just wait, it's coming! dddragon presents: Is Anything Truly Random?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Take Home Exam

We got our first take home test last night. Instead of getting a start on it, I'll share a bit about the class.
Circle of Courage
Last week the instructor gave us a copy of this article. Essentially, it is about how Native Americans raised their children and how White Europeans messed them up. Now the Native Americans are striving to fix the problem. If you liked the first part of the article, see installments two, three, and four.

Then last night we saw a video "Beyond the Standards Movement" by Alfie Kohn. He contends that all these standardized tests that are given in schools today are actually making things worse. I don't remember him actually naming the "No Child Left Behind" legislation and I didn't see the videos date, but it sure does apply. Some highlights:
  • These tests focus on a child's performance, not what was learned.
  • Learning becomes a chore, instead of an exercise in satisfying a child's natural curiosity.
  • Children become focused on scores and attribute their self-worth or image to those scores rather than the effort they put into learning or studying.
  • Children do not learn to cope with failing scores and are devastated by failure.
  • Children chose the easiest path or task in order to get higher scores.
  • The quality of learning suffers. Kids are given answers to memorize, rather than learn to ask for help and to learn how to get to the answer themselves.
  • The point is to do well, not to learn how to learn.
  • Multiple Choice tests do not give a child a chance to explain their reasoning.
  • Timed tests test speed, not truly whether or not the child can answer.
  • Tests are given too frequently. Not all kids can be at the same place of learning or development at the same time. Also, these tests stress kids out.
  • These tests measure "forgettable facts" that most adults don't know - kids are coughing up answers.
  • These tests rank and sort kids; don't tell us what the kids truly know.
  • Kids are taught to the test, not to what they should know. Teachers may deny this, but most parents can tell you this is true.
  • The USA tests school children more often than any other nation on this planet.
  • Schools are directed by politicians rather than educators.

It's frustrating to take this course on Education and see how things COULD be. Our professor said that a large number (I think he said half) of teachers quit the profession after five years. Of course, no profession is perfect and all have their problems. However, our children are our future (not to be too corny) and we should take better care that we aren't churning out citizens that won't truly be able to take care of us (or themselves) when we are old.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger AP3 said...

I think standardized tests are fairly worthless. I can understand why colleges want the SAT, for instance. I mean, they have no idea how to compare a straight A student from a little high school in Montana to an A and B student from a prep school in New Hampshire... the SAT gives them something more direct to compared. But the sad thing is, the correlation between SAT scores and college performance is very, very weak. So it's still pointless. I think it's just a scam -- there's lots of money made in the SAT industry, after all!

As for all these new standardized tests given at the state level, they are very scary for the reasons you've listed. They have them here in Mass. (the MCAS), and it's a total waste of time. Worse, it makes teachers teach to the tests... and the tests are pretty stupid.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

As a homeschool mom for my kids the past three years, I was not opposed to the state testing. My kids took them right along with other kids who were in traditional schooling.
The results didn't tell me if my kids were smart or not, but I used them as a benchmark to let me know what areas they excelled in and what areas they needed to work on.
Teachers who teach with the only goal of getting their students to pass a test, are missing the point of their job. They should make subjects interesting which makes learning easier and even enjoyable. Basic standards and outlines in each vital subject should be taught to each student, but how those subjects are taught is where the joy of teaching comes in.
I can't see any other way that those overseeing state and national education can tell if kids are learning or not. It is too late to find out after they graduate that they can't read or do basic math. Testing is needed in order to help monitor how well kids are learning.
The tests themselves should always be updated and changed to be better at determining a student's knowledge. Some tests are worthless. I agree with Aral on that. But I don't think that all testing is a bad idea.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I'm all for tests. As long as they're part of a student's assessment, not the only determining factor.

Therein lies the problem with some of the state tests. You don't pass, you don't go on to the next grade. Too much pressure all wrapped up in one test.

Great post. It's got me thinking.

At 7:56 PM, Blogger actonbell said...

Yes, good post--I agree that testing shouldn't take over the curriculum. Teachers certainly don't want to just teach for a test: it's boring for both them and the kids. And yes, it's disillusioning to be taking and ed. course and realize that things aren't as they should or could be.

At 8:33 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Not having kids, I do have mixed feelings about the standardized tests. In my field, lack of accountability makes it pretty frustrating to focus on quality and not have it help when we compete against other providers who focus on marketing instead. I wonder if the testing wouldn't be a good piece of a better-thought-out system of judging teachers and schools and Jamie Dawn ;-)

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Bari B. said...

Hoss sent me to read this post. I want to teach curriculum, not crap that is on a standardized test.

Great post!

At 7:47 PM, Blogger still life said...

Thank you for this post, it was very informative. I especially love the article about the Native Americans and the way they reared their children.
The sentence that states:
be related somehow, to everyone you know. I find that to be a very powerful statement. Thought-provoking.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger GodlessMom said...

Wow, really interesting post! I love the idea of a child measuring his/her success by how much personal progress they make rather than by comparing their scores with the scores of other children on standardized tests.

Thanks for the link to the articles, they are really thought provoking!

At 11:06 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Very nice critique on the No Child Left Behind. I'm very much against it, because it's an obsessive focus on test scores instead of teaching. The result is schools aim entirely on getting their kids to pass the scores. They drop everything else not related to getting the scores up, like art, music, theatre, if the scores are bad. That's not a complete education.


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