Saturday, March 17, 2012

State the Obvious

As a child I read the fable called The Emperor Has No clothes. In it two men masquerade as weavers of the finest cloth in the land, They swindle the king into believing clothing made of this unique material will impress everyone. It does until during the king's walk, clad only in his underwear, a small boy points out the obvious, the king has no clothes.

There is a parallel to this fable with the state of today's high stakes testing in education. Politicians, the initial creators of the fable, and now parents and those in the press are still being swindled into believing this is a valid way to assess the students in our schools. While the original intent of closing the achievement gap was admirable, school districts now face mounting pressure to keep up with an ever changing unattainable test score. In too many schools they have set aside good teaching towards this aim.

Having begun my career in education several decades ago I am frustrated. Frustrated that we now spend time preparing students on how to take a test. It starts when they are eight years old. Is that a necessary academic skill at this age?

Frustrated we place pressure on students of all ages for the high-stakes the test represents. Some districts dangle a carrot of do well on the test and earn days off school. Hardly the love of learning message we want to send.

I am especially frustrated at the pressure teachers receive to ignore what we know is quality teaching. Ignore it to be sure we cover all items that might be on the test which means lessons designed to skim the surface instead of diving deep into a skill or strategy. And have all this information covered for April testing despite children spending more weeks in this grade level learning.

It is time for the small boy to state the obvious by telling the crowned king the emperor has no clothes. Exclaim the obvious, state mandated high stakes testing has no merit.


  1. A well written slice, and an effective way to describe something you are compassionate about by comparing it to the story "The Emperors has No Clothes" Effective ending of the slice as well. Clearly written and well thought out.
    I agree with the little boy as well. The emperor is naked.

  2. This is a piece that I wish I'd written. I love your analogy. Fables are supposed to teach us a lesson, how many hundreds of years have been spent reading this fable and not learning anything. I wonder if we were to put it on a test for our law makers, would they get it. One of my favorite testing sentiments is that, "The pig doesn't get any fatter, just because we weigh it." Thanks for the heartfelt and well reasoned slice.