Thank you for tuning into our Growth Over Grades Podcast where we talk about education ideas and topics that matter most to our Spaces Educator Community. Episode three involves a conversation with veteran educator and consultant, Todd Scholl. Todd shared that he comes from a family of educators as well as spending 27 years in education himself. He’s been a classroom teacher, worked on a state program to retain educators, and currently is Lead Learner for the Center for Educator Wellness & Learning (CEWL). Todd is an extremely vocal leader and advocate for school and teacher wellness. His messages keep the “whole person” in mind, whether that’s students or teachers.
Todd recently shared this quote on his social media, and that's why I knew he needed to be a guest on our podcast.
“ Standardized testing is a waste of taxpayer money. It is no longer needed. More authentic and useful assessments of student performance can be done by individual teachers and schools. This would save money and dramatically improve school culture.”
Assessment Should Embrace Students & Teachers Humanity
When I asked Todd about what healthy assessment looks like, he started with, “Anything that aligns naturally with a human being's sense of curiosity….” He shared that assessment should not be rigid. He also compared healthy assessment to a doctor’s diagnosis, where we are looking for areas of health and areas that require help. When we think of it like that, we are looking at individuals and how we as educators can best teach/serve them. It takes away that sense of punishment that oftentimes follows standardized testing.
Healthy assessment looks different than our regular paper and pencil multiple-choice tests. We constantly do formative assessments to know if our students are grasping learning objectives. But a mixture of anecdotal, written, student-teacher meetings, and even sharing work with the world and community at large are all parts of healthy assessment. Does this sound personalized? It should.
Todd Scholl shares a story about how his students made a YouTube video presentation that inspired a school district in Turkey! Sharing artifacts like that demonstrates real learning while also sending a message to students that they are already contributing to society in positive ways. That is the kind of message so many of us want to leave with our students.
Does High-Stakes Testing Help Learners?
We also discussed how this one-size-fits-all view is harmful to students and teachers, even dehumanizing them. Scholl shared that when a doctor shares a diagnosis of high cholesterol with their patient, the doctor is not blamed. However, standardized testing, used as a way to measure a student’s growth, is also being used to find fault with teachers. He stressed that the teacher is actually the most important variable in helping students grow, so punishing them is not just dehumanizing but encouraging good teachers to leave the profession.
Here is a 20-year-old article about how standardized testing is harmful to students. Its title says it all: The Dangerous Consequences of High-Stakes Testing, FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Twenty years ago, experts knew that high-stakes testing was harmful to students...yet it is still a dominating practice.
Advocating for Educators
If you are teaching and you feel like the system is working against all you know about child development and the learning process, you are not alone. But speaking out can initiate punitive actions against teachers. Scholl shares that even so, we must still advocate for change, but not individually. He shares that change will only really happen on a large scale when we collectively demand it.
Advocating for educators and demanding better assessment practices is on all of us as educators, parents, and community members. Creating a system that fosters curiosity and allows students to demonstrate their learning is assessment that makes lives better.
All the Extras
Follow Todd Scholl at facebook.com/toddandrewscholl
Todd Scholl's article The Thing NFL Kickers & Standardized Testing Have in Common.