Hey Kid, Here! Take this Test! Agh!
So. School testing. It’s a big deal. It’s a small deal. It’s a waste of time. It’s a source of money for high-performing teachers. It’s the reason low-performing schools are taken over or closed down completely.
As a classroom teacher, I see the purpose of measuring how much students learn — it helps to see what kids know, and what we need to teach them still. However, there are some seriously backwards methods and means to how we test our kids in public schools.
1. We have national testing but schools are not funded on a national level, there are not learning standards that are nationally accepted. Therefore kids can learn completely different things from what they are being tested on. Kids also can be taught at different speeds, ensuring that all students are not learning the same things at the same time.
2. What happened to project-based learning!? And fun learning?! I remember having special classes like computer and PE throughout my elementary and middle school years. Classes like art and movement are taken out of school days forcing students to sit through long blocks of academic time that they are not motivated enough to pay attention to. These are generalizations, but they hold an amount of truth for all students – increased demands on teachers for learning –> increased demands on students for absorbing information in limited ways, like lecture and drill –> increased importance on test results, which show student weaknesses rather than strengths.
I am not against testing, but I am not for it completely either. Some solutions are:
1. National adoption of teaching standards, so that all teachers know what their students should learn by the end of the year. If you are interested in learning more about what students need to know in each grade level, check out the new Common Core.
2. National funding of public schools – not easy, but necessary for creating an even playing field.
3. If neither of the above are possible, have low-performing schools find solutions to test scores. When teachers and admin feel their jobs are being threatened, they are less likely to perform or are less likely to want to stay in schools. It ‘s called fight or flight and many teachers take to wing in search of more job security.
4. Increase teacher salaries!! Teaching today involves an amount of counseling, family therapy, and psychology in addition to content teaching and behavior management. We need some Atticus Finch style justice around these hallways.
Please excuse my ranting and raving. This whole spiel was inspired by Tony Danza, who, in his sixth decade of existence, decided to be an inner-city high school teacher and wrote a book about it. Check it out here.
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