‘Drill and Kill’ Testing Scrutinized at 2013 Education Nation Summit

The fourth annual Education Nation Summit is underway in New York, and one of the stars of the show is NEA member and high school teacher Jesse Hagopian. The theme for this year’s summit is “What it Takes” for the nation to ensure students are successfully prepared for college, career and beyond, and Hagopian emphatically argued that what it takes is an end to “drill and kill” testing.

“The test and punish model hasn’t worked,” he said during the summit’s Teacher Town hall on Sunday, October 6. He reminded the audience that the most elite private schools have boycotted testing because they recognize it’s not effective and they want “real learning for kids.” Much of the testing continues in our public schools, he said, because of the huge profits test companies are making.

Jesse Hagopian teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School in Seattle, the site of the boycott of the MAP standardized test known as “Scrap the Map.” He was invited by NBC News to speak about his experience with the boycott and his views on standardized tests at the Teacher Town Hall, which was broadcast from The New York Public Library’s  Stephen A. Schwarzman building in midtown Manhattan.

“It is clear that the power of the testing boycott could not be denied, as it has become a source of inspiration for a growing national movement to reclaim public education from those who seek to reduce the intellectual process of teaching and learning to single number–and then use that score to close schools, fire teachers, or stop students from graduating,” Hagopian, who was named “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” By Academy of Education Arts and Sciences, posted on his blog.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams hosted the Teacher Town Hall, and saying that the goal “is to create a conversation by, for, and about teachers.”

The conversation was lively and passionate as educators shared ideas about helping our kids succeed. Ideas about developing the whole child with arts and music and addressing the major impact poverty has on a child’s education lit up the twittersphere as advocates for education across the country live tweeted from the event.

Following the Teacher Town Hall, NBC News hosted an afternoon “Common Core Institute,” a series of workshops that provided useful information and expert guidance on the newly adopted Common Core State Standards and  related shifts in classroom instruction. The workshops were hosted by several NEA members, including Colorado math teacher Tiffany Utoft and Maryland math teacher Kisha Davis Caldwell.

“I was honored to teach a Common Core-aligned mathematics lesson focusing on fractions. The teachers were every excited,” Caldwell says.

The workshops were developed in collaboration with the National Education Association as well as America Achieves, American Federation of Teachers, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Student Achievement Partners and the Teaching Channel.

The workshops, which feature lesson presentations and analysis by veteran teachers, as well as helpful resources and tools, will be available for free on the TeachingChannel.org later this month.

The Education Nation Summit continues today and tomorrow, with a series of workshops and panel discussions on all facets of education, with everything from safe schools and technology to early education and global competition. On October 7, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will participate in a panel discussion entitled “What it Takes: Well Trained Teachers,” which will take a hard look at traditional schools of education and offer solutions for strengthening the pipeline into the teaching profession.

“It’s an honor to be here to talk about teaching, and to be here talking about Common Core State Standards,” said Van Roekel. “Most importantly, it’s time to honor and respect those in the classroom and what you do.”

To join the conversation with other educators, visit NEA’s Great Public Schools network and share your ideas for improving the practice and profession.

Storify: Student and Educator Voices at Education Nation 2013