really important that they have to see that simply doing the assignments and attending class aren’t adequate anymore. They really have to be uh much more driven, much more motivated, much more self-regulated, much more oriented to uh succeeding for themselves then succeeding for the teachers or for the grade. And when students understand that uh their—they are the best judge of—of their own learning and when they become motivated to learn more simply for the sake of understanding, I think you get uh students who are in fact intrinsically motivated and self regulated.

Well, you know there’s a change in the attitude about what kinds of texts children need in—in the early grades. Historically, children read fables, and fairy tales, and stories—what we call the narrative juandra—and that was primarily the basis of instruction and people taught story structure and they taught children to write stories. But now we recognize that text is more complicated and even for young children at five, and six, and seven years of age, they need to know about biographical text. They need to know about science, social studies, history, expository text.  They need to know what looks—what text looks like in a newspaper, in a magazine. And even more then—then speech written down, they need to know what text looks like in a bus schedule, or on a computer screen, or in a cookbook, or on a cereal box.  So I think we’re becoming more aware of the fact that children are exposed to text in a greater variety of formats in their daily lives. Environmental print isn’t simply reading cereal boxes and McDonald signs and billboards. Environmental print might be trying to read a bus schedule. Environmental print might be trying to figure out how to make your Playstation work.  And so children need to see that those are all different forms of text that require different kinds of strategies and practice. And teachers are putting more of that into the curriculum.

Wow.  Text complexity is difficult. We—we can’t just give simple readability formulas any more because we know that children’s background knowledge certainly influences the difficulty they have in understanding it.  So complexity of text at least involves some measures of vocabulary, and sentence length, and sentence complexity, a grammar, but more and more we know that there’s a cognitive complexity to text and we have to take that into account even though there aren’t any simple measures.  I think that that’s why there’s been a—an increase in trying to use a variety of juandras, to use a variety of—of levels of text difficulty with children so that there isn’t—children don’t see that there’s a simple progression of stories to subject matter text.  In fact, text types are so variable that uh we need to attend to the format of the text, to the content of the text, to the structure of the text, to the audience and whether we’re reading things alone or together.  Whether we have to read them thoroughly or just partially. So knowing that social context and the purposes for the texts certainly lends uh to the difficulty and complexity of the task. 

Well, the—the simple answer for children who have reading difficulties is to give them simple things to read.  But that may not help them succeed at all. So that dumbing down the curriculum or giving high interest books with lots of pictures and big type isn’t the way to get children to learn to read.  At some point we need to face the hard fact that there are skills that are the foundation for literacy that all children need to acquire.  And if it takes extra practice and extra work then that’s going to be necessary. And it’s not simply phonics and decoding and—and some of the uh skills required to crack the code for word recognition, but there are, in fact, foundation skills for understanding, and for writing, and for communicating, and for speaking. And for children who don’t have these experiences in their home before they begin to school—before they begin to go to school, we need to provide those so that kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classrooms should have a lot of oral language. They should have children talking, reciting, chanting, reading together.  They should have writing as a daily activity from preschool on.  I’ve seen this in—in the best classrooms in the country and it—it’s uh—it’s a good model for all teachers to—to make literacy available early on in a complicated form with uh consistent practice so that the—the children that have difficulties don’t fall between the cracks.

We did a lot of research on how children acquire reading strategies and in the 80’s when researchers began to think about this issue it—it became clear that a lot of the strategies that good readers use normally are mysterious for young readers. They—they don’t know what it means to skim. Um, when we ask them to underline the important parts, they don’t know which is important and which is unimportant.  When we ask children to uh re-read to find information they don’t know how to re-read selectively. And I think teachers take it for granted that children induce those with practice. And so the Basel readers and the instructional strategies of the 80’s and the 90’s gave more attention to the direct instruction of those kinds of skills.  But I think it’s more then telling children what to do. The most effective instruction that we’ve seen in research doesn’t simply tell children to use these strategies but in fact it models these strategies.  We describe what they are and why they’re effective. We talk about how children use them and when they’re appropriate and when they might not be appropriate to use so that the strategies have to make sense. Um, people use metaphors of salesmanship, or persuasion, or coaching, but in truth that’s a little bit more what strategic reading is like. It’s persuading children that these are worth the time and effort to use and that if you use these extra strategies you’ll make sure that your understanding is thorough. Now what we’ve seen in classrooms is that teachers often times have sort of a continuum uh where the—the children who need that explicit instruction are provided it, the teach—the children who don’t need that explicit instruction are given more opportunities for either complex strategies or for practice. But once the strategies become part of the classroom dialog and vocabulary and once the children who weren’t as aware of them as others begin to see their value, then teachers need to reinforce the strategies with collaborative activities, collaborative, learning, pair share, reciprocal teaching, kinds of peer editing and revising so that children help each other understand that these are—these are effective learning tactics and that they can be used between people as—as well as privately as you read and write.   

Well, self-appraisal is one part of assessment and usually we think of assessment as an outside authority coming in and determining what someone knows.  But, in fact, teachers know that when children can assess their own progress and their own achievements, they in fact uh can take pride in their accomplishments and they know where to spend extra effort. Now how do you get the students to appraise their own work, to use good standards, to be honest and candid about what—not only what took a lot of time, but what is a good piece of work?  And so what we found is that teachers who take the time to help children appraise their own work in fact are communi—communicating their standards to the students a lot more explicitly. One of the things that we’ve seen, for example, is that um scoring rubrics are used more often and, in fact, now teachers use rubrics for evaluating writing, and reading, and knowledge in a variety of domains.  And, in fact, what those rubrics do is tell the students “This is what I’m looking for in an evaluation of this piece of work and I want you to look for it too,” so that students then can appraise their work before it’s turned in and decide if it, in fact, is ready to be turned in and if it meets the teacher’s goal. 

Well, rubrics are—are um of many types so you can have holistic rubrics that might just have 1, 2, 3, 4 points and you might describe the minimum points uh and what would go into a project or a paper that was worth the value of 1 versus a value of 4.  Those holistic rubrics are fairly simple to do. Uh, there’s something called an analytical rubric that’s more like a matrix and so you have a list of characteristics and a list of criteria. And those can be more complicated but if you’ve got a multi-dimensional kind of an assessment of a piece of work, an analytic rubric helps students know how each of those features of the work needs to be assessed. Now I think there’s two things that go along with the use of rubrics that are really critical. One is that good teachers find ways to model the rubric and so they show examples or anchor papers of—of what’s a 1, what’s a 2, what’s a 3.  They show students “This is what I want and expect and if you only do this it’s not quite what I expected.  And if your paper looks like this then it certainly needs more work.”  When students can see those models and anchors, I think it helps a lot. The second thing I’ve seen effective teachers do is to enlist the students in the construction of the rubrics. So before uh an assignment a teacher might say, “What do we want to get out of this task or what should we look for in our finished product?” And so now the students are beginning to say things like, “Is spelling important?  Is handwriting important?  Is length important? Is content important?  Is grammar important?” And now the students begin to talk about what are the—the important features that should be graded on this particular project.  And student generated rubrics are a terrific way for uh children to begin to take responsibility and ownership for their own work.

Well, I think the key for students to reflect on their own work is to have an audience. You need an authentic purpose. And I think what motivates most children in school to work hard it that someone that they care about cares about them.  And so when—when children create a project, or a writing folder, or a portfolio, if it’s simply done to collect their work and it sits in a file it—it has no meaning, but if it’s shared with a parent, or with a teacher, or with a tutor, or a mentor, or another student then it becomes a source of pride. So I think the audience and the purpose for collecting the work is really critical. And if the parents are too busy or the teacher has too many students, for example a middle school or a high school teacher, we can find ways to use mentors, or tutors, or volunteers, or cross-age tutoring so that every child gets to display work and say, “This is what I’ve done. This is what I’ve learned.  This is what I’m proud of.” And I think that’s really a critical part of what makes work authentic and motivating in schools.

The last few years in Michigan I’ve been involved with evaluating summer reading programs and this is a relatively new approach for uh states to remedy some of the—the reading problems that children have in the early grades. So instead of social promotion uh people are—are wondering whether or not we should have summer school programs, or grade retention, or after school programs.  So summer school is one of many kinds of solutions to children that are having difficulties. What we’ve learned the last few years in our collaborative project with Michigan state researchers, and Ingham County researchers, and teachers throughout the state is that we’re learning as a group what goes into a good summer school program. It’s not enough to have an entertaining, interlude of a few weeks’ activities. We really need to have 60 or 70 or more hours of literacy instruction if we want to make a difference. We really have to have skilled teachers that know the children that know the curriculum that can connect the summer school program to the regular academic year.  So that the summer school program needs to be a continuation of good instruction and good assessment from the whole year and not simply an adventurous kind of uh field trip uh experience for children.  Some of the best summer school programs we saw had thematic instruction where children worked, for example, on the same theme—“Oceans and Motions” is one that I remember. Uh, we saw the whole school working together as a staff to create the program. We saw parents involved. They signed contracts that agreed that they would help their children uh all summer long. They wrote in their journals every night. The parents came to several sessions at the school throughout the summer. So we got heavy parent involvement, uh the regular staff creating a school-wide program, we got terrific leadership from the principal and from the teachers themselves, and the program was connected to the teacher’s own ongoing professional development where they had decided that they wanted to learn about using informal reading assessments and a profile that Michigan has developed for assessing young readers. And so as the staff of teachers learned about this, they implemented it with their children and it was a natural lead in to their summer school program.

I think people are passionate about a lot of topics.  Mostly they want children to have the maximum opportunity to develop to their potential.  And I think all teachers recognize the uniqueness of children so that what we worry most about are the policies and the practices that stultify the child’s development. And unfortunately there are a lot of them in schools today.  Uh, class size, inexperienced teachers, poor materials, dangerous neighborhoods.  Those kinds of things hold children back.  I’m not sure um that—that there’s going to be an easy way to solve some of these children, my particular concern these days is with the increasing use of testing as a policy for sorting children, for certifying achievement of teachers and for children in schools. I think the standardized testing and the mandating testing programs have really um increased to a dangerous level, that the notions of accountability held by politicians and uninformed parents are really to the determent of teachers and children.  What we’ve seen is that education has become narrowed. The teachers have become de-professionalized.  They’ve become frustrated.  They’ve become angry about the use of tests that are inappropriate to measure the children and the teachers. And what we’ve seen is the children often times are disadvantaged by the test that holds them back.  So that instead of looking at—at the strengths of what teachers and children do in their classrooms, we have this uniform test that’s given to all children and all teachers that doesn’t match the curriculum and it doesn’t match their talents. And unfortunately it’s being used to allocate funds, to certify achievement, um to promote endorsed diplomas. And what we’ve seen is that in some states it’s become down right dangerous that um children are being denied endorsed certificates. They’re being denied scholarship money, that their schools are being decertified or identified as low-achieving schools despite the hard work of good teachers. And this is where I think testing has become dangerous. I wrote an article I call uh “The Trojan Horse in the Schoolyard:  The Hidden Affects of High Stakes Testing.”  And I really do think it’s a Trojan horse. That if parents really understood how these tests affect their children’s learning and motivation, they’d be more alarmed. And I think what makes me most passionate is that it’s the children most at risk that are further jeopardized by the inappropriate use of testing. And so the good intentions of policymakers and politicians that say, “We need better education,” are sometimes go array when that gets translated into “We need more testing or harder tests or we need to give money according to test scores.”  Assessment can be used in a positive way to help children and teachers but high stakes testing, I think, has gotten out of hand and needs to be checked. We need parents, and politicians, and educators to re-examine what we’re doing and whether it really helps teachers and children today.

Teachers are under so many pressures today that threaten their own sense of integrity and sense of professionalization that sometimes it’s the high stakes test, sometimes it’s the lack of understanding by the part of administrators within a district. Sometimes it’s the public’s lack of involvement or lack of appreciation.  And so teachers face the possibility of working hard and not being appreciated or working for their students but finding that some administrator or policy group says that it’s only this test that’s important, not all those other things that you’ve added to the curriculum.  And so I think teachers run the risk of being devalued by their multiple audiences and by the shifting political climates that—that say one thing is important one year and suddenly something different is important the following year.  Teachers want to have a sense of respect for their judgment as they design their curriculum, as they assess the children. They’d like a sense of appreciation by their district and by their parents and I think when they don’t get that it threatens their—their professional integrity. Now on the positive side, when teachers work together to implement change within the schools, when they work as teams and not as isolated individuals, they feel more professional, they feel more validated, and in fact they affect better changes within the school system. There are teachers that um need to go back school. There are teachers that need continuing development.  But I think the secret to feeling—continuous learning and achievement as a professional, is to be part of the team. And so I guess I would encourage teachers to work together for school change, to find ways to form coalitions and cadres so that schools have staff that move for systemic reform within their buildings that’s led by the teachers not by outside experts, but by the—by the staff themselves that—that know their parents, know their kids, know their communities the best.