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Posts Tagged ‘children’

We live in a society that values the destination over the journey itself. And as spectacular as that destination may be, discounting the highlights and low points of any journey can bring us reeling from the fantasy world back to reality with a BANG! No where else is this more apparent than in our school systems and their utilization of standardized testing. Teachers, those honored educators that are to shape and mold our children into the brilliant minds of the future are instead being forced to direct their lessons toward the end of year testing. While these tests are advocated as assessing our children’s knowledge base, the scores tabulated are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing.

What standardized testing is, in all actuality, is a way for school systems to be ranked, and such ranks are then used to assess the systems themselves, not the student body and the learning that takes place there. Certainly the children parrot what has been learned and record this information, as they would do for any test, but the scores evaluated are used to siphon finances and gold stars for the school systems.

One could easily assume that a sub-par institution, with scores below average, has a student body unable to learn or that the teachers aren’t doing their jobs. Conversely, one can interpret an above average scoring school to have a knowledgeable student body and teachers who are performing well above expectations. But the truth of the matter is that test scores do very little in reflecting a child’s ability to retain information or a teachers ability to educate their students.

In fact it has been shown that through doing rote memorization and drills, students retain less information than through organic learning, such as self discovery of scientific matter. A child can memorize the steps and process of a seed that goes through the growth cycle, but to plant a seed and watch it sprout, grow and produce buds is far more sufficient. If children are forced to know this information, solely to score a high mark on a test, they will absorb much less of the material.

It should never be the goal of an educational institution to prepare the young minds of our children for an assessment that rates their ability to duplicate what they have, in a sense, memorized, when it is their ability to retain such information that is the key to a beneficial education.

Children who prepare solely for an outcome on a standardized test are short changed in the learning process, taught only to worry about high marks and written evaluation. A once curious and excited five year old becomes the bored and grade obsessed adolescent. They begin to crave the best score and miss out on the real educational process. The problem with standardized tests and the fixed curricula they engender is their tendency to kill off the kind of education that matters most.

But what can be done? We live, after all, in a society that is rampant with the desire to compete and be evaluated by one another. This process of competition and evaluation direly affects the student’s ability to care for the material in any other way than to memorize the components of the lesson at hand. Of course, this contributes to the notion that material and learning experience are only beneficial for the end result and the process of learning is left completely in the dust.

We know, as educators (myself a ex-home school mother) that all children learn at their own pace and a arbitrary test score is a very poor reflection on the child’s ability to learn. But it is these precise scores that our educators are imposed to plan and facilitate for.

Those children who score above average are, in turn, labeled as gifted while those who are behind the curve are considered much below average and even labeled behind or worse yet, learning disabled; while this may not be the case at all. Every child is gifted at something and every child is lacking in one area or the other, as children develop, sometimes drastically, at very different rates.

I suppose there is no real solution, aside from the removal of standardized testing from schools. It serves only as an evaluation criteria for the school systems, but in turn greatly affects its student body through the labeling of students and pushing them into robots who’s sole purpose of learning new material is to regurgitate it back for an assessment.

Rather than pushing children and adolescences toward a destination, toward some subjective assessment, teachers should show children how to delight and be joyful about the journey of the education enterprise. If the minds of tomorrow are only interested in high scores and good marks, reality is going to hit them very hard not to mention the ramifications it will have on society.

I applaud teachers and educators who delight in assisting our children through the process of learning and who guide their young minds to continue to have that wide-eyed fascination with new knowledge. Their concern should be, as always, to foster a life time’s worth of love for learning and engender their pupils with the desire to continue to learn, whatever their passions and interests might be.

It is, as the old adage goes, ‘about the journey, not the destination’.

Lauryn

Still not convinced? Check out this resource:

The Truth About Standardized Testing

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