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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

At Risk of Losing Our Creativity

By Peter DeWitt — April 17, 2012 2 min read
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Although we have the anchor of high stakes testing chained to our ankles we still need to find ways to move forward. Our students are counting on us.

High stakes testing begins today in our school. School climates change when the tests arrive. As much as we try to maintain normalcy, students and teachers are nervous about the next two weeks. These days, too much is riding on the test. How do we move forward with a test that is being used in an unproductive way?

We are at a crucial point in education where great value has been put on data and high stakes testing, which will potentially kill creativity in the classroom. How can something like high stakes testing, that only lasts a few days in school, become the catalyst for teachers to stop being creative? It’s simple, they’re scared of the consequences of students not doing well.

It’s not the matter of days that the test will take, but the weight of the test that matters. With recent issues like the posting of “failing” teachers in the New York Post and states that count high stakes testing scores as much as 50% of a teacher’s evaluation, it’s not a surprise to hear that educators are scared of the outcomes, even if they teach in schools where students historically have done well.

Going Out of Our Minds
As we enter these days of extreme high stakes testing, we need to make sure those things that truly matter do not get lost. This is less about me sharing an expertise, and more about me pleading for educators to maintain the core of what they believe in where education is concerned. Educators need to continue their focus on bringing creativity to the classroom.

On Twitter, I read comments, blogs and articles from teachers who say that they have unsupportive administrators and are concerned about the weight of high stakes testing on their evaluations. This lack of trust between teachers and administrators will only exacerbate the issue. Those situations that lack trust will only add to the panic that is going on in schools across the country.

In the World is Flat by Thomas Friedman he said, “Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait.” In the book Out of Our Minds by Sir Ken Robinson, he writes, “Rebuilding the communities that have been left bereft by the recession will depend on imagination, creativity and innovation.

High stakes testing is a part of our lives whether we like it or not and to Friedman’s point, if we wait for it to leave before we begin to be creative, we (and our students) will be waiting a long time. As parents and educators push to Opt-Out we still have to push forward and we need to maintain a balance between acknowledging the high stakes pressures and finding ways to bring creativity into the classroom despite those same pressures.

Organizations that stand still are likely to be swept aside, and corporate history is littered with wreckage of companies, and whole industries, that have been resistant to change."(p. 12) Although we have the anchor of high stakes testing chained to our ankles, and must continue to speak out about it, we still need to find ways to move forward. Our students are counting on us.

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Robinson, Sir Ken. (2011) Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. Capstone Publishing. United Kingdom.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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