Diffendoofer Ethics and Common Core Assessments

Seuss/Prelutsky’s Vision of Schooling: Teach Creatively, Teach Creativity, Watch the Tests Take Care of Themselves

Anyone who talks about implementing the Common Core State Standards cannot be serious about the CCSS’s stated objectives if they are not simultaneously transforming the ways we learn about students, not just with the types (and media) of standardized assessments (PARCC and SBAC, that’s at you), but with different, ongoing, and authentic ways of assessing that help us to teach them better, as Linda Darling-Hammond describes in that link.  (And, as well, not serious unless they resource teacher professionals to do that work.)

Much of my work as a teacher-coach is shaped by the test-makers, and I don’t love that but it’s not a hill I will die on.  But whatever chance I get, I try to emphasize the principle I learned from Jack Prelutsky’s completion of Dr. Seuss’s planned, unfinished Hooray for Diffendoofer Day.  At Diffendoofer School, Miss Twining teaches “tying knots in neckerchiefs and noodles” and “Miss Vining teaches all the ways a pigeon may be peppered,” sparking and spurring creativity with all the eccentric and adventurous activity, until the fretting principal announces, “All schools for miles and miles around must take a special test, to see who’s learning such and such–to see which school’s the best.  If our small school does not do well, then it will be torn down, and you will have to go to school in dreary Flobbertown.”  The children are in shock, until they start the test and find, “‘Yahoo!’ we yelled. ‘Yahoo!’ For it was filled with all the things that we all knew we knew.  There were questions about noodles, about poodles, frogs, and yelling… there were questions about other things we’d never seen or heard, and yet we somehow answered them, enjoying every word.”  Diffendoofers teach with passion, experimentation, and the rigor of real-life engagement, and find the exams to be incidental.

It’s Dr. Seuss day or something, which we can celebrate by reading to our kids and encouraging reading.  But we should also demand that equity means much more than standardized thinking and test-driven instruction.  Let’s teach critique, let’s teach depth, but let’s teach it not because a computer will demand it of children in May, but because they world will thrive, because there are problems to solve and suffering to alleviate and stories to be told.


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