In Tina's Studio Today

As teachers Laura, we have had many discussions about school reform.  Much of my work lately (the Wish series and this new work posted here) has been centered around my experiences as a teacher in the public schools and how I have seen reform change over the last 15 years in this profession.  I believe that the emphasis of standardized testing (or any high stakes testing) is the absolute wrong path for educating our future generation.  As I have said on my Facebook page (and have had an interesting conversation started there) “I am extremely disappointed that Obama (who I voted for!) is pushing for more standardized testing as measures of ‘success’ in the classroom….everyone needs to pay attention to this as it will affect ALL of us.  There are many types of intelligence and many ways a person can demonstrate competence and knowledge.  Standardized tests can not and do not evaluate higher thinking skills needed in the 21st century”.   Here are a few links to what is being said in the news about this issue.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/education/17educ.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2&emc=eta1

and comments from people actually in the field of education and know what they are talking about

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/opinion/l24educ.html?adxnnl=1&emc=eta1&adxnnlx=1251454010-3+NVYWrmHcqHrKPLnCOjkg

Often I feel that I have no voice as an educator to the politics that affect what happens in the classroom, so my hope is that through the arts I might have a louder voice to a wider audience.

Why do I care so deeply about this issue?  Primarily I have two children about to enter into this culture of quantifying learning through numbers (they are not numbers-they are unique, dynamic, and curious).  I am also one who tested terribly, but that never meant I was not knowledgeable, creative, and competent.  If more of my education was based on high stakes testing I do not know if I would have believed (having the tests telling me I am not intelligent) I could have accomplished a master’s degree much less thinking deeply through the arts.

Clearly this is an issue I have more thoughts on, but for now I just wanted to share the new work I have created (and will be for sale tonight only at the WALK gallery/concert, 150 Meeting Street,Charleston SC 6:30-until the concert if over).  I am sure Laura that you have thoughts about how the arts can produce conversations about the issues that we are passionate about.  What if we looked at all artwork in that way? What if we valued artists as the philosophers, journalists, and storytellers of our time?  Perhaps the public would support our work not only with their engagement in ideas, but with their pocketbooks so we may continue the good work.

Tina

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4 thoughts on “In Tina's Studio Today

  1. Hey T~
    I wanted to thank you for posting those articles as I am presently not watching the news and it was nice to hear what people are talking about. As you know I go through my phases of watching and not watching the news. I want to be informed, yet feel so often the news focuses on the negative aspects of our culture and rarely the positive, uplifting happenings we all know are going on. Why is our culture so fixated on the negative? Much like fostering relationships it is a choice to focus and recognize the positive aspects in life, even when things don’t go your way. I believe setting a positive intention will ultimately produce a positive outcome. It may not be in the timeframe we wish for, but it will happen.

    I too never tested well and wonder now how much of an impact this made on my social skills and self-esteem as a young woman. My memories of school were always of never feeling comfortable having my own thoughts, for fear of them being the “wrong.” When faced with state testing I remember immediately freezing as I faced those endless multiple choice questions with their similar answers meant to trick you. This did nothing to make me feel knowledgeable. It only made me want to get the test over with so I could get rid of the anxious butterflies twirling around in my stomach. I wonder how many children today are experiencing this same anxiety. Knowing we both don’t believe in our hearts this kind of testing is the best way to measure knowledge, maybe we should let our conversation lead us to thoughts of what might work, as opposed to what isn’t. Why aren’t people thinking out of the box right now? Maybe we will never come to any conclusions, but it would be interesting to see where this line of inquiry, along with an open dialog from our readers may lead us. Let me know what your thoughts are. xoLaura

  2. I am glad to read your response here. Yes, we had similar experiences with standardized tests. And yes, I think this is the norm for most people. I also want to focus on the positive and I do believe that is what teachers are doing despite the political b.s. that interrupts their genuine teaching. I do also strongly believe that everyone needs to be acutely aware of the legislation that is being proposed on school reform. It is easy to ignore it and go about our business (and is entirely possible because I have done this too), but that disengagement has led us to this path of high-stakes standardized tests. To focus on the positive I believe that the federal government needs to get out of education. Education should be lead by educators. How to shift the paradigm of power behind politics of education, is something I can not answer. One thing I can do is to keep talking about it, making art about it, staying in the profession (because I have my doubts right now), and continue the conversation among friends and colleagues. Our voice is all we have… and that has the potential to be pretty big. If our voices are heard about our collaboration, I believe we will be touching on a new model for learning and teaching. After all, peer-learning is what we have been doing these last three years as we have discussed books, theory, art, education, relationships, and so much more. You know I could go on for a while on this topic, so I will end this for now. I am curious if anyone reading this has thoughts?

  3. Hi Ladies~
    I was excited to read both of your thoughts on this subject as it is an issue that I am passionate about too. Like you both, I am an educator who believes in the individuality of each child. And like you, Tina, I have two small children who are going to grow up and enter this atmosphere of testing. Unfortunately, we as a society seem to have a need to quantify everything. It is amazing to me that more people do not see that this is the “easy way out”. It is far more challenging to look at the nuances and little details of any subject, whether it a political issue or a student. It also amazes me that in this era filled with people complaining on how our students are falling behind compared to those in other nations (again, not really, just based on test scores), they don’t see that what has made our nation great are the individuals who have dared to think outside the boxes and conquer new ideas and thoughts. If we do not foster this ability in our children THAT is what will make our country fall behind in the years to come.
    It is my belief that more educators, like ourselves, need to make our voices heard. When originally creating the “No Child Left Behind” legislation, no educators were consulted. We have politicians deciding what’s best for our students, not educators. I truly believe that knowledge=power and so many people I talk to outside of the field simply don’t understand the downfalls of all the current high stakes testing that’s taking place. Like you, Tina, I enthusiastically voted for (and volunteered for!) Obama, but I am disappointed in his continuation of testing policies. So my question to you both is how can we get our voices heard more? How can we educated the general public & parents about why high stakes testing in dangerous? About how there are other ways to assess student learning than paper & pencil testing? About the importance of teaching our students to think outside the box and be innovative?

  4. Liz, we love your thoughtful comment and have been thinking a lot about it. Expect us to revisit it soon! Thank you for posting in such a thoughtful way.

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