What's your take on state testing for kids these days?
My kids have been involved in state testing this week, living in New York. I have never seen them so stressed out before. Is it all too much for kids? Do you think all this school pressure and seemingly impossible state-mandated curriculum goals of today's world too great for kids to handle, or is it good for them?
This question brings up a lot of focus in different areas of the school system. State-mandated curriculum goals, stress levels of children, testing requirements, etc. I will state first and foremost that I grew up as a homeschooler and am against most public and private school policies, and a few homeschool methods.
State-mandated curriculum goals - These goals are usually very low from the world average. It is almost depressing for our students to go to another country and talk about what they learn in school. There will always be curriculum goals and ours are not that challenging. If you consider them as daunting, they will seem more so. The same is said for college, as I have found.
Stress levels of children - Where is the pressure you described coming from? Is it the teachers who want a bonus so they encourage good results? The school that desires more funding and donations who strives to impress? As a homeschooler, most of the stress comes from our parents. Most American's don't know how to deal with stress, which is a major flaw in our system. We have a few things to learn from the Italians and French.
Testing requirements - These are probably the most stressful and intimidating. "If you make below a B in this course, you're GPA will drop and you will never get into MIT or Princeton." "The rest of your life depends on the SAT scores." There are other methods and test scores are not everything. Volunteer time, learning experiences, extra curricular activities, etc.
I think the word 'test' and the emphasis on the student's capabilities are the stress. I would love somehow the language usage changed where the teachers would have to explain the purpose of the test is to evaluate the teacher and not the student. The pressure would be off the student and oddly it would also socially and professionally reflect on the teacher.
If all the members of that class are lower scores as an average then that to me means something of the teacher holistically speaking - teaching methods, what is taught, how it is taught, and the teacher's personality too.
Evaluating testing scores and scoring may be more complex then, yet I kinda' see it as much more valuable. The students would still be evaluated with learning progress, it would be relational to prior years testing indicating a trend, and if the testing was written correctly it would still show ability with main topics of the testing parameters.
It is true that it is reflecting the teacher and not the student, but the kids really do feel pressure and I think you are right, perhaps because of the word "test." I do see that the evaluating process is necessary.
The test should be a way to chart what the student has learned, as well as how the teacher has taught. But, saying there should be a stigma on the teacher's professional career is extreme. Sometimes it is NOT our fault. Sometimes it IS.
First of all, the tests are an absolute joke! They are designed to distract and detract the student from the correct answer with no way for the student to defend or explain his/her work. The test is written with 2 answers that can be seen as correct, 1 that is a detractor, and 1 that is obviously wrong. The detractor is meant to trick the child. The wording is confusing and what is being tested is NOT beyond rote memorization. There is no higher order thinking. There is no creative problem solving. There is no defending your answer.
Secondly, we keep on changing the vocabulary. Is it plot? Is it storyline? Is it sequence of events?
When I test my students, I am looking for several things. Have they learned what I taught? Have they grown in an area? And what do I need to re-teach? And who can I take further into this topic or idea? If every student fails on theme, then I have to re-teach what a theme is and how to find it.
I would like to test our students as they do in other countries. Open ended responses, critical thinking, and defending their work. I see the stress in many of my students. My ELL students struggle to understand the test. One year, we told our ELL students to circle all the words they knew in the reading section. One 4th grader circled the word "the" and used our translator for a few words. This little guy became so despondent, he broke down in tears and cried all over his test. It broke my heart to see, because when we conversed in Spanish, he was bright and alert and asked great questions, but tested in English, he FELT stupid and incapable. It broke my heart this year when a student said afterwords "I knew this! I knew I knew it, but I froze!"
We are asking our students to remember a lot of information that is not always useful, relevant, or practical. I teach Language Arts and yes, I love vocabulary, the turn of a phrase and good literature, but is it more important for a child to know what a subordinate clause IS or how to empathize and reach out to others? If a child can speak and write legibly and competently, does it matter if he doesn't know the definition of an appositive? If the child reads a story and learns something that makes a personal connection or impact, and doesn't get that the theme was loyalty rather than his take of overcoming obstacles will civilization come to an end?
We need our kids to recognize they are more than the score on the card and the number on the printout.
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