From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 7 - 10/12/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

WyCAS? So What?

My first response upon learning that Pinedale schools were ranked fifth in the state according to these WyCAS scores and Big Piney's were 28th was: Yeah? So? How many thousands of things does this not tell us? It tells us nothing of dedicated teachers going to work every day in a profession that can be very wearing on the nerves even on a good day. Good teaching requires the whole being.

I do not understand the way some folks seem so intent on manufacturing a false sense of accountability based on where our and other school districts are ranked on these WyCAS results. Comparing some of these school districts to each other seems more than trying to compare apples and oranges. It's like comparing apples with eggs. Education, like life, is not a football game with a score deciding an outcome despite what you might hear from politicians and generals and others who never seem to weary of using that metaphor.

Success in life is not a matter of scoring points and then having some expert throw entire school districts filled with living, breathing, learning individual children and teachers and administrators into some superficial hierarchy based on a performance on some test. I'm sorry, but I do not think things are that simple. Or should I say not that simple-minded?

What such simple-mindedness will lead to inevitably, as surely as a river to the sea, is an alteration in teaching so that no longer is education the goal but rather the pursuit of higher test scores becomes the sought after holy grail. This will narrow down the subject matter to whatever these WyCAS test designers think important. Maybe an education is more than that. Children are not a standardized product. Tests are. We need to be reminded periodically that the great Einstein himself did not do so well on his schoolboy math tests yet did manage a modest success in life.

Even the most well-intentioned teacher will be tempted now to teach to this WyCAS test, especially if he or she knows a paycheck and perhaps a career hangs in the balance. Let's get those test scores up, by golly, and get those dang legislators and newspaper editors off our backs. A less than scrupulous teacher might just start providing the test answers to students.

Teachers impart a body of knowledge while also having to maintain an easily shattered discipline of quietude, instill a sense of cooperation and fairplay, and stay ready to do it and more the next day. All this really with having the students as a captive audience for just a few hours of the day. Lord knows how much of that daily dose of learning is siphoned off and dissipated away by activities, or the lack thereof, after school. Yet it is hard to imagine any occupation more hag-ridden by nervous Nellies, doubting Thomases, and legislative loons than is teaching.

Maybe what we need, as long as we're on this accountability shtick, is some sort of accountability test for parents. How many take time away from their serious pursuits of beer drinking and TV watching to try and create an atmosphere of continuing education in the home? How many read aloud with their children and go over homework together and generally sustain a love of the mind that is probably at least as important as what takes place in the schoolroom each day?

And what's with this continual harping about how expensive it is to run our schools? These are children and their education we're discussing. They are not industrial widgets being churned out where you try to slash the cost of production to a threadbare minimum. You can't ship the job overseas and hire a bunch of pubescent Vietnamese to do it for 25 cents a day.

As a former state representative from Sublette County was so fond of saying: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

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