Guest commentary: Let’s put our lawmakers to the test
March 17, 2014
This column is not to complain about the fact that on this particular Wednesday my students have sat through nearly six hours of standardized testing this week and they have another four (plus) to go. Or to whine that by the end of the week, I will have given up more than 10 hours of teaching directly to testing and basically four full school days as we plan alternate activities around student brain fry.
Neither is this column to belabor that point that we are required to go through this every year because of the decisions made by politicians who are not, themselves, teachers. Instead, I would like to offer a humble suggestion that may ease the current frustrations over standardized testing in our beautiful state.
Here's the problem as I see it: Politicians in Denver have voted for all of the students in public school systems throughout Colorado to take this test every year from second to 11th grade. They tell us that it is crucial to the success of our kids in the future to be able to measure their progress and determine whether they are getting what they need from the schools. And then, they wave around binders full of facts and figures to back this up.
So we sit down every March with our No. 2 pencils and git 'er dun.
But if those same politicians were in my eighth-grade English class last quarter, they would know that their argument was missing something. They would understand that in order to be truly convincing, one needs to employ not two but three persuasive appeals: pathos, logos and ethos. And they would have heard me say again and again that pathos appeals to emotion and the abstract ideas of right and wrong; logos appeals by using facts, figures and logic to persuade the audience; and ethos proves that the speaker is a reliable source for this information, preferably through firsthand experience.
So the problem is that our politicians are only using two out of the three persuasive techniques. Which would mean they would only have been "partially proficient" in my class.
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And I want to fix that. I want to help. It's not too hard, really. In order to gain ethos in this argument about standardized testing, and quiet all the naysayers, all they have to do is take the test.
I'll be happy to proctor it. They just need to set aside at least five days of their valuable time together to take three one-hour tests in reading, writing and math each. They also need to be sure to put aside enough to pay the testing company and the extra staff I may need to hire in order to accommodate various learning disabilities and sort through the test booklets. Then they need a No. 2 pencil and a silent-reading book because no electronics are allowed if they finish early.
And just to be sure that we all trust their ethos experience beyond any shadow of a doubt, we'll have to make sure to publish their results and use them to evaluate what they'll be allowed to do next year. It is an election year, after all.
So what do you say, Colorado? Wouldn't that make sense? Finally, our politicians would have all the persuasive clout they need to prove themselves right.
If you agree with me and want to see our legislators take the (I'll be gentle) eighth-grade Transitional Colorado Assessment Program in 2014, log on and join the Facebook page "TCAP: Teachers and Communities for Assessing Politicians." Or you can write to your representative with the same request.
Lindsay DeFrates teaches English at Carbondale Middle School and thinks her students are pretty awesome.
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