Education should prepare students for life after high school, not for tests

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I have a small, tattered, auburn chemistry textbook published in 1929 from old Allegheny High School. It's not just the compact size of the book that is striking, but the fact that the theme of the book is centered on the chemistry of steel. The educational leaders of the day had the foresight to prepare their students for the industry juggernaut that drove our region. Unfortunately, the steel industry faded in the '80s and so, in the last several years, has the drive to connect education to the careers that sustain our local economy.

Since the advent of No Child Left Behind, American education has become completely test driven. It is not uncommon in schools across our commonwealth to spend over a month of instructional time just to complete these assessments. Due to the logistics of school-wide testing, even those students not in the assessment loop lose class time in the form of half days, assemblies or substitute teachers in their regular academic schedule. School performance on these tests has become a life or death funding issue.

The pressure for students to succeed on these assessments can be a bit overwhelming. A poor score on these assessments may result in a student taking both a remedial class and the current grade level class simultaneously. This test-based scheduling squeezes out elective classes like art, music, shop and business. The problem for future graduates is that tests like the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment may not correlate to careers after high school. It can be argued that a person entering the plumbing field would be better served by taking shop and business classes than taking an extra class on creative writing.

Marcellus Shale drilling presents one of the largest career growth opportunities in Western Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, teaching to a test will not provide the necessary skills and aptitudes for our students to enter this field. We need to be creative to compete in a global market. We do not want to be test smart, but job foolish.

Vice President of Secondary Schools
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
South Side



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