Be brave

Living in New Albany is an odd experience for a Louisvillian. I, like so many from the 502, am wedded with a sick dedication to my city. Why Louisville? Because Louisville. With that, I’m proud to say that, recently, I’ve developed some unique relationships with my neighbors in New Albany that have shown me a side of the Sunny Side that makes me kind of happy to live here.

Technically, my side of the neighborhood is the “hood.” The poverty rate is approaching or surpassing 95 percent. Houses are hit and miss. Some are beautiful, some are terribly run down, and then there are houses like mine that are a happy medium. New Albany, especially downtown where I live, is actually a lot like Germantown.

Last week, one of my neighbors posted a video of a project her school, Community Montessori, had produced to protest the issue of increased standardized testing.

This type of testing has gotten particularly out of hand since the introduction of George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy. It has expanded the student-performance testing, which I remember taking only a few times in my school experience, to testing every year. These tests are then paired with assessments that students must take to enter a university and all of the preps that often come with those.

In many cases, students are spending more time preparing for testing than learning the content needed to not only pass those exams but also succeed in a post-secondary education environment.

Schools like Community Montessori, which philosophically believe in the education of the whole child, are falling behind state averages in the areas of language and math, which, while important, do not speak to the learning styles and competencies of the students being tested.

Does this mean schools like Community Montessori are bad schools? Absolutely not. Community Montessori, in particular, holds true to its belief in an education that occurs naturally by helping children develop their strengths while giving them valuable learning experiences in other areas.

So when I saw the video, called “Be Brave for Education,” and read about the impetus behind the video and subsequently the movement for parents, students, educators and legislators to be bold in putting an end to the plethora of standardized tests, I was, as an educator, in full support and moved.

For years, it has been widely discussed that standardized testing functions only when students have had similar experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. If a student has not eaten breakfast or has grown up in an environment that does not include the creature comforts of a middle-class-or-above lifestyle, this puts them at an immediate disadvantage to understanding some of the “values” and scenarios presented in this type of testing. This testing is, in a nutshell, only fair to a stereotypically non-ethnic child from a middle- to upper-middle class (or beyond) upbringing.

To be fair, Be Brave for Education doesn’t believe that testing has no place in education. They believe the frequency of standardized testing has taken valuable educational experiences away from students and puts teachers in a position to do very little teaching. Because of this, they felt the need to stand up and be heard.

The video shows the students, parents and teachers of Community Montessori wearing Be Brave for Education shirts while doing sign language to the Sara Bareilles song “Brave.” This is not limited to one group of students but the entire student body and staff who learned the sign language to speak out about this serious education issue.

They aren’t the first to say something. The fight against the increased level of testing has been a groundswell recently. In the last year, the noise about this issue grew louder with major news outlets taking on the topic and educators getting fed up with standards and assessments that do not work and interfere with valuable teaching time.

As an English professor, I would hope that the time spent on educating students about language would be creating students with increased levels of skill in this area. Unfortunately, I’m seeing the direct opposite. Students are learning to take tests but are not getting the practical application experience of using language. For me, this would seem to render their “assessments” useless. Some students can take a test, some students can write a sentence. They are not always the same people.

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