Standardized testing: Is it for everyone?

I live in the state of Maryland. I have a ten year old son who is in the fifth grade. In accordance with No Child Left Behind and Maryland’s state assessment (MSA) each child is tested for content in reading, math and science. From grades three to eight, students are tested on reading, math and language skills. In grades four through eight, Maryland includes science. Standardized testing determines which schools systems get more or less funding and how well they rate among their peers in teaching core fundamentals. While I understand standardized testing, my son’s MSA scores do not accurately reflect his knowledge level. Some kids do well with standardized testing. Their reading comprehension is well. My son is not one of those kids. He retains information better if he’s visually shown than having to read it. Here is where the problem lies. I believe there are more children, than just my son, who would benefit from assessments that are both standard and alternative. As each child learns at a different pace and different skill set, more personalization and utilization of different tools can be used to reduce children from falling through the cracks in our education system. In a timed setting with several other children, my son rushes through tests in order not to be last. In this setting, his test scores are average and if he’s not interested in the subject matter below average. When testing on an individual level, his score increases dramatically as he doesn’t feel pressured to compete.

Maryland does have an alternative MSA, but this is given to students who have several cognitive disabilities that prohibit them from understanding the standard MSA. Again, I don’t believe either clearly shows a true portrait of a child’s social, behavioral or learning patterns. I don’t have any easy answers only more questions on how we can provide individual learning plans for each student, without the headache of lack of funds, no resources, overcrowded classes and not enough teachers.

Taiwan has a different perspective on standardized testing. Emphasis is placed more on academics and student’s test scores determine what high school and college they will attend. The better the test scores, the better the schools. If students don’t score well enough to attend the best schools, their career choices are limited. Where our teachers have flexible on how to administer class curriculums, Taiwan is extremely rigid and leaves little room for students to grow socially and emotionally. The stress levels of Taiwanese students is extremely high to perform well; there is no option to perform average or less.

References

What does MSA test? Retrieved from http://www.mdk12.org/assessments/k_8/index_b.html

Taiwan and U.S. Education Comparisons: Standardized Testing. Retrieved from http://sitemaker.umich.edu/huangk.356/standardized_testing

Racism in the 1960s

My father spent most of his adult life serving the United States Air Force.  Even though he spent most of his teen years living in Washington, D,C, he ran across racism quite frequently.  My mother is from West Texas and she also experienced racism first hand throughout her life.  Both were determined that their children would be raised that their character should matter more than the color of their skin and not to see skin color when interacting with people.  In the mid 1960 we relocated from Andrews Air Force Base to MacDill Air Force Base.  Andrews AFB is on the outskirts of Washington, D,C, and MacDill is located in Tampa Florida.  When I started grade school I attended school on base,  It was in the second grade that I experienced racism for the first time.  My teacher was teaching social studies and was discussing race.  Although I didn’t think it was her intention to make me feel uncomfortable but she did.  She made a matter of fact comment that the whole class was white except for me, I was black.  My parents had never explained race to me and I was taken aback as I really didn’t know exactly what she meant only at that point did I feel different from my classmates.  I went home and told my parents,  At six years old in the second grade, how do you explain that the color of  your skin is different?  I don’t remember exactly how my parents explained it to me, but I do know that I’ve always judged people by content and character and not the color of their skin.  I don’t make pre-judged conceptions at first glance.  It generally takes two to three conversations before I make a general opinion about someone.  I hope that I have instilled these same principles in my son.

I recently read an article that even though we’ve made great strides in integrating our public schools through redistricting, racism still exists and occurs on the most “subtle levels” (Kuznia 2009). As educators we cannot afford to pre-judge or stereotype our children based on race, economic means or gender. We must instill pride and nurture our children to know that each is important and has something to contribute to our society.

Reference
Kuznia, R.(2009). Racism in Schools: Unintentional But No Less Damaging. Pacific Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.psmag.com/culture-society/racism-in-schools-unintentional-3821/

Today’s motivation

A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Maya Angelou :
http://www.poemhunter.com/

”As you consid…

”As you consider whether to move a child into formal academic training, remember that we want our children to do more than just learn how to read and write; we want them to learn in such a way that they become lifelong readers and writers. If we push our children to start learning these skills too far ahead of their own spontaneous interest and their capacity, we may sacrifice the long-range goal of having them enjoy such pursuits.”

Lilian G. Katz (20th century), U.S. early childhood specialist. “Should Preschoolers Learn the Three R’s?” Parents Magazine (October 1990).