Garfield teacher Jesse Hagopian appeared on MSNBC’s “Education Nation” during a Teacher Town Hall. This is a clip from his appearance where he responds to a question from Brian Williams: “You’re not against testing are you?”
Jesse H.: Well, teachers invented testing, so I’m not against testing, I’m not against assessment. But what I am against is the inundation of our classrooms with standardized testing. (Applause) It’s gotten completely out of hand. One parent in Chicago, when I went to speak there, told me their Kindergartener takes 14 tests a year. And this allows for no time for teaching. And I’m glad you raised Finland, because in Finland, one of the highest-ranked school systems in the world, they only have one standardized test.
And let me just say that I think we need to reframe what the purpose of education is, because I think it’s not just about career-ready and college-ready, I think it’s also about solving real-life problems that we have in our world. We have endless wars, economic stagnation, and we have mass incarceration, and climate change is threatening the future of humanity. And none of those problems can be solved by bubbling a, b, c, or d. (Applause)
I think we need to teach critical thinking and collaboration. I think we need to teach imagination and civic courage in our classrooms. And these tests are too small, too puny, to measure all of the skills my kids have. And I would suggest that we move to a system like Finland where we do performance-based assessments like when you get your Ph.D. (Applause) They don’t have you fill in bubbles at the Ph.D. level because they want you to be able to think and you’ve got to defend your evidence in front of a panel of experts. And I say let’s develop that in every grade level, in every subject, where you actually have to do research over time, defend a thesis, and actually explain yourself, right? A much better form of assessment in my opinion.