This is turning into an interesting discussion.
Mothra, you said,
|I've written these tests. They are as bad as everyone says and worse. The language used in the tests is racist, classist, and sexist.
Do you mind sharing a general example of sexist/racist language in a test question? I'm having a hard time imagining how a test question could be framed in a sexist or racist way.
Britishmum, you said,
|If it is a good test, it is not possible to 'teach to it'. It is the curriculum that you need to cover in order that the children can succeed in the tests. I think that it is far more wrong not to prepare children for tests and give them practice in techniques for them.
That's good to hear, although I guess the operative phrase is, "if it's a good test." I agree that children need to know how to take tests.
Blueviolet, we disagree on this point:
|I do not need to know whether they have memorized this or that mathematical equation. And by focusing on that -- the trivia that standardized tests are based on I think that educators, and maybe even parents forget to look at the other stuff that is what is truly relevant
I don't think that the knowlege base that children need to pass a standardized test can be fairly written off as "trivia." I know that memorization seems hopelessly dull and old-fashioned, but learning certain seemingly arbitrary facts gives children the tools they need to put their lives in perspective and to function in the adult world. To give one example, I think it's important for American children to know the dates of the Revolutionary war and the Civil war--these dates are obviously less important to children growing up in the Netherlands or India--but much of what we come in contact with requires a historical frame of reference. Yes, you can always look it up--most people are fudgy on the exact
dates--but we have kids in this country who confuse the dates of the Civil War with that of the Vietnam War. That is not good.
|Just recently I taught a lesson to my high school class about poverty. They were asked to calculate whether a family of three with one working adult made above or below the poverty line if the working person made minimum wage. I told them what the poverty line was, told them what minimum wage was, and let them use calculators if they wanted to. At least HALF of my 10th graders were unable to figure this out. Most of them didn't know how many weeks were in a month (they guessed 7-8), how many weeks were in a year, and had to count to figure out how many months there were in a year. Do I blame the schools for not teaching this info? Absolutely not.
I absolutely would blame the schools in this situation. I know--some parents are not supportive of education and are raising kids who just couldn't care less--but even so, when high schoolers
don't know how many weeks are in a month, that raises serious concerns about their past education, IMO. I bet if most of these kids' parents knew this, they'd be horrified and quickly remedy the problem. But I bet many of these kids sailed through elementary school and middle school with decent report cards and so their parents never questioned the type of education they were getting.
My ds is in sixth grade and is taking US history this year. A few days ago I guizzed him a bit about early US history. He could not name the second president of the United States. He didn't know who was president during the war of 1812 and had only the barest understanding of that war and why it was fought. He had the most cursary understanding of the Continental Congress, and could not correctly name the people who wrote the Constitution. And yet he's been getting A's in history. What the heck has he been learning all this time? Well, he knows that his teacher's favorite TV show is "West Wing." He had a project in which he and a group had to create a society loosly based on the "Survivor" TV show--although what that has to do with US History I can not say.
This was a HUGE wake up call for me. And believe me, ds is going to know more about US history, even though I'll have to teach it to him myself. There must be a way to make sure that children are aquiring knowlege
during their school years.
PS: Don't think I'm attacking all schools or teachers with my example about ds's history class. He's had the privilege of being taught by many excellent teachers, and while he's hearing about the latest episode of "West Wing" in history, he's reading Shakespeare and writing thesis papers in English.