Lights! Camera! Test!

Brandon started the 5th grade standardized tests today. Remember standardized testing? We used to take the Iowa tests, and I always wondered why we took the Iowa tests instead of the Georgia tests. Could we not afford the Georgia tests? Maybe those Iowa kids were just smarter than we were – so much so they had their own test named after them.

I loved standardized testing – the bubbles for your answers, the scan-trons, the smell of number 2 pencil shavings falling out of the wall-mounted pencil sharpener. I don’t necessarily remember preparing for the standardized tests – at least my teachers didn’t mention it until it was time to put your books away and take the test. But Brandon’s school is different (as I imagine many schools are around the country) – at his school, it is ALL about the test. They start preparing and talking about the tests from the first day of school.

They also abandon traditional subjects in order to prepare for the test. Basically, they are teaching the standardized test. Brandon hasn’t had spelling words for the past 6 weeks. Why? Because they decided to focus on math vocabulary because it is on the test. Who cares what the ‘distributive property of multiplication’ is? You don’t use that term everyday. However, it would be nice if he could spell ‘distributive.’  But they’re not teaching that right now.

My grandfather recently sent me a book on the United States’ education system, how it has changed over the years and the reasons why it has changed (thanks, Granddaddy – I’m still reading through it).  And I must say, education has changed since I was in school. It may not be fair for me to compare my school to Brandon’s (I went to a private, religious school and he goes to public school). But the standardized testing of today is waaaay important – Brandon’s school had a Rams football player make a special appearance to “kick off” testing today.

Maybe it’s because money is tied to performance on the test. Maybe it’s a matter of bragging rights – a “my school beat your school on standardized tests” mentality. Probably both. I think we’ve lost our focus on educating kids and now focus on how they do on one test. They won’t be able to spell or write or speak intelligently about U.S. history, but they will know what the distributive property of multiplication is.

I don’t know where I’m going with this post – one reason is that Matthew is sitting on the floor beside me watching “Winnie the Pooh” and all I can hear is “rumbly in my tumbly.” I probably ought to end this post before I get carried away and launch into a “what’s wrong with these kids today” speech. Yikes! I’m getting old!


4 Responses

  1. In Florida the have the FCAT test. Like Brandon’s school, the teachers begin preparing for this test the first day of school. It’s a big deal. The kids and teachers stress out about it. If you don’t pass the test you can’t move on to the next grtade level, even if you have passing grades in you classwork. Each school is graded on its success with the FCAT.

    When I was a senior my class had to take the pilot FCAT exam. I must admit that it was challenging. Up until then we just had to pass the HSCT in order to graduate. This test was very easy. I think I missed one question out of the whole test. The FCAT however did not want you to just solve the math problem, you had to write an explantion on how you came to your answer.

    In some ways I think the testing is good. It holds teachers accountable for what they are doing in the classroom, and makes kids use the reason and comprehension skills they are taught. On the other hand, you talk to 3rd graders who are stressing out over stanardized tests when they should just be able to worry about being a kid. I don’t have an answer for this, but I see the benefits on both sides of the fence.

  2. In Texas, we had BOTH the Iowa’s and the TABS (Texas Assessment of Basic Skills). I liked them because the broke up the monotony that is public school education. But when a child is so worked up over a standardized test that he has test anxiety akin to the first time I took the GRE, something is definitely out-of-place. No Child Left Behind, indeed!

  3. We started the tests last week. They distribute them over a month. In 5th grade they are allowed to take the test up to 3 times in order for them to pass. Chris, it is the TAKS Test now (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills). It has been crazy!

  4. I remember the IOWA tests, especially in Mrs. Clarkson’s class. I think that we only spent 2 days on them, right? How times have changed.

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