Since you have heavily invested your foundation’s money in policy initiatives promoting high stakes testing and standardized education, I have a question for you.
What is your conception of the human mind?
This question is important because education is not just about what we are putting into the mind; it is also about how it is done. What is happening to the brain while we are involved in the learning process is just as important as the content we are putting into it.
Most teachers will tell you, each and every one of their student’s minds is unique, vibrant and multi-faceted.
You see Mr. Gates, when I see forms of educational experience dictated upon educators that emphasize a learner’s role as a passive recipient of knowledge, while disregarding their psycho-emotional differences or providing them with a voice in the design of their learning experiences, I become concerned.
Unlike a computer’s operational system, teachers have discovered that children’s minds while under their charge are always dynamic and never in hibernation mode. It is difficult to plug standardized information into the minds of children because their biological considerations are complex, varied and unique.
The production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters necessary for long term memory formation are dependent upon multi-sensory and aesthetic experience.
The opposite of aesthetic is anesthetic.
You do realize that significant numbers of American educators have reduced learning opportunities related to multi-disciplinary learning experience and are now pressured to fragment learning outside learner’s interests and strengths and employ inordinate amounts of test prep? Art, music, p.e. and creative forms of science education are disappearing in American classrooms. I have read the High School Survey of Student Engagement, and this survey does not paint a pretty picture of children’s educational experience since high stakes standardized testing was imposed upon American Schools in 2003.
Who speaks for American children?
From my perspective, standardized testing is a prescription for radical behaviorism and I deem that as developmentally inappropriate for significant numbers of children whose participation in school at the primary and secondary level is compulsory. The toxic stress induced upon unsuspecting learners by high stakes standardized test based learning experience exacerbates adverse childhood experiences in the formative minds of many children. Mandated high stakes testing and the narrowing of the curricula necessary to prepare students for high stakes tests is totally insufficient to prepare American children for participation in a democratic society and will negate significant numbers of learners with opportunity to determine their own lives. Preparing the next generation of Americans to solve the wicked problems they will inherit will require more than standardized test taking skills.
Teachers have a very important job to do. They prepare the next generation to move civilization forward. I see your advocacy for standardized testing as an impediment to authentic learning experience and to teachers’ critical job of developing the unique talents, gifts and capacities of future generations of American Citizens.
We cannot afford future failures of imagination.