Tuesday, March 24, 2009

mini rant

Last week I was talking about stress, I don't even remember in what context. One of my children said, "I'm really stressed about the MCAs" (some standardized tests we take in our state).

"What?" I said, at first doubting I'd heard right. The child repeated what s/he'd said. This is a child who usually misses just one or two questions on this test, always passing with flying colors.

"I'm stressed about it. Because that test is so important."

I proceeded to assure the child that the MCAs are not important and that while s/he should put forth reasonable effort, it was not necessary in any way to feel stress about it.

I was surprised to hear this concern, especially from this child, but then I was not surprised in this day of No Child Left Behind. The tests are monumentally important to the schools. My children bring home fat packets of test questions from past years they must complete at home. I got a letter from my child's school reminding me of the importance of my child being in school on the test days (over four weeks from now) and that they get more than adequate rest and breakfast, etc. In one of my children's school, room parents must provide cut-up fruit, granola bars, and bottled water for the students on test days.

Why have we done this to our schools and our teachers? As mentioned in a previous post, I love our teachers. They are probably one of our country's finest assets. But we've made their job so much harder and, worse, drearier.

A friend of mine said, "I wish our schools cared about instilling a love of learning in our children." I've seen many teachers who, because of their contagious examples, do just that. However, the intention of our public school system is NOT to instill a love of learning in children. It is obsessed with "outcomes." The overriding goal is to match student "outcomes" (even the word bugs me) to state and national standards. It seems that many children in our country are not able to reach those standards, which is why we now have this focus on testing. We are, supposedly, holding schools accountable.

Schools should be accountable. But so should parents. No matter how wonderful the school, a child needs to WANT to do well to succeed. That comes, largely, from their family culture. Most children are not going to have what it takes to rise above a family culture that does not value learning. I have friends who are teachers in schools where the students come from families who do not, seemingly, value learning. "These kids do not come to school prepared to learn. They are just trying to survive," said one friend. How is an emphasis on testing going to help those children?

How is an emphasis on testing going to help my children, who like nothing better than learning?


Anonymous said...

I'm with you. When my kids were younger, the packets would be sent home with them for practice. I didn't make them practice and would tell them not to worry. (This is quite rebellious for me!) The problem of "teaching to the test" worries alot of teachers who know from years of experience (and common sense!) that it leaves gaps, doesn't allow for exploration of a topic, diminishes love of learning, doesn't help kids learn how to think (only regurgitate info)...I'm sure others will have plenty to add to the list.

Dina said...

I hate the Oregon state tests. At first, they were testing in a couple of grades. I didn't pay attention because it really doesn't affect our family. My kids will pass, the school will be happy--nuf said. But, now it seems there is testing in EVERY grade! It wastes so much time and energy. I so wish these tests would go away....

Brenda said...

It has gotten really bad. This is the first year that my kids are saying how stressed they are too and for the youngest to be feeling that already I can tell what teachers must be saying in class. It bothers me that they have to hear how important this is when my kids are not the ones that need preaching to and yet are the very ones that take it to heart and so personally. Maybe we need more social services so that the actual parents who need this info are contacted and taught. I think dumping the responsibility and stress on the teachers is a mistake and case in point, not helpful. I'm just disappointed lately with our country's obsession with being better than someone else so we can get a bigger piece of the pie. My kids are getting pushed earlier and harder and I wonder where the breaking point is?

Dave Thurston said...

There are certain things that I don't mind testing on - spelling, math, end of chapter just to make sure you've read the stuff - the stuff that I recall (that makes me biased, I know).

One of the main things that college taught was not "how to be an engineer" but "how to try to understand the problem that needs to be solved". Even if one can't solve the problem, understanding the problem is so much more useful in the future.

Hmm. I think that I need to write to the State of Ohio and ask that they create a standardized test on understanding so that we can teach these young Buckeyes to know what they need to know today . . . we'll leave what needs to be known tomorrow to the . . . um . . . um . . .

Oh I don't know, but Congress will figure it out and then it'll all be better.

[see what I did there I tied your leading rant into my own rant about greed and the government and it appears that RantFest 2009 has begun!]

Anonymous said...

Some countries here are stopping tests because they are so damaging. Schools train kids for the tests so they do well on tests but know nothing of other things.

Tests are completely 100% political. Its based on money and the agendas of polititians and it doesn't matter what country or culture, they end up doing more damage then good.

Anonymous said...

Here's an update, on BBC this morning there is a report that a number of schools are going to boycott SAT tests(yearly tests) this spring. They have already stopped testing children 14 yrs and older and now teachers and parents want that to include younger children.