On Saturday, Mrs. Mayhem related to her readers that her daughter, Millie, is "struggling academically. As a kindergartner."
A Brief History
Once upon a time, I desired to be a teacher. I finished all the pre-requisites at my University, completed the volunteer hours, wrote the admissions essay, and was about to apply to the elementary education program when I realized I could not do it. Why the change? A couple of reasons. 1) The teacher I volunteered under over the summer scared me. She was extremely harsh (not strict) and almost oblivious to each child's educational needs. The second reason I will get to in a minute.
Mrs. Mayhem mentioned that the teacher's proof for Millie's supposed poor performance were her standardized tests. In my opinion, this is where our educational system has failed. The government recognizes there is a problem with dropout rates and under achievement with underprivileged populations. Yet, their idea on how to treat it is through testing measures. Measures that have been shown to have systematic bias toward those same populations. President Bush initiated the No Child Left Behind Act, which actually pushed those needy populations even further behind, while President Obama is advocating for longer school days and performance pay for teachers. "Performance" being defined as how well their students perform on standardized tests.
I wonder, do government officials even consult with child/adolescent development experts? Most of the educational changes proposed by the government are a reaction to our competitor's (i.e. other countries) test scores in the areas of Math and Science. Because a few countries are ahead of us in producing the next Scientists and Engineers, our leaders have decided that in order to compete, we must focus our educational goals on these specific subjects and increase standardized tests to make sure that teachers are complying with their wishes.
Teachers Are Not to Blame
Mrs. Mayhem emphasized that her daughter's teacher is not to blame. I agree. Teachers are set up for failure. If a teacher is wonderful and amazing and utilizing developmentally appropriate practices rather than teaching rote memorization, she might be booted because her students perform below average on tests designed to only measure certain facets of a student's performance. What should said teacher do? Her job is literally on the line.
This is where my second reason comes in. I disagreed with the approach to education and even the training of teachers. The strict testing measures that were beginning to be enforced at younger and younger ages appalled me. In my mind, taking a more holistic approach to education--one that emphasizes developmental stages and adapts teaching to each child's strengths and weaknesses--was much more focused and easier to attain. I didn't like the feeling that I would inevitably fail.
It is unfair. Unfair to the students, especially underprivileged students, unfair to the teachers, and unfair to the parents.
Do I have a solution? Many. But my voice only echoes that of many experts in the field and, unfortunately, is lost in this fast-paced society that fails to recognize a student's performance can't be forced through testing or rote memorization. They must first love to learn.
What do you think?
After I wrote this piece, I researched on-line to make sure I wasn't making false claims. In the course of this event, I found this article, Standardized Testing and Its Victims, by Alfie Kohn in which he addresses the issues I have raised here and many more in greater depth.
6 hours ago