I’m starting to feel, too late, that perhaps Home Schooling my son would have been the best way to go.
He will not be attending school today because those in charge arranged the entire school class schedules to accommodate the State mandated standardized testing. The mandate is for all students to pass with a “B” grade minimum prior to graduating. Beginning in the 8th grade, they are taught a curriculum designed to help them memorize the information they need for this test. They get to take it over and over again, in 8th grade, in 10th grade, in 11th, 12th. If they pass it in 11th, they need not take the test again, but the curriculum does not change.
My son has aced this exam each time he has taken it.
The week prior to the test being offered, administrators shut down activities so as to focus on cramming for the test. The day of the test, they squeeze all of the classes into 19 minute sessions. Every student gets to go, sit down for 19 minutes, and move on to the next class, then those who need to take the exam go take the exam. The others go home.
None of my son’s teachers are planning to actually teach anything on test day, because 19 minutes is not long for anything meaningful and, besides, their entire curriculum is focused on that test. They’re pretty much done by now.
As well, the school year is chopped up with half-days and days off so that teachers can attend “in service” training that amounts to workshops helping them deal with this testing.
Why is this testing so important? Well, because the schools themselves may lose funding if they don’t have a sufficient percentage of passing students.
So all students learn to memorize a core set of knowledge that the state has, in its bureaucratic committee-driven wisdom, decided is a good kind of knowledge to have, and teachers learn how to force feed this core set of knowledge and everything is geared to this one goal.
Somewhere, though, the concepts of creativity, thirst for knowledge, critical thinking, logic, life lessons, objective observation … somewhere all that is given short shrift. The slow learners don’t get the attention they need to help them overcome what nature shorted them on. The much faster learners who grow so quickly bored don’t get the challenges they need to give them what they need. The average learners learn to stay average.
The challenge is “how do I memorize this basic set of information?”
The challenge is not “how can I become the best I can possibly be, and what are the tools I need to do that?”
This is what our nation mandates, now. Thou Shalt Be Mediocre.
When it comes to public schooling, may God have mercy on our minds.