Monday, February 25, 2013

Standardized Testing

With the proposal of H3478, I have noticed the uprising against standardized testing across our nation.  It seems that homeschooling families are not the only ones against standardized testing.  I know that standardized testing was one of the reasons I chose to take my children out of public school.  I hated teaching to the test and my child hated taking these tests.  Fortunately, I was able to quit my job and become my children's teacher.

Why must we test children?  What purpose does it serve?  Who really benefits from these test?

Why must we test children?  The answer is to see what they know.  At least, that was what the government and schools tell parents.  Testing has become common place in our schools. 

When my daughter was in public school, she was tested in the fall, winter, and spring.  The MAP test she took was standardized, but could not be taught to.  The electronic based test offered a range of questions in reading, language arts, and mathematics.  When she got a question right, the next question would be harder.  The test tried to see exactly where she was academically.  The PASS test that the State mandated was taught to.  If the teachers did not teach directly to this test, the children would not be able to obtain good results.  All it seemed my daughter was doing was spitting back facts.  She was not learning.  She was just memorizing.

What purpose does it serve?  The schools receive funding based on test results.  If a school has good scores, they receive incentive monies.  If a school does poorly, they receive grant monies to help them improve.  How does this benefit our children?  It allows them more resources to help prep them to better take the test! 

So, who really benefits from these tests?  The companies that make the tests!  Yes, testing has always been about making money.  It was not about helping children succeed.  How many of you take a test every nine-weeks or so at your job to help you become a better employee?  If you had to take a test that often, could you really do your job?  Would knowing the employee handbook verbatim make you better at your job?  What about memorizing all the data sheets, UPC codes, diagrams, etc. that you now just look up on a computer or in a book?  Do you remember every formula to every math problem you have ever worked?  What do you do if you forget something?   Look it up, right?  Why can't children look it up?  Oh, yeah, we 'forgot' to teach them that!

I would rather my child know how to look up information and find an answer, than to regurgitate countless, useless facts.  When did it become a shame to have to look it up?  I had high school students that had no clue how to use a table of contents, index, or dictionary.  They barely knew how to use a computer search engine!  You say kids are computer savvy.  No, they are game, YouTube, and text savvy.  Our educational system has turned so many children off to learning that they live in a fantasy world to escape.  They want nothing to do with learning outside of school, because so many of these kids have been labeled with some kind of learning problem.  How did they get that label?  Testing! 

As a homeschooling mother, I don't have to test my children to see what they know.  I spend every day with them.  I sit with them while they do their school work.  They ask me questions when they don't understand things.  We work out the problem together.  Then I watch them work another on their own.  We discuss what went wrong or right and they will continue on their own.  When they get items wrong in a lesson, I sit with them and explain the process again.  If I know the items missed were just because they rushed, I have them correct their mistakes before going to the next lesson.  I don't need a standardized test to tell me where my children are in their learning.

Yes, I am lucky.  I am not having to sit with thirty or more students.  This could not be done with thirty or more students.  I know, I've been there!  Testing does have a place at times.  Tests, however, are not used appropriately in a classroom setting.  In today's schools, there is no time to go back and reteach a concept.  The standards must be covered (not learned) because the high stakes test is coming!  If a teacher went back to reteach a concept because half the class did poorly on a test, then there wouldn't be time to cover all the standards.  So again, the focus is not on learning, it is on testing.

When H3478 proposed that all home schoolers should take standardized testing the home school community banned together in opposition.  Yes, some test and others do not.  If a family chooses to test, they choose what standardized test.  The parent uses the information to adjust curriculum to meet the child's needs.  The parent does not teach to the test.  Freedom from testing allows us to tailor our curriculum to our children.  If a workbook or textbook is not working for us, we can change.  If our child decides that dinosaurs are the best thing in the world, we can design our classwork around dinosaurs.  The main thing is our children are learning and love to learn!

When was the last time your boss asked you for your test scores to see if you qualified for your job?