Chapter 4
Moving Beyond Test-driven and Textbook-driven
Curricula: Five Questions to Facilitate School
Jean Ann Hunt, Caroline Knight, and Robert Ackland
Three veteran teachers who are now teacher educators present a series of questions that
can be used when a school faculty (or a teacher education faculty) deliberates about
how to meet the needs of children. The questions are supported by current research
that indicates the need for teachers to become decision-makers rather than technicians.
Very few American schools have escaped the pressure of governmental mandates
to raise test scores. Some schools have adopted drastic measures to avert the conse-
quences of low scores. They have cut back on other subject areas by focusing primar-
ily on reading and math (Dillon, 2006). Their professional conversations most often
center on “scientic methods” and rarely on the purposes and benets of learning in
children’s lives. It is even rarer to share those purposes with children. An indefensible
consequence of this silence is limiting children’s experience with what it means to
be a reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, or historian. Many children develop dis-
torted views of learning. “Stuart,” a third grader sitting out in the hall one day reading
a book is a perfect example. When one of us paused to ask him what he was reading,
he looked up and said, “Oh I’m not reading.” Stuart then happily gave the title of the
book along with a very animated description of the plot. When asked why he said he
was not reading he explained, “Well, you see this isn’t reading. Reading is when we ll
out those worksheets and do vocabulary words and stuff like that. This is just a book I
like.” Stuart is one of many children who have been victimized by test- and textbook-
driven curricula.
As three teachers who each have at least 20 years of experience in pre-K through
college classrooms, we shudder to think of the legacy that the current mania for testing
will leave behind. What has happened to the self-image of those children who have
cried through standardized tests with no adult allowed to comfort them? How strong
will the motivation to learn be of all the children who have suffered through 90-minute
blocks of developmentally inappropriate reading instruction? What has happened to
the critical thinking skills of children who have not had time to explore science and
social studies because those subjects are not “on the test”?
We know that in recent years many schools adopted new packaged programs, as
publishers raced to supply teachers with “scientically based” series. Teachers all over
the country were required to give up previously successful practices and materials and

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