Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No Child Left Standing

I'm giving the HSGQE today. (High School Grade Qualifying Exam). Not only is this entire experience foreign, uncomfortable and forced for many students, its excruciatingly long and boring. It has a Reading, Writing, and Math component and this year they are trial running the Science portion.

On one side of the coin I think it is important that people know certain things for them to rightfully earn a high school diploma and be a functioning adult. No Child Left Behind has devoloped standards and fail safes to check and make sure that not only to students know their stuff but that teachers are qualified and are actually teaching these skills and content.

The other side of the issue is where I tend to sit. I don't think its wrong to have standards for our kids. I just want to know who's writing these standards, who chooses and deems what is worthwhile knowledge, and who is making all the buttload of cash off of giving tests like the HSGQE, WASL, ACT, SAT, and others.

When I see a state that writes standards on how to grow your own garden, recycle, conserve energy, express creativity, stay physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally fit, and communicate with others peacefully and treat people fairly, then I'll support that state test. I will get behind that one and be strict about it. But this piece meal, unimportant assesement makes me sick. My kids can read, my kids can write, my kids can do math, but no one wants to do this kind of reading/writing/math sitting in silence writing on a peace of paper(and lord knows, science is falling under this too).

I have very high standards for my kids (and I recognize that others might not thus needing a check and balance system like state testing) but I think that these test are totally bogus. At least if they are gonna ask our kids about mostly useless mumbo jumbo they should do it online and let the kids type their answers and click the right ones. I mean, that is how our kids read and write, on the computer. I'm so sick of old ways and people fearing the new people will always know how to write, but we rarely do anymore, I'm not saying abandon it, but seriously let the kids be assessed in a forum they are comfortable with you elitist old curmudgeon assholes!

I got into a little debate with a colleague a week or so ago about this very topic. Parents want their kids to succeed in life, and apparently graduating high school is really important, it gives you a nice piece of paper that basically stamps you on the forehead with the other cattle as another American who has been socialized the same way as everyone else, Home Room, homecoming, prom, jocks, cheerleaders, science fairs, cafeterias, bullies, we all went through these experiences. Rarely do schools actually teach the skills, attitudes and real needs of people transitioning toward adult hood.

SO if school isn't actually a place to learn stuff (because most people don't remember what they learned in school, more so how they felt about it when they 'learned' it), but rather a place to get initiated into the national populace's consciousness, then why do we test our kids on stuff. Why aren't our standards about how to fill out a job application, or how to balance a bank account, or how to budget your money, or how to raise a baby, or how to get a home loan or apply to college, or how to vote, or how to actually do something useful for a change.

Its madness. What we test our students on says a lot about where our nations values lie. And after one day of testing I think our nations values in what people should know in order to graduate is seriously off kilter.

That doesn't mean I don't prepare my kids, it does mean that I prepare my kids harder, because...

Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do, so that you can earn the freedom to do what ever you want.

1 day of testing down, 3 to go. BLEH!!!


Domnule Ortgiesen said...

Unfortunately I feel that the tests are just a reflection of a skewed system of education in a so called ‘Democracy’. Dewey said it best that the ultimate aim of production is not production of goods but the production of free human beings associated with one another on terms of equality. But what is the direction of today’s education system? To turn the next generation into goods and services that can be bought and sold in accordance to their ‘value’, becoming ‘tools’ rented by their employers. The education system is controlled by the institutions of private power and the production of ‘free individuals’ would only undermine this absolute control. Education today is very political, and politics is the shadow cast on society by big business. The path is designed to award those who follow the system and socially constructed capitalist mentalities and the lack of activism and dialogue over such essential issues as what really is a ‘democracy’ or ‘freedom’ can only play into the hands of those who are really controlling the direction of the next generation.

Keep the questions coming Kale, the world needs them.

Anonymous said...

It's funny to read about teachers hyperventilating about standardized tests. You'd think if they were doing their jobs properly there wouldn't be anything to worry about. But nothing really seems to wind them up more than the thought of having someone check to make sure they're actually doing what taxpayers are paying them to do. I wonder why that is?

Syd said...

It’s much easier for people to move smoothly along the ‘grain’ than it is to outwardly question a routine that is so hugely accepted by most, without doubt. It takes fortitude, imagination and PASSION for a person to possess (and to express) a different, conflicting insight, or an idea that in one way or another scrutinizes the routine norms (“going-against-the-grain” if you will). A good teacher isn’t a teacher who puts a book in front of the student and says, “this is what you need to learn, learn it, memorize it and then take a test on it. If you pass the test, congratulations, you will succeed in life, and if you don’t pass the test, sorry, sorry you fail.” There’s more to it than that isn’t there? Those who don’t think so are brainwashed aliens [they’re everywhere]. Its people like you, people who get passionate about things that in all actuality is just fucking silliness.
A good teacher provokes thoughts and inspires students to not merely read the books but to ask why “they” want us to be learning this. And also overall consensuses on what are the underlying purposes and who/what they really serve.
Keep your passion flame burning hot and bright, Kale. Keep instilling wonder and enthusiasm in everyone (blog readers, students, friends, family, fellow teachers EVERYONE). If more people shared your speculative insights and compassion to question the norm this world would be a lot easier to look at. You ARE a great teacher. Asking questions is awesome. It really sucks to just smile, nod, swallow everything that’s spoon fed to you. Given, it’s much easier and you don’t have to think as much, but in the end… the ones who listen to their inner voice and uses outlets to comfortably express themselves are the real heroes of the world, the ones who inspire people and make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. People like you.

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