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Year 2- Day 176- Testing….1,2,3….

by admin on May 18th, 2005

I was thinking a lot about the standardized testing the other day. I’m not sure why exactly, but it struck me; testing is a waste of time, and money. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m fairly confident standardized testing is a result of America’s little wiener syndrome. The United States can’t stand to be inferior when it comes to education. When polls come out listing the USA very low in academic rankings, it’s taken personally. You can almost picture someone in D.C. looking at the reports and saying,

iWhat!?!?! The Iranians have smarter kids than us? That’s impossible! Things have to change… if we can be the #1 military power in the world, surely we can be the #1 Educational powerhouse as well. i

Once it’s decided that it’s unacceptable to be anything other than #1, efforts are made to remedy the problem. Add in the fact each State hates to be idumberi than any another state, and people start panicking for a solution.

iIf America is #127 on the educational ranking, and we here in California are 37th, we’re really bad.i

The first thing they do is blame the educational system. Next they decide that some sort of tests are needed to distribute to all the kids, testing what they know… so we can use it for polls, and rankings.

America institutes various standardized tests in all schools, so we can compare how smart are kids are; compared to China, compared to Connecticut, compared to the other schools in our area, and compared to the previous years.

We can literally compare anyone, and everything to anything and everyone. It’s great right? Pull up the statistics and say—iWe’re 5% better this year over last year. We’re 14% better than the other schools in our demographic citywide, Statewide. We’re 4% better Nationwide on average.i
A school can see what areas they’re strong in, weak in, and exactly where it is compared to other schools like them.

The Problems

Kids aren’t averages. Testing still doesn’t really place any focus on the individual kids with problems. They’ hopefully get averaged out by the smarter kids. Afterall, it’s usually easier to get the smarter kids to learn a little more than it is the troubled kids. It’s one reason that comprehensive schools have NO problems shipping low test performers to us here.

Teaching for the tests. Teachers spend more time focused on teaching to improve test scores, and less time on getting to know the kids, or using some of the anecdotal teaching methods that make learning fun. Before this huge push for test score increases, teacher would start on the Civil War, and if it took an extra 4 days to cover some of the interesting tidbits, and make the lesson memorable… so be it. Now, it’s cover the facts, then move to the next issue.

School focus more and more on the core subjects Science, Math, English, and History and less on Music, Art, and PE are the focus. That’s fine to an extent, but the non core classes help keep kids from burning out, give them parts of the day to unwind, and avoid overloading their brains with facts. Not every kid in the world is a math or English lover. I know having art during my day made putting up with the other classes easier.

Test scores can only go up for so long. The way testing is set up now, schools are supposed to increase each year by certain %’s. If this doesn’t happen, then obviously, the school and teachers are doing something wrong. The highest score possible is 100%. Logic tells us that no matter what, after the first initial increases, a school’s scores are going to level out or drop off. You can’t increase forever If a school puts X amount of extra effort in raising test scores, and it raises them Y amount; the next year they will have to work X+ in order to get them to raise higher. There’s only a certain amount of time in the day. Kids change, times change, material changes, standards change… it’s impossible to keep raising test scores.

It would have been the most beneficial for schools to TANK the first round of standardized testing that was given. Do really poorly, and average 59%. Yes it would look terrible, but when it was at 64% the next year, and 66%, then 68%, the school would be improving constantly. The school who pushed hard on the tests from the gate and scored 81%, it’s a lot harder to go from 81%->84% than it is to go from 59% to 64%. Then, the following year when they expect the school to go from 84% to 86%…that’s even harder.

Those are some of the problems with iteastingi

As far as America is concerned; we’re never going to be #1, ever, for a lot of reasons…

Size– The USA is huge. We have 50 states, each with a different Dept. of Education. We have 51 dept’s of Ed in the US. They all have slightly different rules, requirements etc. This is partly why NCLB was put into effect… to bring some continuity to the whole mess. Mississippi might have lower test scores than California, but they also have lower teacher requirements. That type of stuff makes a difference in test scores.

There’s more people too. The more people in a country, the harder it is to change results by a large % each year. If you have 10 people in your school, and 3 of them pass a test, that’s 30% If only 3 more people pass it the next year, you’ve gotten to 60%…and it didn’t take too long. If you have 100 people, it takes considerably more to raise the same %…..same goes on a larger scale for countries.

Part of the problem with our size is, we’re not exposed to other countries cultures as much. We have Mexico, and Canada…that’s it. We have embraced a lot of Mexican culture. That’s why most people take Spanish in high school or college… because outside the French Canadians, it’s the only language that is commonly spoken in the US, other than English. Other countries are closer to countries with different primary languages. These countries also have other cultures as well to learn from and appreciate as well. Chances are Kids in Spain, speak Spanish, French, Portugese, and English. These are all cultures they possibly deal with quite regularly.

Keep in mind as well that the US is a relatively young country. We don’t have the long history, or cultural traditions other countries do.

Focus- As long as the USA puts more effort and importance on being a military powerhouse, over an educational powerhouse we’re not going to achieve better global rankings. I’m not sure where education ranks as far as importance at the national level, but I bet military and economy are higher. (economy makes some sense… but I bet the better our educational system was, the better our economy would be in the long run)

Immigration- The US has loads of people moving here all the time. It’s part of our imelting pot culturei These kids who immigrate into the country, have to learn a new system, a new language… it takes several years to readjust. That affects test scores. I’d be willing to bet a lot of countries don’t have the same immigration issues we have.

Culture– Other cultures place a higher emphasis on Education, and teachers. Look at any Latin, or Asian culture; the focus and importance they place on education is much higher than what it is in the US.

Superiority Complex- The US expects everyone to learn our culture and style. We have a large number of people living here who have no desire to experience anything outside this country, and because we’re so large…they can get away with it.

Family Life- Because we have such a media heavy lifestyle here, and because we haven’t the focus on education other countries do, our kids just aren’t going to be as smart. I’d be willing to bet on average the US has the highest rates of TV usage per child. The US probably has some of the highest divorce rates, unemployment rates, suicide rates, and crime rates in the world as well. Those all are going to affect the education of kids.

Money- We’re one of the wealthiest nations (if not THE wealthiest) in the world. “How much would it cost to have someone do it for me?” We’d rather buy our way out of things, than actually learn them. It works on the bottom of the wealth scale as well. A lot of poor folks just assume that if they don’t win the lotto, they’ll just go on unemployment or welfare and live that way. “I don’t need no education, gove’mint gonna pay fo’ me…”

The point is, the US has a lot to fix before our test scores will go up to compete with the rest of the world.

I’d be willing to bet test scores (if they existed) were far higher in US in the 40’s and 50’s than they are now.

Just some thoughts to ponder.

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