In a few weeks kids around the country will be taking standardized tests. I've got some thoughts on the subject that could probably fill up a book. I used to be a teacher--but I was fortunate to be teaching at a time when the stakes weren't quite as high as they are now in the standardized testing game.
I'm a parent too, and I got to witness firsthand what it was like when things started to go off the deep end in my kids' schools.
Example: when my daughter was in third grade, to encourage the students to get a particular score on a writing test, the teachers gave many many practice tests and posted the model essays on the classroom walls. For further encouragement the kids were given glass beads to wear on a bracelet whenever they got the desired score.
My daughter didn't get many beads and was heartbroken. She honestly had no idea how to go about achieving the approved score.
Example 2: Right before the testing period, the school held a pep rally with popcorn and balloons and music. The kids who'd done well the year before were paraded around and allowed to eat the popcorn. The kids who hadn't done as well, were allowed to watch. This was a fun way to encourage kids to do their best, said the principal.
See, kids, maybe next year, you too can eat popcorn and be in the parade.
Then there was the year they didn't teach science because it wasn't on the test.
What killed me about all of this is I know that everyone's hearts were in the right place. The kids really wanted to please their teachers and do well. The teachers wanted to teach the kids. The principals wanted the best for their students.
Something was obviously going wrong, though.
The thing that made it very clear to me was the day the school decided to let the librarian go. This was a woman who knew every child by name, who knew what the kids' reading choices were, and who had books picked out and waiting for kids when they came into the library.
But dropping the librarian position freed up the money to hire a reading specialist. All of that testing required a full time person to analyze the data and plot out how to improve the reading tests scores.
I have never done a study. I don't know if there is such a study. But here's a question I've always wondered: you know those kids who always have their noses in a book--I don't know, um, let's call them READERS--those kids--
What do you think their reading test scores look like?
Okay. Getting off my soap box now.
Good luck, kids, on your standardized tests!
When you have finished the test sections for the day--after you have carefully checked your answers--I hope you attend a school where you are allowed to open up a book and read for a while.