The tyranny of standardized tests

 

My wife and I taught school on the Venetie Indian Reservation in Alaska for eight years ("Cutting Class," HCN, 10/28/13). Arctic Village and Venetie are several hundred miles from the nearest road above the Arctic Circle. Our Athabaskan students were enthusiastic learners. The school provided a place to learn all the typical school subjects like math, reading and science, and gave the students a wider view of the world outside their village. However, that is only part of the picture. The school also provided opportunities for elders to reinforce traditional values related to the traditional Athabaskan culture. Students learned how to make traditional clothing, how to make and set a fish trap, and numerous other skills that cannot be measured by a standardized test designed by an urban-centric culture. It should not be a surprise to anyone that students raised in a rural village with totally different cultural values and expectations cannot compete on a standardized test that was designed for students raised in urban America. The data from such a culturally irrelevant test are flawed from the start.

The village school has become the focal point of isolated Alaskan communities. People flock to the schools for basketball games, dances, town meetings and celebrations. If standardized test scores are the only measure used to denote the value of village schools, then the bureaucracy is missing most of the point of education. The idea that students in rural communities would learn more from online classes is ludicrous. Without the guidance and direction of a dedicated teacher, most of the students would never get online, and ignorance would prevail. In many cases, the school may be the only source of reliable electricity to run the computers for such classes. The standardized test is a form of racism, even if that is not the intent. How would urban kids do on a standardized test written by rural Native people? Would it be fair to expect urban kids to compete with rural kids on such a test? Many things that can be measured have no value and many things of value cannot be measured. Closing village schools is just one more step towards the marginalization of Alaskan Native people.

Chris Scranton
Madras, Oregon

High Country News Classifieds
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER PLANNING WITH WRA'S HEALTHY RIVERS PROGRAM
    Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • NON-PROFIT OPERATIONS MANAGER
    One of the most renowned community-based collaboratives in the country seeks full-time Operations Manager to oversee administrative, financial, fund development, and board development duties. BS/BA...
  • RUSTIC HORSE PROPERTY
    in NM. 23 acres, off the grid, rustic cabin, organic gardens, fruit trees, fenced, call 505-204-8432 evenings.
  • DIRECTOR OF VISITOR SERVICES & BOOKSTORE OPERATIONS
    The San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Bookstore Operations to lead our visitor information program &...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Board of Diablo Trust is seeking applications for full-time Program Manager with duties of overseeing the coordination and administration of the Diablo Trusts ongoing...
  • SOLAR POWERED HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
    1800 sf home on 4.12 acres surrounded by Natl Forest and recreational opportunities in a beautiful area (Happy Valley) between Torrey and Boulder. [email protected], www.bouldermoutainreality/properties/grover/off-the-grid-in-happy-valley,...
  • SECLUDED TWO-STORY CUSTOM LOG HOME
    in 16-acre pinion pine forest with year-round stream, mountain views, wildlife. Garage, root cellar, wood shop, one-room cabin, RV shed, pasture, garden. [email protected]
  • BEAUTIFUL, CUSTOM RASTRA BLOCK ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME
    Mature, six-acre Ponderosa forest, open pasture. Spectacular Sangre de Cristo mountain & valley views. Well maintained, paved county road, easy drive to world-class skiing &...
  • OJO CALIENTE RIVERSIDE SECLUSION
    Private, 2bd/2bath green home on 2 acres on the Ojo Caliente River between the confluence of the Chama & Rio Grande Rivers. Close to hiking,...
  • CLASSIC NEW MEXICO MOUNTAIN VIEWS
    of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. 3.19 acre lot to build on to escape the crush of city/town life. Short distance to trails, skiing, fishing,...
  • 40 ACRE ORGANIC FARM
    potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • ASSOCIATE OF PROGRAMS
    The Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...