Let Me Just Adjust My Soapbox

I’m currently taking a class about electronic resources for young people. But we frequently get off topic and have some absolutely brilliant discussions (why are the topics not on the syllabus frequently the most fascinating?)

This class is pretty small (about a dozen students) and several of them are current or former school teachers. Today we had a very interesting discussion about free reading in schools and how many districts and states are cutting it in favor of teaching for standardized tests. One of the teachers went and interviewed a classroom full of students about whether or not they’d enjoy being able to have fifteen to thirty minutes to read anything they wanted.

One little kid turned back in his paper and his response was “that sounds like freedom.”

Doesn’t that make your heart burst into about fifty million pieces?

It makes me ill that there is so much emphasis placed on testing and passing rates, rather than teaching kids to love learning. Is it any wonder so many kids are burned out of school so quickly?

Teaching to a test is not an education.

And while there are a bazillion reasons I want to home school, one reason that keeps coming back to me is that I don’t want my children’s education wasted on test prep. Especially in elementary school.

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  • Reply She Likes Purple April 21, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I don’t know as much as I’d like to know about private schools, but I do know I lean toward educating my child that way so he/she will have a better chance at learning and not cramming for tests that mean NOTHING to anyone but a school board.

  • Reply LeAnne April 21, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I hate teaching kids how to take tests. I taught for five years and nothing is more depressing than writing “Test Prep” into your lesson plans. Yes it is important to teach strategies, but beyond that it burns their little minds out.

    One year I taught test prep as outlined by other teachers on my team. It was horrible. My kids did alright on the tests. The next year I focused on strategies and “tips” and my kids soared. Seriously. I am all over teaching kids to love learning and not to know it for a test.

  • Reply Melanie April 21, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    I loved free reading time in school, just like I loved our weekly visits to the school library. It kills me that reading, along with history and the arts, are sacrificed at the expense of testing. Real life is not a standardized test!

  • Reply LONICA April 22, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I always give my kids about 10-15 minutes to read whatever book they’d like at the beginning of the class period. It gives me the perfect opportunity to take roll, pass out absent assignments, and return graded paper work. Today, my administrator walked in about five minutes into the class period and announced (in front of all the students) that we should put the books away and just focus on the upcoming Ohio Standardized test. Needless to say, I was just a bit irritated. Honestly, ever since Spring Break (at the end of March), she has put a Moratorium on anything that doesn’t involve practicing for the standardized test. I’m going batty and the kids are too! I can’t wait until they finish taking the test tomorrow!

    P.S. As a student, I always felt that every minute of the school day was a chance to read independently from any book I choose. I must have driven my teacher’s nuts; I would read constantly!

  • Reply janet April 22, 2008 at 12:15 am

    I agree. Do you plan on homeschooling? (as opposed to just wanting to) I’m interested to hear more!

  • Reply Karen April 22, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I liked leanne’s point about teaching strategies and tips. I don’t think teaching to a test is very productive. And I do think that kids who read a lot will almost always do better on the tests anyway. They just know more, have a better command of the language, understand the meaning of words, etc. The one thing I would advocate would be to expose children to a wide varieties of subjects and genres, perhaps requiring some reading within each. This goal might also be met by group reading with the teacher as voice and other class activities integrated into the things being read (history, science, writing, etc.). It is also easily done within a home school curriculum. Most of my children attended public school for the full 13 years. All did fine and are successful, fairly well-educated adults. (However, it was before the No Child Left Behind Push). My youngest attended public school until the middle of third grade, did home school up until 6th grade, and then attended 6th grade on a dual school basis. He has done the same this year with 7th grade. He had a wonderful experience in 6th grade–great teacher, good friends–and took all the standardized tests, even though he was not in school full-time. His scores were among the highest in the grade, so I figure his years of home schooling didn’t hurt him (and he wasn’t around for all the weeks of test review either, as we were out of town). This year, he will miss all the standardized testing, as we will again be out of town (actually out of the country). I am not sad. The only disadvantage seems to be that he may not get into enriched American history next year (despite a straight A record) because he will have no test scores to evaluate. C’est la vie.

  • Reply Edge April 22, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    My wife is a kindergarten teacher and she doesn’t have to give the TAKS test. But she sees and has to work with the effects.

    Texas State just released a study that said most teachers are dissatisfied with their job and a large portion do not think the TAKS is effective.

    It can’t be if we continue to support social promotion.


  • Reply monica and brad April 22, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    interesting discussion–I’m paying attention to this now more than ever.

  • Reply Packrat April 22, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    My soapbox! 🙂 I’m very much against so much testing. I’m very much for home schooling; although, it is not for everyone (including every child). And, please don’t believe anyone who tells you that home schooled children can’t get into college and/or won’t do well academically or socially. As soon as I have time, I’ll explain in my blog so I don’t take up space here.

  • Reply Kristy April 22, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Amen, Janssen. I think the school systems are starting to defeat themselves just because of standardized tests.

  • Reply Justin April 22, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    I think that’s a really tricky issue. The system we’ve set up (allegedly) to help improve the educational system tends to defeat itself. Maybe private school (or home school) would help, but that still leaves a lot of children out of the picture.

    On a personal note, I just loved silent reading time everyday in elementary school. Ahh…

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