Wherever I go, I hear stories about the exodus of teachers from the profession. The same story is told everywhere: I am sick of the non-stop testing. I didn’t become a teacher to administer tests, I became a teacher to make a difference in the lives of children, I became a teacher because I love history and want to share my love. The testing regime is crushing my kids and crushing me too.

Our nation is losing talented and experienced teachers. They are literally being driven out of the profession by federal and state mandates attached to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Many states now administer tests not to measure student progress, but to measure teacher “effectiveness,” despite the fact that there is no research base for this practice.

Why would any nation want to drive teachers out of a profession that is under-paid, under-respected, and constantly criticized by non-educators? Enrollments in education programs are dropping. The federal government, abetted by extremist legislatures and governors, are literally attacking the teachers of our nation. Who will take their place? Certainly not Teach for America. It sends 10,000 young, inexperienced, ill-trained college graduates to teach for two years, into a profession of more than 3 million teachers.

Does anyone think that the teaching profession is getting better as a result of the relentless attacks on teachers?

The modal year of teacher experience dropped dramatically in the past generation from 15 to 1 (see page 10). Do we want most of our doctors and airline pilots to be novices?

Here is the story of one teacher, Ron Maggiano, an award-winning Virginia teacher who quit after 33 years.

Valerie Strauss wrote about him here. She wrote:

Ron Maggiano is a social studies teacher at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County. In 2005, he won the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity, and in 2006, he won the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for outstanding K-12 teaching. Now, after a 33-year teaching career, he is resigning, just four years away from full retirement.

Why? He’s had enough of the high-stakes testing obsession that he believes has undermined public education.

Maggiano wrote:

I have taught history at West Springfield High School for the past 19 years. I have been a successful classroom teacher for more than thirty years, but now I have had enough. As a result of the obsessive emphasis on standardized test scores in FCPS and across the educational landscape, I have decided to retire at the end of the current academic year. I have made this decision, because I can no longer cooperate with a testing regime that I believe is suffocating creativity and innovation in the classroom. We are not really educating our students anymore. We are merely teaching them to pass a test. This is wrong. Period.

As for myself, I won the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity in education in 2005 and the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for outstanding K-12 teaching in 2006. I am four years away from full retirement, so my decision to retire was not made lightly. It will cost me. Our school newspaper, The Oracle, just ran a story on my retirement and why I am leaving the classroom and the job that I love.

The student newspaper wrote an article about his retirement. Maggiano told the student writer:

“I don’t think I’m leaving the education system. I think the education system left me,” said Maggiano.

In another article, he wrote:

It was a difficult decision, but I am confident that it was the correct one. For me this was a moral choice. I believe that our current national obsession with high-stakes testing is wrong, because it hurts kids and deprives students of an education that is meaningful, imaginative, and relevant to the demands of the 21st century.

Research shows that today’s students need to be prepared to think critically, analyze problems, weigh solutions, and work collaboratively to successfully compete in the modern work environment. These are precisely the type of skills that cannot be measured by a multiple-choice standardized test.

More significantly, critical thinking skills and analytical problem solving have now been replaced with rote memorization and simple recall of facts, figures, names, and dates. Educators have been forced to adopt a “drill and kill” model of teaching to ensure that their students pass the all-important end-of-course test. Teaching to the test, a practice once universally condemned administrators and educators alike, has now become the new normal in classrooms across the country.

If teaching to the test was wrong 30 some years ago when I first entered the classroom, it is just as wrong today as I leave my classroom for the final time. The fact is that we are not really educating our students. We are merely teaching them how to pass a test.

And we are not preparing them for success at the college level or in the workplace. If we were, colleges and universities would not have to require remediation courses for incoming freshmen, and businesses and corporations would not have to spend millions to reteach skills their employees should have mastered after twelve years of education.