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As a 4th grade math teacher, I am acutely aware of the emphasis put on standards and accountability by the system as a whole. High-stakes testing for students and teacher preparation has become the norm, and the pressure to perform is intense. Numbers are what is important to the powers that be. Peter Taubman takes the discourse of standards and accountability and looks at it with a critical lens. He points out the pitfalls of high-stakes testing such as teaching to the test and adapting teaching to the “bubble kids”. He also puts great emphasis on the role of neoliberalism and big business in the education system of America. Seeing how companies profit from education and testing does not surprise me, but my eyes have been opened to the extent corporate America is involved in making policy. Taubman (2009) says, “…one cannot help but wonder whether the shock of tests will soften up teachers and students such that they will all come to welcome scripted, packaged, and above all profit-making curriculum and teaching methods.”(p.53). I for one wish this was not the case, but I can completely see this occurring in my school. When did we lose our way, and will we ever find our way back? Change is needed, but I am fearful that our future as educators hold only more criticism and tests.
Relating to the content of testing and accountability in Teaching by Numbers by Peter M. Taubman is not difficult for me to do. As an educator I am all too familiar with testing, disaggregating data and then using that to drive the curriculum. Education has become a numbers game. If the scores are too high, then the test must be easy. If they are too low, then the teachers are not doing their job. Taubman (2009) states that education’s central role is to prepare students for a global economy. Then why is it that we feel as though our job is to prepare them for the high stakes tests? These tests provide politicians and the business world with numbers that tell them how well educators are teaching and students are learning. That is a façade. Taubman does an outstanding job of tracing the transformation that has occurred in our educational system in relation to standards and accountability. It is an eye-opener for all teachers and administrators. I, for one, am ready to return to teaching as it was when I was growing up. Students must explore, study, compose, create and experience for learning to occur. Will we continue on this path, or will we be proponents for change?
I found the book easy to read, understandable, and quite interesting. I was able to relate my own teaching experiences to his explanations about how education is becoming all about the numbers. I see and hear about "the numbers" in every aspect at school, such as test scores, class sizes, and budget. Once he started talking about how educational policies have transformed over the years and how the language and practices of the business world were brought into and affected the educational world, it gave insight into how the ideas of standards and accountability came to be. Although I now have a better understanding of thier existance, I have even more negative feelings about testing than I already had. As a teacher, I dislike having to teach to the test and not being allowed or having time to throw in some creative projects and units because they include content that is not on the test. The book really opened my eyes to how things came to be and what the detrimental effect will be if this trend is not stopped.
I personally felt connected to so many things Taubman described in this book. I definitely agree with him that we are teaching by numbers as educators of today. Numbers that relate to students' scores on high stakes tests, numbers shown in the data that analyzes students' test scores from year to year, or numbers that are linked with incentive pay for teachers whose students excel on the tests. Every year as a teacher of Dallas ISD, I am evaluated by how well my students do on the 4th grade Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests according to the Evaluation and Accountability system known as the Classroom Effective Index (CEIs). The district links incentive pay to how well your students do based on this data, so there is an immense amount of pressure and stress as a result of this for teachers. Educators need to find a way to detach from CEOs, media networks, government officials, and educational policy makers who feel they know what is best for our students and continually enforce a standards movement connected to accountability. We need to find a way to make learning enjoyable for teachers and students again, instead of teaching to the test because we are so worried about the outcome. Taubman does an excellent job writing about a sensitive issue for educators today with theories about how this transformation began and what the future may hold if we are unable to stop the movement that includes so many connections to numbers.