The Test For Some Important Lessons Is One Hopefully You Never Have to Take

Yesterday, I wrote about the insane New York policy of high-stakes testing for kindergarten students. While the harm inflicted on the students is not funny at all, this bit did amuse me (boldface mine):

Teachers said kindergartners are bewildered. “Sharing is not caring anymore; developmentally, it’s not the right thing to do,” said one Queens teacher, whose pupils kept trying to help one another on the math test she gave for the first time this fall.

You can imagine a classroom full of those little chairs and tables, with some perplexed kid getting frustrated with the test–and then her friend wanders over and starts to help her, completely ignorant of the concept that she isn’t supposed to help her. Because we like helping! Little kids at their best. It cracks me up.

Then you remember just how important those lessons can be:

Through interviews with surviving children, sources said, investigators learned that some of Soto’s students were holding hands in the far right hand corner near the chalkboard, away from Lanza’s initial line of fire. When Lanza stopped firing because his gun jammed, [first grade] student Jesse Lewis yelled for kids to run. Lewis was shot to death. Six of the children ran past Lanza to safety.

When parents are surveyed, “developing strong morals and ethics” ranks very high in terms of what they want schools to do. There’s a lot to be said for teaching kids how to be ethical citizens as opposed to just meritocratic test-takers. Someday, your life might depend on that.

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1 Response to The Test For Some Important Lessons Is One Hopefully You Never Have to Take

  1. Newcastle says:

    Stop with the broad brush generalizations already. It all depends on the school system and how the testing is done. My son is in Salt Lake City’s ELP program, he started with a 20 minute one on one test the February before kindergarten began. It has been incessant federal, state, program & university guinea pig testing ever since. These kids are forever taking some kind of test. But the teachers have done an excellent job of completely mitigating any test anxiety. The kids in the class view the tests as a contest against themselves. You’re always trying to beat your last score, like a game. The kids actually think the tests are often fun. (Seriously W.T.F. I still commonly have exam nightmares 29 years out of college) Granted many of the tests are standardized exams at grade levels well below where the kids operate on a daily basis so they are viewed as “easy” or “really boring” but the take home is that these kids are not even slightly phased by taking tests. Tests are just a normal part of school, no big deal, they’re just something that you do. The kids even look forward to the big tests as there is no homework those weeks – a true bonus in the mind of a third grader. It comes down to very good teachers and a group of 30 kids (yep 30 kids in a 3rd grade class, 1 teacher by herself, no aides of any kind, 46% of Massachusetts’ per pupil spending, this is a Utah public school after all) who have been together for over three years who view learning as fun. It is working perfectly. The kids are anything but the stressed out meritocratic test-takers you speak of. Personally I think that there is a huge amount of luck involved, very good teachers plus a group of kids that for reasons unknown are exceptionally easy to teach. That said, the point is that you can test little kids at a ridiculous rate without freaking them out or destroying their moral compasses if you do it correctly. Just as I am also sure that people could really screw it up too.

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