‘Life is Not a Multiple-Choice Test’

via The Washington Post Square Peg in a Round Hole_0565

I recently posted the resignation letter of Ron Maggiano, an award-winning social studies teacher at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, after a 33-year teaching career — four years shy of full retirement. In the following post, Maggiano recalls his first day of teaching — and his last, and explains why he is leaving his job.

By Ron Maggiano

I will never forget that day. It was my first day as a classroom teacher. I felt a range of emotions from excitement and anticipation to abject terror. Would my students like me? Would I find a way to motivate them to do their best? What if I let them down? What if I failed as a teacher?

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. My students loved me, I did not let them down, and I received national recognition as a master teacher. In 2005, I was awarded the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity in the classroom. A year later, I was recognized for distinguished K-12 teaching by the American Historical Society.

Now more than three decades later, I have just spent my last day as a teacher. I resigned my teaching position because I can no longer cooperate with the standardized testing regime that is destroying creativity and stifling imagination in the classroom.  I am sad, angry, hurt, and dismayed by what has happened to education and to the teaching profession that I so dearly love.

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.


  • Simon Valentine

    wow someone who can actually halt my mocking persona. an impressive wonder to be sure. his concerns are of course blatantly correct. albeit on a more character note it is the case that i remain in abject terror that the premise

    life is not a multiple choice test

    is not only incorrect, but also that that which knows it is incorrect is the true regime, and which proves it incorrect the ultra regime. not that math doesn’t rule anyway. it’s the people who have always been the problem – the persons and the ideas and that the two are no more connected than ants to a queen. didn’t know you were alien? huhg. life is no. multiple choice is not what you thought it was before you read this. exponent choice is a class you don’t have access to. my first grade teacher’s name was Beals. Yes, technicalities, i know. he is bluntly correct, measured in Ohms.

  • BuzzCoastin

    it took him 30 friggin years to figure this out?

    I knew this by the 5th grade

    • echar

      It took him until he could retire comfortably.

      • http://pneumerology.com/ pneumerology

        multiple choice question: life is better when you are…
        (a) a skeptic who wants to know and tries to find out
        (b) a cynic who assumes the worst and doesn’t bother to find out

        • echar

          (c) None of the above

          *standard answer*

  • echar

    I wish all teachers across America would Strike! Maybe announce it a couple weeks before the start of the school year. That way it doesn’t screw over the people who get assistance from the state for day care.

  • Manko Eponymous

    I’m still grinding my teeth and hanging in there in the same school shiststem he’s quitting, the same one where I dropped out of high school. FCPS is one of our nation’s most respected, best-funded public school systems, and it attracts a lot of excellent teachers, the kind who work their asses off to make a real difference in kids’ lives, and yet the NCLB bullshit (and all the other bullshit) drives excellent teachers away every year. It’s a constant personal crisis, between all the people in the community telling us how much they appreciate our work and the severely fucked bureaucracy and politics, largely driven by right-wingers who don’t even believe in public education. Every year we stay in the classroom, we know we’re making the world better for our students, sometimes in a life-or-death way, and for our communities and nation, but every year we stay in the classroom we do so at serious cost to our own physical, mental, social and financial health.

    • gustave courbet

      It is a shame to have to make that decision between your students and your mental health.

  • Rus Archer

    it’s legal to marry your teacher now