Another of the 3 winners in our essay contest, Amy Mullins presented this essay at the rally on Tuesday night.
You Cannot Standardize the Human Spirit
by Amy Mullins
As a parent, a former educator, and a citizen of Utah, I am unequivocally in favor of excellence and rigor in Utah’s public school system. Utah has a long history of providing high-quality education for our children. I applaud efforts to continue and improve upon that tradition. But those efforts need to be concentrated at the local level and focused on the individual needs of children. Common Core, rebranded here as Utah Core, with its accompanying testing, its longitudinal data tracking, and its one-size-fits-all approach, misses the mark.
We are turning over our education system to committees and think tanks, publishing houses, and assessment companies. Decisions about our students are being made in boardrooms instead of classrooms. We are missing out on one of our greatest resources when we take teaching out of the hands of our teachers. We are told teachers can select their own curriculum, but they have no control over the content of the assessments for which they are accountable. Do we judge a physician on the outcome of a single surgery? Or a lawyer on the verdict of a single case? Or our legislators on the passage of a single bill? Of course not! That is ridiculous! Yet our schools and teachers will be evaluated on the outcome of a single test.
As if demoralizing our teachers isn’t enough, this testing culture serves
is dehumanizing our children and stripping them of their individuality. We expect them to be automatons that think and learn alike. When we decree that all children of the same age must acquire the same skill set at the same time in the same manner, we lose sight of the unique child. We ignore the child with special needs who requires extra time and accommodations. We sacrifice the bright child who is ready to move farther and faster than the prescribed standards dictate. When we let a computer adaptive test tell us if children have sufficiently met those standards, we are giving the power to the test makers at the expense of the test takers.
We cannot allow our children to be reduced to a score or a composite of data points. No standardized test can measure the curiosity, creativity, passion, ingenuity, or potential of the human spirit. No data from a computer can predict the intellect of an Einstein, the vision of a Walt Disney, the innovation of a Thomas Edison, or the passion of a Mozart. No amount of testing, measuring, or tracking of my child is going to determine what he will achieve.
I am for excellence in education. But I do not believe it will be found in assessments or computer data banks. Common Core is not the answer. True excellence is best accomplished in the hands of skilled teachers who are dedicated to their students, in the minds of local leaders who know the needs of their districts, schools, and communities, in the hearts of parents who want the very best for their children, and in the souls of those unique, wonderful children who are the future of Utah.