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Are standardized tests really so terrible? - Page 4

post #61 of 94
How likely is it that a 30-year-old who dropped out of high school to learn a trade is going to wake up one morning and say, "Shucks, I'd like to go to Harvard Medical School but now there's no way! Wish I'd stayed in school and taken all the tests."
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My (foster) sister is a good example of this. [snip]
Now as an adult facing her husbands pending disability, she's gone back to school to be a nurse. She has 2 more years until her BSN, and 1.5yrs after that for her FNP--and you know what she's saying? "Shucks, if I'd stayed in school and taken the tests, I could have gone to UW Medical School, I WAS smart enough to be a doctor!" It took her 15 years to realize this.


I assume Greaseball was talking about someone who has never had an interest in or affinity for medicine -- they wouldn't wake up some day and say, "shucks, wish I'd done that!" That is the opposite of your sister's situation, in which she did know what she wanted and needed to do, and didn't. Your sister's situation is comparable to that of a friend of mine, who was pressured into higher education and a professional career even thought that's not what he wanted, and finally had the courage to do what he was really suited for (and had known from the start) -- to be a laborer.

You don't have to take the SATs to get into an open-admissions university. A child who wants to go to a more selective university is probably OK with the fact that high SAT scores will be required, and will plan accordingly. But why make all the other children take a test that will have no meaning for them personally?
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I didn't have a clue what universities looked for as far as SATs vs. grades etc. Because at my school such information was made available more for the parents than the students, and if your parents didn't take an interest, well, oh well.


Seems to me that's an argument for empowering students with information about their options, rather than for standardized testing. Standardized testing, in this case, is just a bandaid for a much deeper problem.
post #62 of 94
Quote:
But I believe children still require some guidance concerning their education. Do we let our children eat whatever they want--even if what they want is junk food?
Yes, if my dd asks for junk food and it's in the house, she gets it. That doesn't mean it's all she eats. She doesn't even ask for it every day. If I let her choose her own learning path and some of it includes TV or videos, I know that's not all she'll do, so it's OK to let her watch TV when she asks as well.

Of course, children require guidance. That's why, if I end up homeschooling, I'll see my role as that of a guide rather than that of a teacher. Being a teacher means that I have all the information and I dole it out in small doses at certain times. (I know not all teachers are like that, though.) Being a guide means that I will show my children how to best access the information they are looking for, which at times may be found in more of a school-like setting and at times may be found somewhere completely different.

I don't think people really don't want to learn history at all, I think they may not want to learn it in the ways others think they should learn it. I cannot learn history sitting at a desk listening to someone lecture. (I can get an A in it, but I can't learn it.) Some schools teach history though biography, or even through historical fiction. Homeschoolers often teach history through the family tree; the child learns about past events going on in the world and how they were relevant to various family members. I wish I had been given the opportunity to learn like that - good thing it's not too late!

Can we really be so sure that children won't naturally gravitate to what they need to know? How do we know they won't? How do we even know what they need to know? Do you personally know a child who never learned to read, count, walk or talk because he was left to learn it on his own? Some children, when left to learn reading on their own, learn it much later than those in school learn it (and some learn it much earlier and then are totally bored in school) but it hasn't hurt them any.

I didn't teach dd to talk, she just started imitating me one day. I didn't sit down with her and point to things and try to get her to repeat words. I wrote a one-page note to someone when I was 4; my mom didn't even know that I knew how to write and I was not in preschool. I think words and numbers are fascinating to children; haven't you heard a toddler or preschooler ask what comes after "thirty-eleven?" I don't think they can be prevented from learning something that interests them so much.
post #63 of 94
Quote:
Originally posted by sharonal

Gendenwitha,
The info you mentioned about your DH is sad; I'm sorry he had that happen to him. However, in most schools, he's the kind of kid that would not be placed in gifted classes but would instead be tested for learning disabilities. In order to qualify for federal funds, a student must show a large disparity between IQ/test scores and classroom performance. So I doubt anyone would have "listened" to his test scores and put him in a gifted class. And so what benefit did they/would they have served?
Sharonal:
The rest of that story is that after he took these tests, the counselor first encouraged his father to put him in a private gifted school but that wasn’t financially possible (or wasn’t a priority) for their family. The guidance counselor also asked him why his grades were so low, and he told them because he was bored. They told him he could get into gifted classes if he brought his grades up. So he did and for a while he got straight A’s, but still didn’t get put in gifted classes so he gave up. Did he have an attitude problem? You bet. Could he have done more to help his success? Yeah, probably that too. But the point was, whether it was gifted classes or checking for learning disabilities those tests COULD have been used to discover that something in this system isn’t working for this kid, and without them, the potential to fix a problem wouldn’t have been there because the problem itself would not have been identified.

Again, not saying that standardized tests are wonderful ways to determine funding, but that they DO have oppurtunities as a tool within education.
post #64 of 94
Quote:
Originally posted by blueviolet
Boy, I don't know if that's even possible. Are you saying you believe that through standardized testing the government is best supporting millions of students?
EXACTLY!!!!!
NOT that I believe that the gov't is best supporting millions of students by standardized testing, but that we're looking at this as PARENTS--or for some of us here, as educators. It's easy for me to say what MY child needs to succeed and have a good education, and as a parent I agree with all of what you said about achievement and such.

BUT... say you're a Senator, trying to get funds for your state. How do you convince the administration that your state needs X amount of money and that you're using it well? Say you're the president/Congress, how do you decide how to divide up the funds? Say you're the govenor, or working on the state budget? How do you decide which schools need extra money? How do you decide which schools are succeeding? Try answering those SAME questions from their prespective. (Throw in the fact that you're working with people with such asinine plans as "lets cut off their funding unless they teach abstaince-only sex-education")

Yes, mass standardized testing as a means of comparing schools has SERIOUS flaws with it. But rating learning is like Mr. Pritchard's scale of evaluating poetry. It's like deciding who's the best visual artist--what does it for some doesn't do it for others.

How do you take a state's worth of schools and decide which ones are failing and need to be replaced with a new model, which ones have a successful model but are under-funded, and which ones can make do with less funding this year?

We've got a goup of rural schools in part of our state that are full of migrant farm worker's children who are also largely ESL students. What kind of opportunities and information and support are you going to give them as a committee member working on a school budget at the Capital?

Success is it's own reward for the students, but it doesn't cover the cost of a field trip. It doesn't fix a leaky roof or buy new textbooks. And like I said, if you help the unsuccessful (financially) instead of rewarding the sucessful, how do you determine (again, on a large scale) who is TRULY the successful and who is showing all their blemishes just to ecourage funding? How do you attract good teachers and KEEP a school successful if the more successful a school gets the less money they have for salaries?

If something DOESN'T work, (take some of the often criticized: whole word method of reading, outcome-based-education, rote memorization and timed math tests) how do you SHOW it doesn't work? What about the student's emotional lives? If they're learning English and math well, what's wrong with putting Native American children in boarding schools? How do I go to a state senator and show them that it's wrong?

If I seem to be flip-flopping on my opinion of S.T., let me explain in brief:
Part I of my ranting is: if we're going to criticize the current model, what can we give them for suggestions that WILL work?

Part II of my ranting is: let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, just because some morons are badly misusing standardized tests, doesn't mean they don't ever have a place and a purpose.
post #65 of 94
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Do you personally know a child who never learned to read, count, walk or talk because he was left to learn it on his own?
Personally? No, but I know plenty of people who are appallingly ignorant.

However, 50% of American adults are unable to read at an 8th grade level. An estimated 5 million adults holding jobs are considered functionally illiterate. For more fun facts about literacy, check here: http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Works...s/answers.html

Some children do manage to teach themselves to read, but that doesn't mean that reading is something that comes naturally, like walking and talking. If it was, illiteracy would not be a problem in this country. Reading is a learned skill and the whole reason I started this thread is because some children are going through school without ever learning to read and I feel like something should be done about it. Standardized tests aren't necessarily the answer, but I think it's appalling that schools are sending illiterate, ignorant kids out into the world. Why do we pay taxes for the schools to fail so miserably?
post #66 of 94
In manufacturing, standardized testing seems appropriate as you wouldn't want to make defective brakes that didn't reach a minimum standard. The standard allows companies to spend the least possible to reach the set standard. It does not encourage companies to make the best brake they can. The same, I fear, goes for standardized tests and education.
If education were important each school, each child, would receive whatever they needed. Is there a parent on this board that standardizes parenting with each child getting the same treatment or do most adjust to the needs of each child as an individual with individual needs so that that child grows to his or her fullest? With standardized parenting you could ignore children who reached the standard. You could also move resources to your "favorite" child because after all the others who've reached the standard are fine.
Could you make your child's nursery too beautiful? Money, effort, and intention should be throw on children's education. If more than is necessary is spent then great, nothing has been overlooked. Let's put our money where our mouth is. "No child left behind" is a lousy idea. It's a minimum standard not an ideal to strive for. It should be no child at anything but at their full potential with a world ready to receive them and help them along.
There should be a standard in education not standardized education - the standard being that entire society does everything it can for each child.. they are the future, they will be everything.

"The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
post #67 of 94
OK, if the tests are really necessary to measure the important things our children are learning, why aren't certain things on them? I can think of a few very important things that are missing:

Cooking! Since when is cooking not important? What do you plan to do if you can't cook; eat out every night or buy frozen foods? Some schools don't even teach home ec anymore; those that do don't have students hand in cooking samples on the tests.

Sewing! Eventually, your clothes are going to rip. Since I don't know how to sew, if my clothes rip I either buy new ones or pay someone else to fix them. Perhaps every student should be required to make a pair of jeans.

Auto repair! Do you think that all the times I was stuck hitchhiking in the rain on the freeway, I was thinking about how great Shakespeare was? Actually, I was thinking about the time in high school when I asked to join the basic auto mechanics class and was told "This class isn't for students who can't even pass basic P.E." As a "compromise," they stuck me in the welding class. I guess gym-flunkers do just fine in welding.: Today, I don't have any idea how to change a tire. I don't know what to do when the car heats up or makes a funny noise. I don't even know how to pump gas. Is this an "optional" skill?

What about your own culture's folklore, crafts, and games? I used to live in an Eskimo village. (I know, not very politically correct...) Most of what we learned was traditional beadwork, religious rites, basket weaving, dogsledding, food preparation, the native language, and mythology. But what we were tested on was "math" and "reading." Why was the village's culture not important enough to be on the test? I considered that to be one of my most meaningful educational experiences, even if no one else thinks it's important enough to test on.

So, there are my ideas for other things that students should be tested on.

Another question - If NCLB was repealed, and your child's school decided to not have any more standardized tests, how would you feel? Would you be confident that they would find other ways to teach and to assess progress, or would you be disappointed and wonder how your child was ever going to succeed?
post #68 of 94
Quote:
Why do we have this idea that if you don't learn chemistry in high school, you'll never learn it at all?
Greaseball- I had this discussion with my BIL. His arguement was the idea of critical period- that children learn fastest, and easiest, at younger ages. He is an assitant professor at a southern university, and commented on how much longer it took his older students to learn the same material the younger students picked up easily.
post #69 of 94
Quote:
OT: but why does everybody seem to think a study of history is useless? And by "everybody," I don't mean the people on this thread, but the education establishment in general.
I don't think it is useless...but I think that the exploration of history should not be something you get tested on. Cramming your head full of dates, when you can always look them up, I do not feel is useful. I personally think that discussion of history, and debate is a much more appropriate means of covering history.
post #70 of 94
Quote:
I'm only saying that children will not naturally gravitate to every subject they need to know.
You still haven't answered my question. Are you familiar with the concept of "strewing"?
post #71 of 94
Quote:
I know plenty of people who are appallingly ignorant.
Appallingly ignorant in the eyes of whom? Themselves? Their parents? Some test-writer guy who they will never meet?

I also know people who are ignorant in certain areas, but they are areas that are not valued in our society and are not tested on. For example, to get into medical school and to graduate, you need high test scores. You do not need a good attitude. No doctor is required to be nice to a patient. I think it's ignorance to say that a doctor's attitude has no effect on a patient's health.

About learning things better at young ages - some people do say this is true in the area of foreign language. I'm re-learning Spanish, and wonder if I might have had an easier time with it if I'd learned it at a younger age. That may have been true if I'd learned it in a different way - such as through immersion or having an exchange student - and not by saying "The cup is on the table" over and over again. So now I'm back to getting high grades but not really learning it. I also did not teach myself long division until 11th grade, but found it very quick to pick up. I learned how to drive when I was 22, not 16.

It's frustrating trying to explain to my teachers that I'm just not getting the material. They all say, "What do you mean; look at how well you did on the last test! How can you say you don't understand it?" Well, I just don't, yet I have the ability to score well on tests. It's really not so unusual. One professor even acted like I was wasting his time by coming to office hours since I "didn't really need the extra help."
post #72 of 94
Thread Starter 
Ack! I'm sorry Breathless Wonder, I forgot to look at the link you posted. I've never heard of strewing. I"ll check it after I post this.

For the record, let me say that I do not support the No Child Left Behind act. I never have. I live in a state that requires all students to pass Standards of Learning standardized tests. I'm ambivalent about these--I see how they put a damper on what's learned in the classroom, and they are definitely a minimum standard--of course children should be offered the opportunity to go beyond the minimum.

I don't think standardized tests will solve educational problems, but I think public education in the US has been trampled by the education establishment that embraces every trend that comes down the pike, that pillories their critics, that has set things up so that they are immune to any sort of accountablilty. And by the education establishment, I'm talking about the NEA, state education departments, teachers colleges and just about any other education beauracracy.

But the bottom line is, schools are not educating our children and that's a crying shame. I'm removing my dd from school at the end of this year and my youngest child will never go to school. But my two older children will remain in school, at least for now, and I am going to make sure they get a good education!
post #73 of 94
Thread Starter 
Strewing:
Quote:
I think it is leaving material of interest around for our children to discover.
So would you say that strewing is a way to gently guide a child's interests so that he/she will learn about a wide variety of things?

Also, regarding cooking and sewing appearing on tests: yes these are important skills. I don't recall saying anywhere that the only important knowlege is academic. But shouldn't children learn these skills from their parents or caregivers? Should schools now be responsible for teaching basic survival skills? I think that one reason schools are failing is that they're taking on the burden of being everything to children: substitute parent, counselor, social worker, etc. Naturally this leaves less time to study academic subjects.
post #74 of 94
Yes, it is gentle guidance. It's exposing the child to an idea or subject, instead of forcibly telling them they MUST learn it, and in XYZ fashion.

Strewing is very useful, because you can seguey into a subject. For example, a child who has a strong interest in Egypt can be encouraged to learn about geometry if you leave a book on the coffee table about Egyptian building practices.

A child who has a strong interest in cars can be lead towards an interest in physics by leaving an article about the science behind race car driving...

The point is, you are helping the child BUILD on their interests, and giving the opportunity for the child to expand into new interests.

Post posters with new information (My son learned Greek numerals this way- he got bored, and was looking for something to do. He started reading, and was hooked. If that poster hadn't worked, I would have tried soemthing different. ) are also very useful.

Quote:
Also, regarding cooking and sewing appearing on tests: yes these are important skills. I don't recall saying anywhere that the only important knowlege is academic. But shouldn't children learn these skills from their parents or caregivers? Should schools now be responsible for teaching basic survival skills? I think that one reason schools are failing is that they're taking on the burden of being everything to children: substitute parent, counselor, social worker, etc. Naturally this leaves less time to study academic subjects.
But I think part of this has to do with the increasing demand on time schools are making- between homework, longer school days, etc.
post #75 of 94
It's often said that children can learn "other stuff" like cooking and sewing at home, after they're done with their "real schoolwork." So why is cooking an elective, something to be learned in the spare time, while calculus is essential? Why isn't it the other way around? Why are there people who know how to solve "vector equations" who can't bake bread? Where are their priorities? I guess they have decided for themselves that baking bread is not a skill that is relevant to their lives, and they probably know best. But if you say calculus is not relevant to your life, that's a display of your own ignorance?

At least one part is right - children can learn it at home, just like everything else.

As to whether schools should teach basic skills, I think anyone involved with a child's life should be involved in all areas. Yes, the band teacher should know if the student is having trouble in math, and the underwater basket weaving teacher should know if the student's father died. The parents and teachers and children should all be working together, shouldn't they? Schools can help with learning to cook, and parents can help their children write essays. Why is it that some skills are to be taught only by the school, and some only in the home?
post #76 of 94
Quote:
But I believe children still require some guidance concerning their education. Do we let our children eat whatever they want--even if what they want is junk food?
There is a theory that if given total choice, and without having been conditioned into the whole bad/good food neuroses that lead to psychological addiction and eating disorders, children will experiment and eventually gravitate toward what their bodies need. Actually I do remember reading somewhere about someone actually caring out the experiment of giving children total freedom of diet... and that's exactly what happened. Summerhill maybe?

Quote:
BUT... say you're a Senator, trying to get funds for your state. How do you convince the administration that your state needs X amount of money and that you're using it well? [snip] How do you decide which schools need extra money? How do you decide which schools are succeeding?
Just as with individuals, institutions and their effects can be assessed in many ways. I agree, though, that standardized testing is probably the cheapest, easiest way to get the gov to give you money. The problem is that it misses so much. They see the test results, they give more or less money, and nothing really changes. Does it?

Quote:
And like I said, if you help the unsuccessful (financially) instead of rewarding the sucessful, how do you determine (again, on a large scale) who is TRULY the successful and who is showing all their blemishes just to ecourage funding? How do you attract good teachers and KEEP a school successful if the more successful a school gets the less money they have for salaries?
This is really an issue of what is done with the results of tests, not an issue of testing vs. no testing. But okay, let's talk about it. Why does it have to be either/or? (Either you help the unsuccessful or reward the successful?)

Quote:
If something DOESN'T work, (take some of the often criticized: whole word method of reading, outcome-based-education, rote memorization and timed math tests) how do you SHOW it doesn't work? What about the student's emotional lives? If they're learning English and math well, what's wrong with putting Native American children in boarding schools? How do I go to a state senator and show them that it's wrong?
Standardized tests results are the only way you can think of of determining and showing these things?

Quote:
However, 50% of American adults are unable to read at an 8th grade level. An estimated 5 million adults holding jobs are considered functionally illiterate. [snip] Some children do manage to teach themselves to read, but that doesn't mean that reading is something that comes naturally, like walking and talking. If it was, illiteracy would not be a problem in this country.
No, that does not necessarily follow. It's possible that current methods of teaching children how to read are not only not working for many children, but are undermining and interfering with their natural process of learning to such a degree that they cease to learn at all. Greaseball used the example of learning how to talk. If that process were subjected to the teaching methods that learning how to read is, I suspect we'd start seeing an awful lot of people with speaking disabilities.

Quote:
Why do we have this idea that if you don't learn chemistry in high school, you'll never learn it at all?
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Greaseball- I had this discussion with my BIL. His arguement was the idea of critical period- that children learn fastest, and easiest, at younger ages. He is an assitant professor at a southern university, and commented on how much longer it took his older students to learn the same material the younger students picked up easily.
Again, the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the observation. Do younger students learn quicker because they are neurologically more receptive (not all neurologists believe that) or because there are factors (I can think of many) that would make them more psychologically receptive?
post #77 of 94
Does anyone know any children who were helped by being removed from a "substandard" school because of "poor performance" and then stuck in an already-overcrowded classroom in a whole new school?
post #78 of 94
Quote:
Originally posted by daylily
I think that one reason schools are failing is that they're taking on the burden of being everything to children: substitute parent, counselor, social worker, etc. Naturally this leaves less time to study academic subjects.
Ah, but by "failing" you mean doing poorly on arbitrary standardized tests.

But you are right that schools are now expected to be everything to all students and if we're not and they don't perform well on tests, well, then, they're failing. It goes back to what I said before: schools cannot be the arbiter of your child's education. The current state of American education is what you get when they're expected to be.
post #79 of 94
Does anyone personally know the people who write the tests? How do we know they are accurate predictors of learning? Are we just going to believe everyone who says "This is what your child needs; I know this because it's what I was told"? What makes the test-writers any different from the rest of us? Why don't you or I write a test and have that be the standard instead? If I wrote a test and posted it here and said "Your children are going to be ignorant fast-food workers if they don't do well on this test" would you all believe me? Of course not. Then why is it more believable when "some random guy" is the one writing the test? What are the test-writers qualifications? What did they get on the SATs? What universities did they attend, and what were their GPAs? Did they happen to take any advanced placement or honors classes? How well would they do on their own tests? Is it possible the writers are so old they went to school at a time when standardized testing was not the norm? If so, how can they be trusted to administer and grade such tests?

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post #80 of 94
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Ah, but by "failing" you mean doing poorly on arbitrary standardized tests.
OK, I admit, that's part of why I think schools are failing, but my main reason for saying that schools are failing is because they are handing high school diplomas to kids who are barely literate. Colleges have had to provide remedial reading & writing classes for poorly prepared students. In this country we now rely heavily on foreign born people for demanding jobs in the sciences and mathmatics. It's downright emabarrassing the way Americans are losing their ability to compete intellectually around the world.

A friend of mine teaches English at the University of Virginia. I asked him if his first year students were well prepared for college work and he said that many are not.

My brother reported a conversation he had recently with an aquaintence. My brother mentioned a book he'd been reading and the aquaintence said, "I haven't read a book since 10th grade." Tenth grade?! What the sam hell was he doing in 11th and 12th grades?
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