Struggles Administrators and Teachers Face

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Abstract

The accountability standards that are currently governing No Child Left Behind legislation cause educators to re-evaluate their perception of high-stakes testing. Teachers and administrators are being placed in critical positions that present a challenge to the professional and ethical practices that promote quality student achievement. The days of teachers collaborating to identify and share best practices that support quality teaching are vastly fading away. The art of teaching is being lost as a result of governmental standards that force teachers to teach to test. However, some fail to realize that rigorous lesson planning, authentic student engagement, and relevant hands-on learning that relates to real-life experiences supports student mastery through quality teaching practices regardless of the data. Administrators and teachers are under a tremendous amount of pressure to meet, maintain, and exceed the state accountability standards to produce results rather than to produce student mastery. Various issues hinder academic progress as measured by high-stakes assessments; therefore, educators face a tremendous struggle to meet district and state level expectations that supports student achievement. As legislators move forward in the process of making changes and amendments that govern school policies affecting educational accountability standards, recommendations are needed to support the fundamental art of teaching versus teaching to test or else our entire educational system will be lost.

INTRODUCTION

Teachers are expected to produce students who demonstrated proficient learning as measured by data on a national standard. We are finding ourselves in situations that allude to the fact that educational systems are changing what teaching and learning look like in the classroom because teachers are increasingly finding themselves tempted to "teach to the test". School accreditation levels, political funding challenges, societal expectations, and job security place many educators in a position to re-examine how to get students to perform effectively on the state assessments. Teachers are finding themselves driven to teach students to find the right answer as opposed to learning the right process to develop individual thinking. This type of teaching and learning environment poses many situations of standard learning, but inhibits challenging opportunities that engage students in critical-thinking and authentic learning. So, teachers and educators alike are still facing the following: Is testing more important than learning? Do test scores determine how much a student truly understands? Should test results determine the effectiveness of a school? Should test results determine quality teaching? These are some of the many questions that educators face as they struggle to answer the following question to meet and exceed the standard of expectations: Do test scores matter? The purpose of this research shall be to argue the fact that students learn beyond the results of what test scores indicate, to examine why teaching is the art of learning, and to tell how students and teachers have experienced enormous challenges in an effort to accomplish academic performance expectations.

NCLB legislation indicates that student performance gains are restricted to the evidence of achievement gains in data over a period of time. Standardized testing remains a contentious issue in education today, and many argue that it weakens creativity (Longo, 2010). Some may argue that students across this country are increasing their individual non-tested learning abilities based on quality teaching practices every day; however, data doesn't reflect that in many instances. The misconception grows that students and schools are failing. Many African American students experience academic success despite the drawbacks associated with taking tests. Students often perform well on practice level activities in the classroom, but fail to demonstrate that same mastery on assessments due to anxiety, fear of failure, and high-level expectations from teachers and other educators on a local and district level. Students realize the amount of pressure that lies on the fact that they must deliver positive results on state assessments. Boys and girls are continuing to offer focused attention and authentic participation in classrooms across this country where they demonstrate mastery of learning orchestrated by highly-trained educators who have invested time, effort, and energy into objectives and curriculum based activities that prepare students for life-skills beyond the assessment instrument. State assessments fail to demonstrate whether a student is fully capable of demonstrating successful skills that extend beyond the realm of pencils and scantrons.

Purpose of the Study

In April 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law, No Child Left Behind. The purpose of this law according to then U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige was to: 1) give states more flexibility on government spending for education, 2) require states to set specific student achievement standards, 3) hold students, teachers, and other educators accountable for student achievement, and 4) provide a variety of opportunities to parents to become aware of their child and school's academic performance and educational possibilities (NCLB, 2002). Furthermore, NCLB's goal was to close the minority-majority achievement gap that was ultimately reflecting an increase in schools across the nation falling far below the expectation of proficient performance in reading and math. Unfortunately, this legislation is failing our students, teachers, parents, and society. Our schools have become generated factories that employ assembly lines of assessment workers. Everything in our schools and educational systems is about tests. Somehow we have geared off course and have redirected our focus off of student learning. The learning environment within our classrooms has become a culture of testing. The enormous pressures that are placed on teachers and administrators as a result of high-stakes testing requirements have caused the art of teaching and the enjoyment of learning to diminish rapidly. Ultimately, students have been left behind.

The purpose of this research is to examine various arguments of how high-stakes testing has established raised test scores, but hinders long-term student achievement through various teaching and learning experiences. This research includes various perspectives of how the art of quality teaching instruction has been lost due to some of the tremendous pressures associated with high-stakes testing standards. This research will also include suggestions of alternative ways to assess quality learning without sacrificing quality teaching.

Statement of the Problem

The problem posed in this research is to examine the concern that the "art of teaching" is being lost due to the increased pressures of high-stakes assessments to support student achievement.

Significance of the Study

It is clear that one of the main objectives of NCLB is to assertively increase student achievement performance ranking to a level of competitive standards on a global scale. However, if assessment scores are raised for fluctuating periods of time while students are becoming lost in functional capacities of society, it is at this point that high-stakes testing has succeeded with school performance rankings, but failed students as life-long learners and productive contributors of society.

No Child Left Behind legislation had many intentions to increase the level of student achievement in school districts throughout this country. Some of these intentions included the ability to support early childhood education efforts to ensure that four-year old learners were prepared for successful transition into formal educational settings. This legislation required that schools keep parents informed about their child's academic performance throughout the school year, especially if the child's performance fell below proficient standards. School agencies were required to begin specific performance monitoring of students' academic achievements in grades 3 through 8. Parents, through this legislation began to receive liberties that enabled them to make decisions regarding their child's academic support as it related to tutorial, intervention, and after school programs. Parents began to even have options of choosing to transfer their child to a "better" school if their current school's academic performance was failing their child. School districts were also mandated to post their school's academic performance ranking on a report card for the public annually. Schools across this nation are successfully following through with these standards; however, there are additional standards set by NCLB that are not producing successful measures of support for students and educators.

NCLB indicated opportunities for governmental spending to aid students and teachers in the learning process; however, educators repeatedly hear the unfortunate replay of "budget cuts", stimulus restrictions, and funding restraints hindering financial opportunities to support teaching and learning practices. NCLB also indicated that important information would be assessable to teachers in their efforts to measure student progress and provide individual recommendations for students' strengths and weaknesses and strategies to address both in efforts to meet national standards; however, it serves little purpose to teachers if this information is placed in hand after students have moved on to the next grade level and in some cases another school level (i.e. elementary transition to middle school). NCLB 2002 legislation also promised to inform parents, teachers, and administrators on how well instructional programs are working following implementation of this law. However, the law as currently constructed fails to give parents and educators an accurate picture of which schools are improving and why (White, Loker, March, and Sockslager, 2009).

Finally, NCLB also included allowances for flexibility of how taxpayers' money is spent and allocated in education. Obviously this effort has failed as well. We cannot ignore the lack of flexibility in federal funding, the amount of paper work, lack of planning for teaching and learning, and time. Instead, the only apparent flexibility being allotted appears to be from building level administrators in their efforts to support teachers and students by providing "out-of-the-box" strategies that allow teachers to plan. Unfortunately, the struggle still remains because this time is now used primarily to analyze and desegregate assessment data for individual students and class performance on individual curriculum-based objectives taught. The drawback is the amount of time needed by teachers to interpret what students achieved versus the amount of time necessary to plan how to catch up and furthermore get ahead.

High-stakes testing has its place with respect to quality and balance. The following research serves to inform students, educators, and politicians of the importance and impact of the art of quality teaching to assess student learning in efforts to increase and sustain long-term student mastery and success.

Methodology

This research study will examine the role high-stakes tests play in assessing student learning. The researcher will use journal articles, professional related literature, ERIC, and ProQuest that relate to high-stakes testing, the art of teaching and learning, and the challenges of using high-stakes assessment instruments to serve teaching instead of teaching to test.

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

The Art of Quality Teaching

Educators examine many changes in the teaching and learning experiences over the years. Teaching in the early twentieth century revealed one room classrooms with limited resources, materials, and creativity. Educators used one textbook, usually the Bible, to teach the fundamental core subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students engaged in learning seated in traditional rows that fostered to the lectures of teachers at the chalkboard demonstrating learning expectations. The way students participated in the learning environment was ritualistic, routine, and usually free from small group differentiated instructional structures as we know them. Today, grade school educators facilitate learning by reflecting on successful traditions of the past and combining them with revolutionary trends and best practices proven through observation and successful authentic student engagement.

Teachers have an advantage to utilize a variety of instructional tools and resources to enhance the learning experience. They attend professional development trainings that train them for specific best practice strategies that promote hands-on experiences for learners of the 21st century. Teachers exercise common planning time to collaborate and develop lesson plans. Educators are enabled to develop teaching effectiveness through differentiated instruction and Response to Intervention (RtI) implementation practices. In addition to the evolvement of technology, teachers are able to exercise creativity in instructional practices on a much wider scale. Classrooms in the 21st century include small groups, hand-on learning, use of technology, and open and closed classroom experiences. These educational varieties play a great deal in the orchestrating of test data analysis; however, due to the strenuous pressures of high-stakes testing, teachers are increasingly losing the generational art of teaching that has developed and cultivated young thinkers into productive life-long learners. Some students may be poor test takers; however, achievement standards on a district or state level will rarely reveal this factor due to the governmental logistics and political warfare based on raising test scores. Educators are now developing a teaching craft that supervises test taking robots instead of critical thinkers.

Types of High-Stakes Tests

Educators have always been accustomed to giving test. It's the frequency of administration, validity and reliability of the testing instrument that poses challenges for educators. In fact there are so many different types of tests that the assessment often is as much the challenge as the purpose of administering the instrument. At this point W. James Popham (2009) shares an understanding as to why some cry out, "Data-data-data everywhere. Too much to let us think!" Consider for a moment the enormous kinds of tests that educators design, administer, grade, desegregate, analyze, and reconstruct. Assessment instruments include: pre-test, post-test, placement test, chapter test, subject area test, theme test, quizzes, common assessments, quarterly test, semester exams, DIBELS, DRA, Star Reading, Star Math, Accelerated Reader, state writing test, state science test, NAEP, state practice test, state annual assessment, SAT, world history, English I, exit exams, college entrance exams, and the list goes on. But NCLB has exposed students to an unprecedented overflow of testing (Chappuis, Chappuis, and Stiggins, 2009). If students are relentlessly taking test too often to track, the obvious question would appear to be: When do teachers teach? Unfortunately the reality is that most teachers are heavily weighted with the responsibility to "teach to test". Therefore, classroom experiences for boys and girls at all ages and grade level lose their tenacity to be filled with authentic opportunities for critical thinking, justification, and reasoning. Far often than anyone would probably care to know or admit, teachers are stressed to meet accountability targets and performance goals causing them to unintentionally and intentionally "teach to test". Where is the art of this type of teaching learning experience? Where is the sustainability of student mastery? The unfortunate answers to these two of many frustrating questions lies in the increase of low-performing schools and school district, increases in drop-out rates and high absenteeism, high teacher turnover, teacher and administrative burn-out, and a noticeable decrease in candidates pursuing educational goals in institutions of higher learning. In other words, more people are opting out of education.

Gerald Bracey (2009) shared that we are in a nation where test mania prevails. This is unfortunate because in this day and age our children cannot afford loopholes of unnecessary testing at the cost of lost instructional time to propel them to a level of success beyond the classroom arena. Additionally, we have to be "assessment literate". We have to be conscious of the purpose of the assessment. Who will benefit from the results? Are the results going to serve useful to where current instructional adjustments need to be made? Almost all classroom teachers are far too busy to collect any kind of reliability evidence for their own teacher-made tests (Popham, 2009). Reliability becomes important to teachers usually when a district or state assessment is administered and there is a need to compare the margin of error of individual students in comparison to all students who took the tests. We should also be aware of the purpose of administering the test as it relates to frequency of its administration to students. For example, a diagnostic test should not be administered as frequently as a norm-referenced, standardized, or common assessment. The purposes for these tests are different. First, a diagnostic test's purpose is to "diagnose" a particular problem. This allows the teacher to identify various instructional strategies to address the instructional deficit. The administration of this type of universal screening assessment instrument should be limited to 2-3 times per year (i.e. DIBELS, DRA).

We have to also be aware of which tests are actually high-stakes assessments and which are not. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has ultimately changed from a solely descriptive assessment intended to provides an indicator of the nation's general education of health by what student knew and didn't know to currently providing a descriptive as well as prescriptive report on the percentage of students' achievement levels-Basic, Proficient, and Advanced (Bracey, 2009). Therefore, the NAEP is not a high-stakes test. As we encounter numerous challenges with high-stakes testing we have to consider the valid concern that teachers are spending far too many hours developing, administering, and interpreting data at the sacrifice of hours lost for quality teaching and learning.

Challenges Associated with High-Stakes Tests

Educators are increasingly experiencing higher levels of stress as governmental agencies on local, state, and national levels are mandating expectations that cause teachers and administrators to struggle between student mastery and achieving standards based on high-stakes test. The climate surrounding the testing regime is highly charged and unforgiving - a breeding ground for intensifying stress (Dodge, 2009). Teachers are spending longer work hours planning and preparing instructional lessons that will support direct strategies that will enable a student with the ability to pass the test versus spending time on developmental learning for mastery. Administrators inspect teachers and their ability to demonstrate that their students can successfully pass a test. Teachers spend day after day planning lessons that will support learners who can pass a test. Students come to school each day practicing and reviewing to pass a test. Daily instructional learning activities are all centered on test-taking instead of the value of critical thinking and life-long learning experiencing. Society regularly brings attention to the frightening increase of students who are on medication to control behavioral challenges. A critical concern that is developing among educators includes the number of educators who are beginning to manage daily routines through medicated means. It's not just the children anymore who are on medication.

There is too little time, lack of financial resources, and reduction in opportunities to truly allow teachers and educators to mold learners authentically. Administrators and teachers begin to suffer with emotional, physical, and social stressors that stem from the unrealistic expectations that are driving the notion that all students can learn but are expected to demonstrate mastery at a predetermined rate and performance. Anderson, Proctor, Rutkowski, and Vasterling (2010) share that given the widespread use and high-stakes nature of these assessments, understanding factors that affect test-taking ability in young adults is vital.

Barriers for African American Students in High-Poverty Areas

There are several barriers African American students in high-poverty areas have to face each day. However, there are three barriers that African American students in high-poverty areas tend to face more frequently than others. First, they face the unfortunate circumstances of lack of functional parental support. Second, students in these circumstances face emotional and behavioral challenges beyond their control. Third, many of these children struggle with overcoming low-expectations and stereotypes from educators. These are just three of many barriers that African American students face in high-poverty areas. However, unlike their white peers, many elementary African American students must overcome additional obstacles to the maximization of their abilities that result from being African American (Henfield, Owens, and Moore, 2008). Certainly preparing and participating in high-stakes tests would only add to the list of obstacle yielded to boys and girls in these circumstances.

First, African American students suffer from lack of appropriate parental support that hinders a child's academic desire to achieve. Think about what many African American families are facing everyday in low-income, poverty stricken neighborhoods in many urban public school areas across this country. Many students are products of single-family homes that struggle to make ends meet just to keep food on the table. Children and their families are suffering from limited or complete lack of medical care for basic needs including annual check-ups, updated immunizations, poor vision and dental care. Young black boys and girls are struggling even before they arrive at our nations' schools with poor nutrition and diet. Alarming numbers of our children either don't have enough food to eat or fall victim to the overwhelming number of children that rank nationally for obesity. Our nations' children suffer daily from the daunting realities of abuse of alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Students in low-income urban school districts wake up and go to sleep to the screams and injustices of crime in their communities which include, but are not limited to physical and verbal abuse, rape and incest. All of this toppled off with illiteracy just seem to hit the tip of the obstacles many African American students face. How can parents support their children under these conditions? How can student within these conditions succeed under such high standards of measurement? These unfortunate life circumstances quickly and easily begin to decay the surface of a person's dignity, self-worth, and personal value.

Second, far too many African American students, especially boys, are facing the barriers of emotional and behavioral challenges which hinder academic success. It has been established that boys perform less well than girls on literacy benchmark or standardized tests (Watson, Kehler, and Martino, 2010). Upon arrival to school a new set of challenges begins including: lack of materials and supplies, poor literacy skills, lack of parental support, low self-esteem, lack of interest, fear of failure, insecurities, resentment, hostility, anger, manipulation, yearning for love and affection, behavioral problems, defiance, and the list goes on. Increasing numbers of African American students are being placed on behavioral controlled medications. Students are receiving medical diagnosis including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), and Emotional and Mental Disorder (EMD). Additionally, students are increasingly receiving exceptional education rulings---many without merit. Counseling and social service support are minimal due to limited staffing to provide the appropriate services for the number of students in critical need. Therefore, our system is forced to function with a system that attempts to meet the needs of the most critical first and then go from there. The problem is educators are now challenged in supporting students when all of them are in critical need and deserve an opportunity to achieve their personal dreams. How can educators expect these students to perform at a high performance levels on high-stakes test with these types of challenges? Truly impoverished students have a harder time with educations than students from wealthy, middle-class, or working-class homes (Henfield, Owen, and Moore, 2008).

Third, many African American student suffer from the barrier of educators' low-expectations and stereotypes. The self-fulfilling prophecy presents its ugly head that a student will be what you "expect" them to be. Often times, schools in high-poverty areas have educators that maintain low expectations of students simply based on demographics and present circumstance. Single mothers struggle to make ends meet while children are raising themselves and caring for siblings while mothers are working 3-11 shifts of some sort. Students who are missing their fathers they never knew or only see reflections of themselves in a photograph because the father is deceased or incarcerated. Even worse, students suffer with the reality of the "unknown parent" epidemic. Students observe far too many parents struggling to accomplish the educator's ideal display of parental support by failing to attend parent conferences because the part-time job of minimum wage won't permit time off scheduled work hours or continuously hearing the teacher elaborate on how their numerous attempts to reach a parent by phone have failed without being empathetic to the fact that the phone has been turned off to have money for food and laundry detergent. The struggle for students in these situations continues. However, if we reflect on history-told and untold, it would reveal the fact that our nation was built on the shoulders and through the brilliance of African Americans who had worse circumstances than the students we serve today. This only proves the point that a circumstance does not have to limit your capabilities.

Unfortunately, NCLB legislation didn't consider that and neither do most of our schools across this country. Therefore, the achievement gap will continue to widen until we fully address the appropriate support needs for not only African American children but all children who may unfortunately suffer from similar barriers during their educational experience. Considering these tough economic times, it would be safe to assume that the number affected would be overwhelmingly high.

The Role of the Administrator and the Teacher

Robert J. Sternberg (2008), a Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Psychology, and Adjunct Professor of Education at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts said,

"When I look at the skills and concepts I have needed to succeed in my own field, I find a number that are crucial: creativity, common sense, wisdom, ethics, dedication, honesty, teamwork, hardwork, knowing how to win and how to lose, a sense of fair play, and lifelong learning. But memorizing books is certainly not one of them."

As administrators and teachers it is our responsibility and obligation to students to create learning opportunities that broaden each individual learner's capabilities beyond the classroom experience. Educators have to assess what matters most. Before educators can assess learning, they must be accountable for creating an atmosphere of learning engagement and opportunities for various learning styles and capabilities in different circumstances. This can be challenging, but it is attainable.

Tests are not going away; therefore, to plan and prepare for successful learning and assessment opportunities administrators and teachers should assess themselves to determine if necessary measure are in place that support student achievement on high-stakes tests. Educational leaders must be willing to be risk-takers and ask the right questions. Parrett and Budge (2009) suggest the following: 1) build the necessary leadership capacity; 2) focus on staff's everyday core work on student, professional, and system learning; and 3) create a fostering safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment for all. Administrators and teachers must become fearless with how they lead students to success.

In addition to creating a culture of learning for students to feel safe, relaxed, confident, and inspired to achieve, administrators and teachers must also prepare students for the reality of testing anxiety, success, and failure. Jackson and McDermott (2009) describe four pillars of pedagogy for "fearless leading" that can applicable to high-stakes testing survival:

Lead as an Architects of Motivation - Set the tone and expectation in the building to be a risk-taker. Challenge students to try even when the odds seem stacked against them.

Lead as Ministers of Service - Make it a priority to look out for the common good of the student. Be fearless to go beyond the call of duty to help a student experience academic achievement-not because you have to, but because you should.

Lead as a Soul Friend - Recognize from deep within the purpose of understanding and belonging that students must feel in order to achieve. If they are unable to get it from home, then provide the atmosphere within the school to reach the heart of every student.

Lead as a Muse of Inspiration - Set high expectations regardless of circumstances or limitations, restrictions or setbacks. Inspire achievement through confidence.

Effects of Testing Frequently

Administrators and teachers continue to struggle with the challenges of how frequently assessments at local levels are being administered in efforts to prepare students for high-stakes testing performance on state levels. Best practice strategies are manipulated to support alignment of state test-like items on daily instructional activities. Students are flooded with test-prep in morning brain buster activities, daily practice items, quizzes, teacher-made test, and homework. In some cases, after school programs have partnered with teachers and educators to align after school activities that mirror high-stakes testing items. Everything that students do during an instructional day now seems to evolve around testing. This would seem to make sense if educators were requiring students to demonstrate their thought process to establish high-ordered thinking in real-life scenarios. Unfortunately, high-stakes multiple choice tests are not designed for those means. Therefore it is clear that on a national level, the standards imply that only one right response is acceptable. Students begin to withdraw from instructional activities, ADA (average daily attendance) decreases due to frequent student absentees-students trying to avoid tests and students resort to sudden illnesses (i.e. headaches, stomach aches) and behavior confrontations to avoid assessment practices.

The students that have spent various hours, days, weeks, and months engaged in rigorous learning activities that embark on differentiated instructional learning practices now becomes useless--- because only one right answer is acceptable. Now considering that various students will read a test question and probably discover various probable answers that are justifiable by their explanation, if their critical reasoning fail to direct them to the one acceptable answer provided in the choices listed-the student fails the response. This appears to be an unfair conclusion considering that the student is able to correctly rationalize and justify their response, but they are not awarded any credit for their knowledge, comprehension, and thought process. High-stakes assessments used to assess students on a performance-based measure which allowed students who did not demonstrate complete reasoning to receive credit for the portion of the test question answered correctly; however, with current multiple-choice items, students do not have that option.

Teachers need the autonomy to teach students those necessary skills that can fairly be assessed to determine if students have mastered them not for the purpose of "passing a test", but for the purpose of mastery for life skills. Instruction and assessment are two sides of the same coin rather than two different coins (Sternberg, 2008). High student achievement on high-stakes tests cannot occur without respect to quality instruction.

Suggested Assessment Alternatives

Administrators and teachers have to be open to the diversity of assessing student learning. Small (2010) shared some interesting alternatives to going beyond one right answer. One alternative to support the benefits found in the "art of teaching" is providing students with "open questions" that permit various opportunities to provide reasoning and justification on the performance level of the learner. The art of teaching could also be captured in another alternative assessment measure that addresses a variety of learning levels and levels of difficulty while allowing the student to demonstrate understanding and a matriculation of success through self-challenge learning experiences.

Smith (2009) elaborates on three strategies for testing to learn: 1) learning through creating the test; 2) learning through taking the test; and 3) learning through marking test. When students create their own test they have an opportunity to embrace ownership of learning. Teachers who provide learning through testing may discover an increase in student achievement when students are given an opportunity to receive feedback on their assessment in a variety of ways. Then, students are able to go back and review their original responses and engage in peer dialogue to make changes to their responses. The goal is to ultimately provide students with a means to discover a reasonable process that guides them to a correct response. Learning through marking test simply allows students a chance to self-analyze self responses after the teacher has graded the assessment and returned it to the student. The student is able to creatively defend their responses in respect to their original markings. The ultimate goal is to guide students through a process of critical thinking for learning success-not just getting to a right answer.

CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY

The days of choosing the teaching profession simply for the enjoyment of elevating a young life through literature, written expression, and arithmetic are fading. Teachers and administrators are holding on to their profession by a string that clings to the promise that high stake testing will find its proper place in the world of student achievement and child development. The "art of teaching" is lost in the politics of accountability. Unfortunately the students suffer in the midst of the game that legislators are playing with children's lives. Teachers and administrators are overwhelmed, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated for the sacrifices they make in balancing the requirements of district policies and state mandates while attempting to achieve the main focus of their "calling" ~ to teach children to learn, not learn to pass a test. Cooley and Shen (2008) indicate that data should become a tool to connect achievement with curriculum, instruction, remediation, acceleration, teacher professional development, and allocation of human and fiscal resources for school improvement. We must move beyond the place where test results drive student achievement. Remember, one test score doesn't make a great school, even when it does well (D'orio, 2009). Losing the art of teaching against the challenges of passing a test create a dim light on the hope that student mastery and development in a global society of challenges will soon re-evolve. Evaluation based on instruction-intensive tests cannot help but reduce the quality of teaching (and teacher morale) (Bracey, 2009). We will not simply lose the art of teaching to the cost of plotting student mastery through assessment result calculations, but we will lose educators who are fed up with the politics that have sacrificed our children on a cutting block of detriment outlasting the realm of learning still in the making.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The best recommendation to tackle the challenges associated with the pressures of meeting high-stakes performance standards is 1) know your assessment instruments, and 2) maintain your instructional focus (Scherer, 2009). Considering that the National Common Core Standards will soon cause another link in the assessment measure chain to affect teaching and learning, teachers and administrators will continue to struggle with the politics of a nation relentless to exceed educational standards on a global scale. It would best serve all educators to continue to focus and study the rapid trends that are overtaking our educational assessment powers ~ technology. Assessments are already being administered on a much wider scale to students on various measures at the local, district and state levels. All teacher-made assessments will soon be obsolete. What does that lead us to believe about state mandated assessments that aid in governmental decisions that open and close schools based on accreditation levels and performance ratings. It simply says that the "art of teaching" must be reclaimed for the sake of all students who have a right to experience the advantages of teaching and learning for mastery. If the goal is not just achieving higher scores, but furthering students' learning and understanding, assessment must be for learning, not just of learning (Scherer, 2009).

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