Are standardized tests really so terrible? - Page 3 - Mothering Forums
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Learning at School > Are standardized tests really so terrible?
cottonwood's Avatar cottonwood 08:16 PM 03-27-2004
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.

Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 08:38 PM 03-27-2004
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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.
Gendenwitha's Avatar Gendenwitha 08:41 AM 03-28-2004
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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.
Gendenwitha's Avatar Gendenwitha 09:27 AM 03-28-2004
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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.
daylily's Avatar daylily 11:01 AM 03-28-2004
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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?
cumulus's Avatar cumulus 01:02 PM 03-28-2004
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
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 02:38 PM 03-28-2004
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?
Breathless Wonder's Avatar Breathless Wonder 03:14 PM 03-28-2004
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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.
Breathless Wonder's Avatar Breathless Wonder 03:18 PM 03-28-2004
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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.
Breathless Wonder's Avatar Breathless Wonder 03:20 PM 03-28-2004
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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"?
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 03:41 PM 03-28-2004
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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."
daylily's Avatar daylily 03:42 PM 03-28-2004
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!
daylily's Avatar daylily 03:53 PM 03-28-2004
Strewing:
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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.
Breathless Wonder's Avatar Breathless Wonder 04:16 PM 03-28-2004
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.

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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.
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 04:20 PM 03-28-2004
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?
cottonwood's Avatar cottonwood 06:16 PM 03-28-2004
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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?

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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?

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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?)

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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?

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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.

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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?
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 08:07 PM 03-28-2004
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?
Artisan's Avatar Artisan 10:15 PM 03-28-2004
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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.
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 10:29 PM 03-28-2004
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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daylily's Avatar daylily 10:41 PM 03-28-2004
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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?
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 10:46 PM 03-28-2004
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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?
Many teachers are using videos as teaching aids now, instead of texts. Maybe this teaches kids they can learn better by watching a video. And if the parents don't read at home...don't children learn to read best when they see everyone around them reading?
donimomof3's Avatar donimomof3 09:27 AM 03-29-2004
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Originally posted by Greaseball
Many teachers are using videos as teaching aids now, instead of texts. Maybe this teaches kids they can learn better by watching a video. And if the parents don't read at home...don't children learn to read best when they see everyone around them reading?
I'm sure this man was assigned books to read in 11th and 12th, but I know from experience that just because we assign books doesn't mean the kids will read them. My class was supposed to read a book about Pearl Harbor the past 5 weeks called "A Boy at War." Every day I assigned the kids one chapter (the chapters were only about 5 pages), ,and I gave them 45 minutes to read them (I have some really slow readers because they are easily distracteed). Each child was supposed to complete a book project of their choice on the book for last Monday night's open house. TWO boys in my class did not do projects because they didn't read the book. They looked like the were reading daily. They said they were reading, but they weren't. One of the mom's called me on Monday asking for more time for her son - "well, no m'am, he can't have more time, Open House is tonight." She said that he son said I had not given them enough time to read in class and I wouldn't let them take the books home.

Mom pitched a fit with the principal, and so I have been told to give these two an alternate assignment! They had 990 minutes to read a 105 page book written on a 4th grade reading level. I teach 5th grade, and both these boys read above a 5th grade level. They didn't read or do the projects because they chose not to. What ever happened to consequences? My 3rd grade daughter read the book in two afternoons for fun, while I graded papers after school!

I give these kids 45 minutes of free reading time every single day, yet the boy whose mom complained hasn't completed a single book all year. He hasn't taken a single AR test (even though they are required to get 15 AR points with an 80% + average every six weeks. He hasn't even taken an AR test on any of the books I have read aloud to the class (I have read to them - Little House on the Prairie, Just Ella, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Devil's Arithmetic, and A Wrinkle in Time (all are AR except Devil's Arithmetic).

In addition to Self-selected reading/free reading, we have 1 hour reading instruction each day, where I teach skills, and then they are to apply these skills to a short reading (no more than two pages) and answer questions based on the skill we are working on (i.e. sequencing, main idea, fact/opinion, etc.). This boy whose mom complained has not passed a reading skills sheet all year either. WHY? Because he will not read the passage. Yet according to the STAR test, he reads on a 6.7 grade level (I teach 5th). He choses not to read, and mom knows all she has to do is call the principal and I will be forced to let him get away with it. ARGH! I guarantee you he will not read anything in High School, and he will not touch a book as an adult. Mom has conditioned him to believe that reading isn't important.
donimomof3's Avatar donimomof3 09:46 AM 03-29-2004
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Originally posted by Greaseball

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.

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?
I consider my style of teaching to be that of facilitator or guide rather than one who holds all the knowledge. The way I like to teach is to allow children to explore their interests, and to guide them through the required curriculum.

Unfortunately, what we see a lot of now in the schools are kids who do not want to learn ANYTHING. Education is not valued in their homes. These kids are content playing their Game Boys and PS2's, and watching tv and scary videos. Many of these kids lack any motivation what so ever. I have a kid in my class that won't do ANYTHING without his mother threatening to spank him and put him on restriction. Every six weeks, it ends up with her coming to the school, throwing a fit, screaming at him, ,taking his Play station and Yugio cards away, and him completing a HUGE makeup packet in one week, so that he won't get straight F's. I contact her weekly about his apathy, but she always waits until the last week of the term to get back in touch with me. (Wonder where he learned his procrastination from).

Every year, I give my kids a "Family History" project to teach them that history is meaningful and fun. Their assignment is to interview their family members for family stories. They can trace their tree if they like, or they can just record entertaining family stories. They are to complete a scrap book ( i supply all the basic supplies). They have the option to present to class if they like. Every year this has been a HUGE success. This year though, I had 4 kids who did not do the project at all, even though they had a month to complete it. One kid said, "This is dumb!" I even shared my family book I have written with the kids, and read aloud some of the funny stories (I am my family's historian). I made arrangements with the local historical society to be open two different Saturdays (which I showed up to work at the historical society), so that the kids could look up information there. Only a handful of students used that resource.

A little later in the year, I required all my students compete in the Social Studies Fair. They got to choose their own topics - any topic in social studies that interested them. Even though it was required and we worked on the projects in class for a month, 8 kids in my class did not complete the assignment. Three of my students got 1st place ribbons at the county fair, but later I learned that one student's mother had totally done his project start to finish - and so he was disqualified (He actually told the judge when asked why he chose his topic that his mom did the project).

I use to believe that children left to their own devices would learn, but it totally depends on the attitude of the parents and the climate of the home. Many of my students parents do not value education at all. These kids do not value learning, and do not want to learn. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter what kind of teacher you are, you cannot make a person learn if they choose not to.
Artisan's Avatar Artisan 09:57 AM 03-29-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by daylily
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?
You are absolutely, 100% right. There are tons of kids who can't read well, can't write well, can't even sit still well, graduating from high school.

However, I can also assure you that this is not the fault of the school or the teacher. When you have an 11th grader who can't read, it's not because no one ever taught them to do it. It's not because every single teacher they had was crappy and cared nothing about them and didn't try to help them out. They can't read for a ton of reasons, most of them outside of school. Reasons like:
1. Home situation. Parents don't /can't read to their kids, don't have money for books, have to work three jobs, etc. Parents who don't care. Parents who don't speak English.

2. Abuse. Maslow's hierarchy of needs clearly demonstrates that it's very hard to focus on higher order thinking skills when you're worried about basic necessities, like will my dad beat me up today, is there enough food to eat, are the other kids going to laugh at these shoes with holes in them.

3. Socio economic status. Can the parents afford to have them tested for learning disabilities if necessary.

4. Parent willingness. Are they capable of advocating for extra help, are they willing to let their child get extra help. There is a huge parent movement right now to not "allow" their child to be labeled with a learning disability/behavioral disorder and thus, their kids are truly not capable of passing school under normal circumstances. I had one student two years ago that was so sad. He was in 10th grade, but had TWO high school credits. (Both in gym, the only classes he had passed.) He was obviously in need of help, and his parents refused to allow him to get help.

5. Student willingness. I worked in a school for students who had been expelled from the public school system -- they had chronic truancy and delinquency problems. You cannot work on a students' reading skills when they are so hostile to teachers that they shove desks at you, call you an ugly whore, or put their head down and refuse to sit up. (And yes, I've dealt with all this and more.) You can assign rigorous schoolwork and reading until you're blue in the face, and there will still be a large number of kids who don't do it.

6. Lack of consequences for inappropriate behavior. Read the administration thread if you want proof that teachers have very little ability to maintain true order in their classrooms if something goes seriously awry. They are not often backed by their administrations anymore. Why? Parent complaints. People don't want their kid sent home.

7. System-wide issues, such as social promotion and grade inflation. Driven by politicians who see the way to end these practice by administering more tests. Also driven by parents and parent lawsuits. School systems fear lawsuits and will do extraordinary things to make people happy. When people sue because their child was kicked off the football team, the district must defend that lawsuit at taxpayers' expense.

8. Lack of funding to put in place all of the unfunded mandates handed down by a certain someone's administration. Schools that have mold and asbestos and leaking roofs -- they need to be repaired, but there's often no money.


There are a ton more, but I have to go teach a class!
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 01:50 PM 03-29-2004
Quote:
Unfortunately, what we see a lot of now in the schools are kids who do not want to learn ANYTHING. Education is not valued in their homes.
Yes, sometimes the parents are to blame. (Although if education isn't valued in the home, it might not be because of anything morally wrong with the parent - it could be due to circumstances beyond the parent's control, such as a single mother who has to work 14 hours a day to afford anything and whose idea of valuing education is to scream "Do your homework!")

Can a child really succeed in public school if he is not also "homeschooled" to some extent? There is more to "being involved in your kids' school" than helping with homework, meeting with teachers, and enforcing consequences for bad grades. Guerilla Learning has some great ideas on what parents can do at home to further their child's education in school. It was a great book, but kind of sad that it wouldn't already be common knowledge to parents. Do we really have to tell parents that sometimes reading library books is a more valuable use of time than getting a head start on homework? It's common sense to me.
daylily's Avatar daylily 06:44 PM 03-29-2004
You raise a lot of valid points, Sharonal. And doninmomof3, I don't know what I would do if I had to deal with parents like that.

I went over and read that "your administration" thread. What is this world coming to?
Artisan's Avatar Artisan 08:22 PM 03-29-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by Greaseball
Yes, sometimes the parents are to blame. (Although if education isn't valued in the home, it might not be because of anything morally wrong with the parent - it could be due to circumstances beyond the parent's control, such as a single mother who has to work 14 hours a day to afford anything and whose idea of valuing education is to scream "Do your homework!")

Can a child really succeed in public school if he is not also "homeschooled" to some extent? There is more to "being involved in your kids' school" than helping with homework, meeting with teachers, and enforcing consequences for bad grades. Guerilla Learning has some great ideas on what parents can do at home to further their child's education in school. It was a great book, but kind of sad that it wouldn't already be common knowledge to parents. Do we really have to tell parents that sometimes reading library books is a more valuable use of time than getting a head start on homework? It's common sense to me.
Well, when parents can't help their kids in school because of extraordinary circumstances, it's certainly understandable. But yet, they are still responsible for themselves and their children. Just as if a young boy grows up watching his dad beat up his mom. He grows up believing that's the right thing to do, and while his thinking is understandable, he is still accountable for his actions. We don't transfer the blame to an outside source because the person has extraordinary circumstances.

I don't think it's possible for a child to be successful in school without also being "homeschooled", as you say. And unfortunately, yes, you really do need to tell people things like that. Look at most politicians: they believe our schools are failing our students, because it's easy to place the blame on them. You can't very well say to voters, "Well, y'all are just screwup parents who never read to your kids." The schools are a scapegoat.
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 08:31 PM 03-29-2004
Another thing about high schoolers graduating without being able to read...

Students do not have the authority to decide that they are to receive a high school diploma. Therefore, some teacher or administrator is the one deciding that these illiterate students should get the diploma. It's not only the student's fault.

Another thing, why does it take so long to notice that a child can't read? Why wasn't it noticed earlier, maybe in 3rd grade? How does one pass 2nd grade without being able to read? Why do we suddenly notice it in high school? I think both parents and teachers should notice if the child can't read, and then find out what they can do about it.

It's also another way that shows it's possible to get passing test scores without really knowing the material.
daylily's Avatar daylily 09:18 PM 03-29-2004
Quote:
Another thing, why does it take so long to notice that a child can't read? Why wasn't it noticed earlier, maybe in 3rd grade?
I'm sure it is noticed, but the child is promoted to the next grade anyway. The infamous "social promotion."

In our district, kids are held back--usually in kindergarten--and yet some still slip through the cracks and end up as very poor readers. I know there's a child in dd's second grade class who reads at a kindergarten level. And one of the second grade teachers vented at a parent/teacher/school board forum that she has a class full of below-grade readers that she must get up to grade level by the end of the year.

Edited to add that the principal at the Upper Elementary (grades 5 & 6) told me that "if kids can't read well by fifth grade, there's not much you can do for them." At first, I didn't react very strongly to that statement, but as I think about it more, I realize what an outrageous thing it is to say. What, has no one ever learned to read after the age of 10? If the principal of a school has given up on kids who don't read well, then he sends the message to his teachers that it's not worth making an effort for these kids.
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 10:06 PM 03-29-2004

That's what I was told about long division - "You haven't learned it by now; we've done all we can and there's nothing more we can do." I was able to learn it in 11th grade, and still pass every year of math until then without knowing it.

Don't schools provide tutoring to kids who are struggling, or is that only for those with documented disabilities?
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