E Carolyn Brown Tucker, Ph.D.

Author    Speaker    Consultant

Mimosa Hill Blog

Mimosa Hill Blog

Southern Rural Culture and Student Outcomes: Part 6 of 6: Standardized Tests and Educational Outcomes

Posted on May 24, 2016 at 1:15 AM

“Home culture” is more a part of who we are than a description of where we live. Just as the impact of “place” is far more than the address at which we live; it speaks more to who we are as a bonded group of people. Consider the differences of the long-ago historical territorial, almost warlike, cave-dweller hunters as compared to the isolated, independent, nomadic farmer-gatherers, or to the clustered, more social home-builders who learned to depend on each other for all the supplies they needed.

     Of course, the differences are not quite as pronounced as they once were. However, consider being a dark-skinned student who moves to a white community in the Rural South where the Stars and Bars fly proudly, defiantly, just below the Stars and Stripes on the town-square flag poles. Do you think you would feel the pressure of the “place”?

      Or think about being a fair-skinned, Redneck from the Rural South with a slow drawl like thick molasses who is forced to figure out how to fit in as a recent immigrant to the inner city of Detroit at the same time he is expected to figure out the relevance of calculus or of Islam to his life. Without some recognition and assistance from the teacher in dealing with cultural differences, neither of these two students would be expected to fare well learning new concepts. Issues of culture would trump all else. Parents and educators must learn this lesson first; otherwise, the students have small chances of overcoming the attendant interferences to their learning.

     Recently, the roar of a wave of education reformists has all but drowned out the cry for one-on-one educational plans. This wave comes ashore every few years, sometimes as a “new idea” or “reform,” reportedly for the good of the for the global student stressing a national standards curriculum. Proponents seem to have the benefit of students at heart, but too many are missing the basic lessons that our pedagogy re-affirms repeatedly and with emphasis: The best education comes to the student, meets that student at the student’s individual level in his/her educational progress, and works with the student within the framework of his/her learning style—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile—and embraces his/her intellectual model (musical, lingual, mathematical, artistic, scientific, kinesthetic, performance, etc.), and addresses his/her needs as assessed by CIS (cognitive skills index) or by achievement tests. Every aspect of the individual plan focuses on the individual’s needs and the individual’s strengths.

     If our educational experts are correct, if a student knows s/he performs better when s/he is taught one-on-one, if standard scores go up when students are addressed by IEPs (Individual Educational Plans), how can we endorse a standardized national curriculum? How can we teach each student at his/her level using national standards of performance and a standardized national curriculum that takes nothing individual as significant for teaching? If the curriculum for which all students everywhere in America are held accountable and all teachers are expected to teach the same concepts at the same rate as all other educators, how can we expect our non-standard students to perform well? To progress? To meet expectations?

      If we teach to the standard, or the middle or average, how do we do right by those on the ends of the charts? When, in our salad-bowl culture, no one has the same historical experience, many of us speak different languages, our religions are radically varied, and even the importance of our gender differs, how can we expect a cookie-cutter outcome? More importantly, why would we want that? Isn’t diversity of cultures what we must celebrate in order to have a well-working global community? And isn’t the IEP (the Individual Education Plan) the best model for all students because it teaches all students as individuals one-on-one?


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