Warning: Not Writer Related

» Posted on Apr 19, 2006 in Blog | Comments Off on Warning: Not Writer Related

Well, in a roundabout way it is writing related but not totally. I have to vent about state mandated testing, at least here in Oklahoma. I don’t know what it is like other places, but I think the focus of education is moving in the wrong direction. Schools are now teaching to the test (which doesn’t have to be a totally bad idea but a two hour test doesn’t do a whole subject justice). For the past few months the tests have consumed time and manpower (getting the test ready to give to the students) to the exclusion of what we are really at school to do: teach the students.

As usual with anything government driven, there is so much red tape attached to it you can probably see it a mile away. We got a six page document to follow that details everything that has to be done. Six pages–small print!!! It took someone a long time to come up with all the rules and procedures that have to be followed. Imagine what it would be like if we used that time and energy teaching the kids.

But the worst part of the testing is how it makes some of the students feel. There are some who have test anxiety. They perform well in the day to day classroom, but when it comes to tests, they get upset and forget everything they know. There are some bright students who have this problem. How does a one to two hour test really measure what a person knows? Let’s not even mention some days people don’t perform well because they aren’t feeling well (allergy season in Oklahoma is in full swing).

I teach students with learning disabilities. Even if they haven’t had the material, every student must take the Algebra test. What good does it do to have a child take a test over material they’ve never had? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know how well those students will do on the test. So why put them through it? Would you want to be tested over something you’ve never had?

There is more to being successful in life than passing a test. A test is only a measure of how that student is doing on that day in that subject. I would much rather base a student’s assessment on his performance throughout the semester.

So how is this “a little related” to writing? I gave the state writing test yesterday to some 10th graders. They were given a quote and told to write about its meaning and relate it to their experiences, etc. I write all the time, but I don’t necessary do my best writing on a time schedule or on demand. I know some good students who have to think and mull the subject over before they can write a good paper on it. But these students had about an hour to come up with an essay with no prior knowledge of the subject.