Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Uniformly Speaking

My friend told me that she and her fellow teachers are being trained in a new program that treats every child the same and teaches them in the same manner.....because all kids are the same...............well, no they're not.
She also told me the state "scores" of the schools in her district and lo! and behold!  the school that was doing the best is a magnet school that chooses its students and the worse one is located in the poorest section of town. Hmmmmm.  Are we detecting a pattern here???
First, we tell kids they are unique and should be proud of what they are.  Then we teach them all in the same technique.  What if you were one of those kids who didn't get it right away?  Would you be proud of who you were?  Why are we setting up six and seven year olds to doubt their self-worth?  If you are six and can't write a paragraph, there is probably nothing wrong with you that a year or so's growth wouldn't fix.
Not every kid born on the same day, walks on the same day or says Mama on the same day as all the other kids born on that day.  How scary it would be if they did--we'd have little automatons!  But pack them off to school at five or six and they all better learn the sound of the letter M on the day the teacher presents it.  And at the end of the school year they all have to know exactly the same material.
And to top it all off, they have to prove it on one or two tests administered by nervous staff.  Why is the staff nervous?  Because they are being held accountable for the results.  No one takes into consideration that a child may feel ill, that there was a big blowup at home before they left for school or that maybe they didn't get breakfast and possibly no dinner the night before.  I read recently that just a 2% loss of body water can effect your ability to do simple tasks and think clearly.  How do we know if these kids are even hydrated?
And yet, the whole blame falls on the teachers if the kids don't do stellar work on these state mandated tests.
I knew a little boy who took a week's worth of kindergarten tests and did miserably.  So miserably that the first grade teacher thought she'd be lucky if she could even teach him the beginning skills of reading. 
That kid had started reading at age 4 and in kindergarten could read books intended for first and second graders.  I'm not saying this kid was a genius but he was bright and clever.  Bright enough to sense the urgency in his teacher's voice when she talked about the importance of doing well on the kindergarten tests.  He was so worried about his performance that he didn't sleep at all the first three nights of the test.  The fourth night he finally fell asleep around 1 am and that is the one test he did quite well on.   Did the teacher know this--why, no.  A five year old isn't going to complain about insomnia to the teacher he loves and adores.  Did the first grade teacher know it?  Why, no, because she had no way of knowing.  Mom told her....Mom told her the whole story and the teacher decided to move the kid to a different reading group and he took off and had a wonderful experience through the rest of grade school---except the week of the standardized test. 
Mom was able to teach him a few coping tricks but he never did sleep well before a big test forever after.
Now if a teacher who loves a kid doesn't know this, how in the world would the state government know it or the computer that graded the standardized test know it?
When it comes to the very young, kindergartners and first graders, I say, let those kids be kids.  Don't frighten or intimidate them with big tests whose results can even effect how much money the state gives their school.  Test how well they read in second grade or better yet, third grade.
Sure, give them a general knowledge test in seventh grade and test them junior year to make sure they are ready to go to college or into the workplace.  Those are appropriate tests and necessary tests.
State governments need to recognize that kids are all unique and learn in different ways and teachers are hard working, creative people who can teach to their needs.
We need a giant wake up call to help our kids to become the unique indiviuals they are.


Megan said...

Great post, Mom. You know I agree with you. Such an irritating situation.

Abby said...

I agree with Megan. Great post. I wish our school system worked better.

Anonymous said...

Bravo. Why don't more parents and teachers speak up. How many millions of dollars are we spending making, preparing for, administering test-taking, scoring, evaluating results, remaking the test two yrs. later, etc. etc. ad infinatum. What a waste of taxpayer money that could be used for more supplies, teacher aides, etc. to actually improve learning, instead of testing for 2 hours a day for a week and judging a whole yr. on that one test. I always hated it--your right, not every kid feels good, has his best days that week. They test for something I knew after working with a child for just a short time. Didn't A,B,C,D,F tell us whether a child was proficient or not. Come on. And why did the bell curve work and every chil;d would not score at 75% or better???? Bravo Sue. Wish our Congressmen could be so smart!!